Tuesday, August 12, 2003

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Why this administration is losing me on Iraq

The day after the fall of Baghdad, I posted:

For Operation Iraqi Freedom to succeed, military victories must be followed up with humanitarian victories. It's not enough to defeat Saddam's regime, there needs to be tangible evidence that conditions are improving.

Ten days later, I posted the following dilemma for the administration:

Rumsfeld, and the rest of the Bush administration's foreign policy team, face a clear choice. It can outsource peacekeeping functions to the United Nations or close allies, at the cost of some constraints on foreign policy implementation. It can minimize the U.N. role and develop/train its own peacekeeping force. Or it can do neither and run into trouble down the road.

What's becoming increasingly clear to me is that the administration has yet to solve this particular dilemma -- and that this will have disastrous implications for Iraq.

As Martin Walker points out today (link via Josh Marshall):

Quite apart from issues of Arab resentment, religion and the remaining bands of Saddam Hussein loyalists, there is one simple reason why the stabilization of Iraq is proving so frustratingly difficult. By comparison with other similar peacekeeping missions in recent years, the place is very seriously under-policed.

Consider the Balkans. In proportion to their populations, three times as many troops were deployed in Kosovo as in Iraq, and in Bosnia twice as many. By Kosovo standards, there ought to be more than half a million troops in Iraq. But maintaining 180,000 British and American troops in Iraq is putting intense strain on the military manpower of both countries. There is no serious prospect of their deploying any more. Reinforcement will have to come from other countries -- and in far greater numbers than the 70 Ukrainian soldiers who flew in Sunday.

That's the same message that comes from this RAND book I mentioned last week. Now, there are a few ways to deal with this problem. One is to go to the U.N. to get more allied support. Marshall elides over the fact that Walker does not think that's the greatest idea in the world, and Reuel Marc Gerecht provides some compelling reasons in the Weekly Standard why such a step would be problematic at best.

So the U.N. option is problematic. The ad hoc approach is not generating the desired numbers (link courtesy of &c). That leaves two options: a) increase U.S. forces (which the administration seems bound and determined not to do); or b) create an Iraqi force that can assist the occupying authority.

It looks like the administration is choosing option (b), which could work in the long run. In the short run, however, there's a Catch-22, as Michael Gordon points out:

Coalition officials assert that they are beginning to get traction in their effort to build a new Iraq. The next few months, a coalition official said, are critical to the push to develop momentum and garner Iraqi support. But this is a nation-building effort that is distinctly different from the one the United States and its allies pursued in the Balkans.

In Kosovo, for example, nation-building began after the war. In Iraq, the nation-building effort is being carried out in the middle of a guerrilla war. The effort to build a new Iraq has been actively opposed by paramilitary forces loyal to the Saddam Hussein regime, by foreign fighters, saboteurs, terrorists and to a lesser extent by ordinary Iraqis who have been offended by some of the hard-nosed American military tactics. (emphasis added)

The paradox is that unless guerrilla activity is reduced, the provision of public goods will be difficult at best. However, the best way to reduce such activity is to provide more public goods.

Unless the administration dispatches more resources -- including troops -- to Iraq, what happened in Basra earlier this week will happen again. The Washington Post explains:

In interviews, residents of Iraq's second-largest city almost uniformly expressed anger and incredulity at the shortages of gasoline and electricity and the skyrocketing black-market prices that have accompanied them. British officials in Basra, openly frustrated themselves, questioned the priorities of the U.S.-led reconstruction. And many feared that remnants of Hussein's government or militant Shiite Muslim groups were prepared to capitalize on the disenchantment....

[British spokesman Iain] Pickard acknowledged that there was "an understandable degree of frustration" and complained that British officials' priorities in Basra -- power, water and fuel -- are not shared to the same degree by U.S. officials in Washington and Baghdad.

"It seems so bureaucratic. It's so difficult to get things going," he said from a building that had been looted of everything but its windows before the British moved in. "We have not had a great deal of say. We don't feel we've been able to influence the reconstruction program."

He pointed to a U.S.-funded project to renovate 200 schools in the region. While admirable, Pickard said, "painting schools isn't going to stop people from rioting."

