James D. Watson, who shared the 1962 Nobel prize for uncovering the double-helix structure of DNA, is being pilloried from post to post for comments he made to the Times (of London) last Sunday explaining why he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa.” His pessimism rested, he said, on the fact that “[a]ll our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours—whereas all the testing says not really.”
Watson’s remarks caused a hailstorm of criticism to descend on him. “Genius and malign idiocy often inhabit the psychology of a great man,” read one typical comment in today’s Independent. In short order, Watson “unreservedly” apologized, saying: “I cannot understand how I could have said what I am quoted as having said. There is no scientific basis for such a belief.”
Watson’s initial remarks were off-hand, and also clumsy. But there is a large scientific literature about intelligence, as measured by IQ, and how it varies by race. The very meaning of intelligence, and the significance of the variation, are subjects that continue to be fiercely debated in the scientific world. Wherever one stands in those debates—and I myself am just a curious observer—the findings of one’s opponents cannot be refuted with the mere wave of a hand.
Yesterday, Russia’s finance minister said that U.S. officials wanted to conclude discussions on the country’s accession to the World Trade Organization as quickly as possible. “I got the feeling that they are ready to push these negotiations forward,” noted Alexei Kudrin. Russia is the largest economy that is not a member of the global trading body.
And it should stay that way because the Russian Federation is not ready to trade fairly within the context of a rules-based system. For instance, last Wednesday, European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson again went public with complaints of Moscow’s violation of trade agreements with Brussels. Russia’s previous responses to European complaints have been to continue and even expand aggressive trade practices. For example, Moscow has indicated that it may extend its meat-and-plant ban, which it imposed on Poland almost two years ago.
There seems to be a general feeling in Washington and Brussels that Russia will somehow reform its bad practices once it becomes a WTO member. That sentiment mirrors American and European hopes and expectations regarding China at the end of last decade. Yet, as we have seen since Beijing’s accession in 2001, the Chinese have continued non-compliant trade practices. The United States has had to file five WTO cases against China; even with these complaints we have yet to scratch the surface of Chinese trade violations.
If the experience with China is any guide, Russia will change the WTO more than the WTO changes Russia. We will not be able to say that we were not warned. In June, President Vladimir Putin called for “the creation of a new architecture of international economic relations.” The question is why should we help him wreck pillar multilateral institutions, like the World Trade Organization, from the inside?
Everyone in Washington claims to favor bipartisanship. The difficulty occurs when someone actually tries to practice it. This instantly and inevitably triggers sniping from partisans.
For a small but telling example, see this Washington Times article (previously linked to on contentions) about the selection of John Hamre to chair the Defense Policy Board, a prestigious but powerless group of senior statesmen who advise the Secretary of Defense on various issues. The board used to be headed by Richard Perle, who became a lightning rod for the administration’s detractors. Now Robert M. Gates has selected Hamre, a quintessential technocrat who is currently president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and who, during the Clinton administration, served as comptroller of the Pentagon and Deputy Secretary of Defense.