Political Animal

MEXICAN STANDOFF….We’ve been hounding President

MEXICAN STANDOFF….We’ve been hounding President Vicente Fox of Mexico for weeks to get his vote in the Security Council. President Bush has made veiled threats, the Economist reports that American businessman have been warning their counterparts that contracts and partnerships could be at stake, and on Monday our ambassador to Mexico asked, “Will American attitudes be placated by half-steps or three-quarter-steps? I kind of doubt it.”

Unfortunately for Mr. Fox, his constituents are opposed to war by a huge margin. So what to do? Answer: go into hiding.

By day’s end, Mr. Fox announced that he would undergo spinal surgery on Wednesday and remain out of public view until the weekend. While on the operating table, he will temporarily transfer presidential power to his interior minister, Santiago Creel. The unexpected surgery is likely only to prolong the diplomatic agony.

That’s the kind of decisive action I like to see! I sure wouldn’t want to be in this Creel fellow’s shoes, though.

DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ….Dan Drezner’s monthly

DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ….Dan Drezner’s monthly New Republic column is up, and I generally like it. He argues in favor of democracy in Iraq (and the Middle East generally) without dismissing the obvious difficulties. I wish we had more people like him making policy in Washington instead of utopian ideologues like Wolfowitz and Perle.

On the other hand, he cites Turkey and Iran in defense of his optimism about Mideast democracy, but I think these can be taken both ways. Turkey is indeed on its way to becoming a modern liberal democracy, but it’s not fully there yet and it’s taken 70 years so far. Iran, as Dan notes, is a democracy but far from a liberal one, and they’ve been at it for 20 years. So while democracy is possible, it’s likely to take a very long time to establish.

In a followup to his piece he mentions the idea of a “club” of emerging Mideast democracies as a carrot that the U.S. could use to promote democratic institutions. At first glance this seems kind of silly, but it’s not, really. Talking shops ? like the UN, for example ? really do have benefits, and the U.S. could also use its club to provide more tangible benefits as well. More important, however, is the general category of incentives that Dan is talking about. There are lots of small things we can do to nudge things in the right direction, and this is just an example.

WE’RE #2!….Nick Denton says that

WE’RE #2!….Nick Denton says that French isn’t even in the top ten of world languages, and it’s about time the French learned it. Whatever. What I’m really interested in his contention (based on figures from the Summer Institute for Linguistics) that English is the #3 language worldwide with 322 million speakers.

Just counting the United States, Great Britain, Ireland, Canada (minus Quebec), and Australia, I get a population of about 400 million, which puts English at #2. Even discounting the 20 million or so non-English speakers in the U.S., we’ve still got at least 380 million native English speakers worldwide.

So what’s up? Do they not count children or something?

A 6-STEP PROGRAM….Britain is in

A 6-STEP PROGRAM….Britain is in a frenzy of UN activity trying to secure passage of a second resolution that sets out firm benchmarks for Saddam Hussein. Here they are:

  1. Mr. Hussein must admit on Iraqi television that he possesses weapons of mass destruction and will now disarm fully.

  2. He will account for and destroy stocks of anthrax and other biological and chemical weapons.

  3. Mr. Hussein will permit 30 scientists and their families to fly to Cyprus for interrogation by United Nations weapons inspectors.

  4. He will admit to possession of an unmanned drone aircraft discovered by inspectors.

  5. He will promise to destroy mobile production facilities for biological weapons.

  6. Mr. Hussein will pledge to complete the destruction of all unlawful missiles.

I guess it’s worth a try, but it doesn’t seem likely that anything like this will fly in the Security Council.

And when you get right down to it, isnt #1 the only one that matters? The others are really just window dressing, aren’t they?