Paul Bremer thinks the coalition successes in Iraq are being underplayed, and he's probably right. No matter what those successes are, however, rising discontent in Baghdad and Basra are not a recipe for success. Until the administration renews its commitment to a free and stable Iraq, things will fall apart.

posted by Dan on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM


I'm with you on this. And the other problem is that if we had more troops to send, we'd probably need them more in Afghanistan.

posted by: Brian Ulrich on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

It's still such a difficult call to know how many troops are needed. Thus, I think it becomes an easy criticism to make if you have nothing else intellectual to talk about. The point, however, needs to be debate. I have heard two arguments for needing more troops: they are comparisons to Bosnia and Post War Germany. In Bosnia, troops were needed to protect the people from themselves as well as from criminals. The widely suspected Iraqi civil war with Shia killing Sunni killing Kurds has not happened. Thus, perhaps, troops are not needed to protect Iraqis from each other. So far they seem to get along. In Germany (WW II), the excess amount of troops were largely there because the Russians were there.

The next war in Iraq is starting to heat up - that is the continuing war against Islamic militancy. A war much better waged in Iraq than the streets of America.

posted by: Sloanasaurus on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

Before the war I think even the hawks believed that going to war with Iraq and making a hash of post-Saddam Iraq would be a really bad idea. People who are expert in such matters, like former Army Chief of Staff Shinsheki and the Army War College accurately predicted the current state of things in Iraq during the initial planning for the war. Now that their forecasts have come to pass the administration's failure to heed their warnings, or even make contigency plans on the chance that they might be right, looks reckless at best.

posted by: etc. on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

I am constantly amazed at the stance that there are enough troops in Iraq. It certainly doesn't appear to be the case from where I sit.
For the last 3 months, the Bush administration has been asking the subcontinent to send in more troops - to the order of 40,000 soldiers from India and Pakistan. The formal request has been made thrice and each time a refusal was communicated, we have been told of a new UN resolution that would soothe our concerns and enable us to deploy our troops in Iraq. Given that the subcontinent did not receive so many requests for help during the Afghan war, the overwhelming impression one gets is that this time the help is needed even more urgently.
Hmm, that is a scary thought especially given the conditions in Afghanistan.

posted by: Ritu on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

"The next war in Iraq is starting to heat up - that is the continuing war against Islamic militancy. A war much better waged in Iraq than the streets of America."

I somehow doubt the Iraqis would look at it the same way. Islamic militancy is something Saddam was good at stamping out and this 'next' war has been imposed upon Iraq the way the first one had been. The post-war conditions in Iraq has turned the country into, to quote Paul Bremer, 'a magnet for international terrorists'.
From a particularly short-term perspective, like the one I quoted above, this is a good thing for America. From a longer perspective, it would prove expensive: A regular, steady influx of terrorists also means a near-constant, close and long-term exposure to the most militant of ideas and philosophies. When you consider the situation in Iraq - political disorder, lawlessness, lack of basic amenities, economic uncertainty, an armed, semi-feudal, patriarchal society - well, I can't be the only one who thinks that this would be a particularly bad idea.
Not only are we looking at a potentially exponential increase in the number of terrorists in Iraq [and thus, the world], we may also safely assume that the rest of the Iraqis would be none too pleased with the situation. Whom do you think they [the new terrorists and the new terror victims] would blame for this new problem?
If the Bush administration was thinking carefully, it would make the establishment of law and order and the supply of basic amenities its prioties in Iraq. If a UN resolution is needed to get more troops, it would be worth the price of back-tracking. For if the people of Iraq are happy with the reconstruction [and they aren't today], then all the other questions about this war would become academic and procedural. The gamble itself would be a success.

posted by: Ritu on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

If this administration is losing you, think if you'll be more in tune with the second Clinton administration.

Let's make sure everyone goes home with the guy who brung them. The alternative is dire.

posted by: erp on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

Thanks for again pointing attention to this problem. It is important that the pre-invasion debates don't cloud what is needed from this point forward.

Thomas Friedman has been a "pro-invasion" voice for a long time, but also was consistent on his word of caution that any invasion needs to be followed with a real committment to rebuilding Iraq, and a word of doubt if the Bush Admin was up to that task. It seems his column today, written after having been robbed on the main highway at gunpoint, signals the end of his feelings on the question of if rebuilding will be done right.

There is also a great article in a recent New Yorker about the current state of affairs in Iraq. Jon Anderson has been the man on the ground for most of the past six months, and as a whole his articles create a great picture of how life has and has not changed. His most recent piece paints a pretty dim picture, but it should be noted that he is focusing on one of the most unstable neighbourhoods in Baghdad. But the fact is that is where the story is, and it should not be ignored.

