Comments Posted By Robert Bell
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You might want to look at what Brad deLong has to say about some of Fergusson's math, and the conclusions he draws from it.

Comment Posted By Robert Bell On 11.02.2010 @ 15:11


Ed. (Rick) Your point is well taken about meat and potatoes, my comment was strictly *all other things being equal*, not alienating people gratuitously is probably a better strategy than doing so.

Having said all that, to strain the analogy, successful foreign policy is probably meat, potatoes, appetizer, dessert, ambiance, location, good relations with the restaurant reviewers etc. I.e. it probably requires competence on a number of dimensions simultaneously, and moreover, those actions must be part of a coherent whole.

From what I gather from reading Dan Drezner, international institutions like the U.N. and the WTO may have their problems, but they also provide a mechanism whereby parties can refer to an (ostensibly) neutral, rule-based framework to help influence each other's behavior. (as in Fisher and Ury's Getting to Yes) So (credibly) pledging to work within an international framework can *theoretically* produce better outcomes than unilateralism. It then becomes a matter of empirical data whether it makes sense. Thus Obama's reaffirmation of commitment to such institutions is also, all other things being equal, not a bad thing.

However, your essential meat and potatoes question in your original quote remains - will we be better off?

Comment Posted By Robert Bell On 24.09.2009 @ 08:30

"All of these little unilateral gestures and more have been the modus operandi of the Obama foreign policy. Have they made us safer. Are American interests more or less at risk? Are our adversaries more or less likely to advance their own interests at the expense of ours? Just what has Obamalove gotten us?"

I think it is entirely possible, given a set of initial conditions, that certain actions can make you *less* safe, and certain actions can make you *more* safe. I'm not sure that Obama's diplomatic approach is going to tackle any of the harder unsolved problems, but surely creating new problems by needlessly alienating people cannot be optimal.

At least in business, apologies seem to work better than stonewalling (Cf Exxon versus McNeil/Tylenol)

I would put it this way; Obama's approach probably causes us fewer problems in the end but will almost certainly cost us dearly when it comes to our relations vis a vis our adversaries. And I think that's where the meat and potatoes are when it comes to any nation's foreign policy.


Comment Posted By Robert Bell On 24.09.2009 @ 07:24


"it was apparent to anyone who listened closely to what he was saying that George Bush was not much of a conservative."


"Note: Please do not crow in the comments “I told you so.” What - you expect me to listen to partisan lefties at the time? "

I think the point is that *you* told yourself so, i.e. what you needed to know, in 1999, but you didn't listen to you (pardon the ugly phrasing ...)

Many of the dynamics in play here are familiar to people who have worked on large boondoggle projects in construction, software, or people who have successfully anticipated market bubbles etc. (,, People see the schedule slipping and somehow rationalise it. Anybody who expresses concerns based on the actual data is nonetheless branded an apostate, lazy, incompetent etc. Groupthink abounds.

The difficult question is how to conduct oneself knowing that all this is true. Say you were a traditional conservative foreign policy realist/minimalist circa 2002 who didn't believe in nation building. What could you have done? Oppose the war and become a pariah? Vote for Kerry in 2004? Start a third party?

Comment Posted By Robert Bell On 16.09.2009 @ 07:03

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