On Dual Loyalties

The Chas Freeman debate has devolved into the typical pissing contest between the token pro-occupationists and the Juicebox Mafia, and given as it should be clear where I stand in that, I didn’t feel it necessary to comment. But this accusation of Jon Chait’s is so truly vile that it needs singling out:

Walt is arguing that any Jewish-American who does not roughly share his views on Israel (which, of course, disqualifies the vast majority) is presumptively acting out of dual loyalty, is probably coordinating their actions in secret, and should thus be dismissed out of hand.

This is a lie. Walt has never said this. I defy Chait to find any Walt quote where you accuses all Jewish-Americans with hawkish views on Israel of dual loyalties. What I have read Walt say is that two specific individuals – Steven Rosen and Jeffrey Goldberg – have dual loyalties. Because they do. Steve Rosen is under federal indictment for being an Israeli spy, and Jeff Goldberg is an IDF veteran.

Now, I recognize that accusations of dual loyalties are a frequent anti-semitic trope, but let’s be clear for a second. I’m roughly the same age that Goldberg was when he enlisted in the IDF. If I were to move to the UK and enlist in the British Army, most people would conclude that I have dual loyalties with the US and Britain. And they’d be right, because that’s what dual loyalties means. Similarly, if I were to serve for decades as a major lobbyist pushing for closer Anglo-American ties and it came out that I had been funneling classified information from a source in the DoD to the MI6, any reasonably intelligent person would say I had dual loyalties, if not singular loyalty to Great Britain. And, again, they’d be right.

Does this mean that Rosen and Goldberg’s opinions are invalid? Of course not. But it does mean that they should be interpreted as driven by a desire to protect Israeli and American interests, rather than just the latter. It’s not beyond the pale, then, for someone solely concerned with the American national interest like Walt to dismiss Rosen and Goldberg’s arguments, or least be highly skeptical of them, on the basis of the mens’ dual loyalties. What is beyond the pale is baselessly accusing someone of anti-Semitism for rhetorical gain and blatantly lying about what that person has said. Then again, that’s the basic business model of TNR these days, so I really shouldn’t be surprised. It’s just disheartening to see someone as smart as Chait – who’s so consistently good on economic issues – to sink to such a contemptible level of discourse.

In Which I Learn the Ways of “Synergy” and “Optimization”

(Cross-posted, in slightly altered form)

So I’m going to DC for spring break to volunteer at the SEED school. To fund the trip, the group of us going hosted a fundraising concert. Being a profoundly talentless individual, it was my job to stage-manage the acts, so I went a little early to set up. As soon as I walked backstage, I saw a big piles of red pamphlets at my feet. They said, in a chicly understated font, “BAIN & COMPANY: How to ace the case interview.” Given as I feel the same way about management consulting firms as, say, Christian Bale feels about his cinematographer, I immediately picked up a copy. And it was the most hilariously vapid document I’ve ever read.

The meat of the pamphlet are five sample questions for a case interview, along with “A good answer” to each. Example:

Question: You have just been promoted to be the President of the University you are currently attending. What do you think the biggest challenge facing you might be?

A good answer: The University has several powerful constituencies – undergraduates, graduate students, professors, alumni, government and community. However, the University doesn’t have unlimited resources, and therefore it must prioritize where it spends its dollars. Long-term success for the University is driven by figuring out what the most important areas are, and at the same time ensuring that all constituents feel they are being treated fairly.

Now, obviously this doesn’t answer the question, and contains information that your average seventh-grader could articulate. And, of course, if you were one of Bain’s clients and paid $20,000 for this advice, you would want to use the just-hired consultant’s freshly printed Harvard diploma to inflict him with a little case of Death By Papercut. But it should go without saying at this point that management consulting firms are useless institutions that a truly efficient capitalist system would have weeded out eons ago. No, this isn’t close to the best part. Observe question 4:

Question: Okay, so how would you improve the University’s reputation?

A good answer: I would focus on improvement in two areas:

  • Promote activities that build reputation
  • Eliminate factors that negatively impact reputation

    Discussion then continues down both of these paths with specific improvement ideas

  • Yes, Bain & Co. needs bullet points to express the view that institutions can improve their reputations by promoting activities that build reputation. I swear to God, you could put my 13-year-old cousin in stilts and get him a job at this place.

    Question: Well, those seem like pretty sound strategies. How exactly would you implement those ideas?

    A good answer: We will need to start with a PR blitz, so I would encourage several articles to be written about “The New University” in the popular press. Also, I would heighten the pressure on professors to publish articles…(The answer continues with other implementation ideas).

    “Well, Mr. Tool, your tautologies impress me. Go on.” “Step one, write articles. Thousands and thousands of articles. Step two, compromise academic freedom.”

    And then, the best of the best, the finest set of insights in this brilliant document, I bring you the Interview Tips:

    Interview tips

    Be concise. If asked for the top two issues, confine your response to two items.

    “Know how to count.”

    Provide logical backup for your answers.

    “Did you know that if all cats are mammals, and all cats have whiskers, then all mammals do not necessarily have whiskers? It’s okay, us neither.”

    Good luck!

    Yes, that’s a tip. Apparently, Bain consultants are expected to create their own luck. And then become disfigured by a burning oil drum and go on a vigilante rampage.

    P.S. Special thanks to Abby Brown for having the brilliant idea of sharing this with the world (and for serving as my endlessly insightful interviewer in our acting-out of the pamphlet).

    The Kindly Earth Shall Slumber, Lapt in Universal Law

    I’m a couple days late in noting this (sorry, it’s midterms/papers/everything week) but Max Bergmann had a beautiful post about the European Union, its democratic deficit, and the financial crisis over at Democracy Arsenal recently. Read the whole thing, but the conclusion is particularly good:

    So where the EU goes from here is anybody’s guess. The worries of collapse are legitimate, but it is likely that the EU will pull together to do just enough to muddle through this crisis. If it is able to get through, the opportunity could be there for the EU to strengthen its political union. The Lisbon Treaty, which is not far from ratification, is no cure all, but it would be an awful important step to improve Europe’s ability to act more decisively.

    The late Civil War historian Shelby Foote had a great quote about the impact of the Civil War on the US: “it made us an is,” he said. What he meant was that before the war people thought of the United States as a collection of states and would say “the United States are” a beautiful country. After the War it became “the United States is.” While this crisis could never have the unifying and transformative impact that the Civil War had on the U.S., crises do expose shortcomings and create opportunities to address them. A silver lining perhaps.

    Anyone who reads this blog knows I’m a big booster of regional and global political integration, and this is no exception. If ever there were a time for the drafting of a new European Constitution matching increased regulatory and fiscal powers with a far more powerful European Parliament, it’s now. Similarly, we need to start rethinking our global financial institutions, in a way that both makes them more effective and more accountable. I’m not much for sovereignty, but the concept is never as actively pernicious as it is during international financial meltdowns, which require quick, consistent coordination. While a full-fledged global democracy along Monbiot-style lines is unfortunately still quite far off, it is incumbent on Obama – and the leaders of the EU, as Bergmann says – to start moving in the direction of making Europe, and eventually the world, cohesive political units.

    Great Moments in Ethnic Solidarity

    Friend (who’s Japanese): I love Hawaii. They elected Dan Inouye.

    Dylan: You know Dan Inouye’s pretty corrupt, right?

    Friend: He’s also a brother.

    Dylan: This is the exact same argument Roland Burris’ black supporters make.

    Friend: No it isn’t. Dan Inouye’s Japanese.

    Dylan: What? How is that relevant? The situations are completely analogous.

    Friend: See, you use logic, and I respond with racism.