It seems increasingly clear things are getting messed up pretty bad over there, but not irrevocably so...yet. It is good that there is no legitimate voice in politics advocating a withdrawl at this point, because that would be the worst possible outcome. But, perhaps the Bushies will finally listen to some critics and start being honest with the nation, and more importantly with themselves, about what it is going to take to finish this reconstruction of the Middle East project correctly. The final outcome of the Iraq project will be written years from now, and will certainly not be about any success on the battlefield.

posted by: Rich on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

Yes, as we all know, things have gone horribly wrong in postwar Iraq. Undoubtedly the Iraqis are longing for those halcyon days when Qusay had people thrown in industrial shredders. Why, it's been nearly four months, and Iraq still isn't a vibrant, peaceful, democratic, pluralistic nation yet. Clearly the Bush Administration is full of stupid people.

posted by: Don on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

You have to look at this issue from pure and utter pragmatism. Idiology and gratitude are not items we have the luxury of using as excuses. Whether the Iraqis are better off, whether they should be doing more themselves, all of that is useless daydreaming. We need to get things fixed and do it yesterday. If it takes more troops, call up two national guard divisions and have them there in a month. Draft Rudolph Guilliani or the best available clone to go over there and cut the red tape and bureaucracy that is plaguing rebuilding. We need a butt kicker, not a diplomat. With the full resources of the United States and an infinite amount of money, we _must_ be able to get the electricity working, water running, and gas pumping. It should have been done inside a month, even if it meant flying in every electrical engineer in the armed forces. No excuses, no red tape, just do the damned job. Our soldiers are performing magnificently, now if the civilian leadership would start leading we could turn this thing around.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

1. It doesn't matter how many people you throw at the problem -- infrastructure sabotage is trivially easy -- thousands of miles of pipelines and electrical transmission lines CAN NOT be defended perfectly against attack. The same is true in any industrialized country. Any idea how many RPG's are required to put (say) NYC into blackout?

2. The troops the US is asking for from other countries are not designed to augment US troops, but rather to REPLACE them. One can legitimately ask whether more troops are required, but I believe that public order is something the Iraqis must re-establish.

3. There will always be Iraqis claiming that they don't have enough input on what is happening. I don't discount their concerns, but merely note that it is to be expected, respecte, and incorporated. The fact that it exists does not in itself mean that they don't participate substantially.


posted by: MG on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

1.You dont need to defend every foot of electric line. You need to be able to repair it inside an hour. With enough experienced electricians you can do that (how long does your power typically go out for?)
2.With enough troops we can establish order, at the least we can defend criticial points and heavilly patrol others. We cant do that effectively now. Thomas Friedman's media convoy just got robbed in broad daylight on the main highway through Baghdad. That is unacceptable.
3.In this case, it is the British military who are complaining about having no input. Doubtless the US military feels the same. It is Bremer's civilian taskforce that is heading this thing and they are state department bureaucrats seemingly. Somehow I don't see a George S. Patton whining that its impossible to turn the lights on in Iraq with 150,000 men and unlimited resources. No-one is over there willing to 'kick a few butts' at the moment. Every tough job in history the bureaucrats said was impossible, but some individual stepped up and decided he was going to do it come hell or high water. Thats what needs to happen.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

Seems the Peace dividend that we enjoyed in the 90's is biting us in the butt. Since we mothballed 2 army divisions to save money we do not have the troops to put more boots on the ground and will not unless we call up national guard troops. Obviously Bush and company understimated the post war situation in Iraq. But when is that not the case. I seem to recall the need for peacekeepers in Bosnia as a short term thing and yet there we still sit. Getting the UN in does us no good, we still put up all the money but get no credit for when things go well. Things are improving in Iraq from other things that I have read, just not at light speed. Tom Friedman is a good columnist and knows more about the ME then most, but he still sees things through BUSH BAD blinders. I will echo the previous poster. If Bush bad, think of what Clinton/Gore have done. Nothing. They would have left this cancer alone and ME would muddle along in the quagmire it was before the invasion.

posted by: Kevin on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

Good god! It's been a little over 100 days people. Posts like these are no wonder why everybody thinks of Americans as the "instant gratification" society. Talk to me in five years.

posted by: BJW on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

BJW, i've heard that sentiment a lot and its dangerous and foolhardy. Is it fair that we need to have these thing fixed after 100 days? It doesnt matter. The reality on the ground is that we are in a very precarious position right now. If things go south for real, the last 4 months will seem like a pleasant holiday. I cant think of a single nation that has successfully occupied an unwilling country in the last 50 years for any extended period. Russians in Afghanistan, French Americans and Chinese in Vietnam, Vietnamese in Cambodia, Dutch in the Congo, French anywhere. We _must_ win over Iraqi hearts and minds in mass or we are in big trouble. Making excuses for why we cant get the power on doesnt do that. Whatever the reality is they blame us. Its easy to blame them for forgetting about Saddam so fast when we're not the ones sitting in 110 degree heat with little electriciy, water, or gasoline crime running rampant and no job. I'm not saying they are right, I'm saying that it doesnt matter who is right. The Iraqis are getting angry and impatient. That is the reality. If you'd like to go explain to the Iraqis about requisition forms, chains of command, assesment reports, and all the trouble we're having leizing with the locals go to it. Excuses dont count. Results count, no matter the cost. Not fair, just true.

posted by: on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

I seem to recall some fairly successful American occupations in the last, say, 60 years. Funny how quickly critics forget about Germany, Japan and North Korea. No doubt the locals were complaining and the critics were crying "quagmire" after 100 days.

And war critics in the media--and anti-Bush blogs--deserve much blame for painting all Iraqis as angry victims who understandably are unwilling to help. It seems that the Iraqis themselves are in no hurry to lift a finger to help the reconstrucion along, especially with security. No doubt the camera-ready protestors are not representative of the whole population, but it certainly wouldn't hurt if some of the hundreds of thousands of complaining, unemployed, young idle males in Iraq would quit their whining and join either the police or the army.

The sooner the Iraqis take control of their country, the sooner they'll be rid of our troops. But seems like they'd rather the US fix and die for their country while they complain, jeer and aid and abet terrorists.

posted by: paul on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

If the guerillas are coming from outside the country or are from those groups who lost power due to the war infrastructure will not make much of a difference to the fighting.

I will also note that Saddam cut off water and electricity to those places and regions who resisted his policies. I'm told that many of those places now have power and water.

The way to protect infrastructure is to get those with an interest in it to protect it.

BTW it took over two years to get Germany fully up and running after WW2. Functioning politics took a bit longer. What is wanted is deliberate speed. Not a rush job.

The fact that Kurds are running their own show says we can probably do the same for the larger country.

Patience. Rebuilding is not a timed event.

posted by: M. Simon on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

Prediction: It's going to look worse and worse. Lots of armchair pundits are going to freak out and lose heart before it gets better.

However, the occupation team will not lose patience. The interim authority will learn on the fly like the excellent Americans that they are. By the end of the year there will be a approx. 3 battalions of Iraqis able to respond to threats to critical infrastructure and our allies who have overpromised will finally underdeliver some relief. Things will quiet down when there is a battalion of Kurds and Shia ready to police the "sunni triangle" should it act up.

Not to say that Ritu is incorrect. This would indeed have been a lot easier with help from India. We are indeed stretched too thin. I think that his nation missed an excellent strategic opportunity to lend a hand when it really mattered to the US and stability in Iraq was in his country's interest. But that's his decision not ours.

posted by: JAB on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

Even if the requisitions took zero time moving large pieces of electrical equipment to Iraq from the places it is manufactured is not overnight delivery. Ships are required. Transport by ship can take weeks to months.

If the equipment is not standard add in manufacturing time.

Every system has lags. More money or men will not fix the lag problem. Add in the fact that generating capacity may be limited and you have problems.

I am constantly amazed at people who think industrial production is magic. Or that because electrons move at the speed of light that ships ought to move at that speed as well.

posted by: M. Simon on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

I'm confused. Where's the empirical evidence that we aren't winning over the hearts and minds of Iraqis? Sure, there's widespread rent seeking going on. This has been an economy based on appropriation rather than production for many years. So it's not surprising to hear people complain to the press -- or even to learn of the recent unrest in Basra (besides, it's hardly uncommon to read about similar protests in much of the developing world on any given day). But all that said, the best accounts I've seen suggest that most Iraqis are quite happy to be liberated and will see this through.

P.S. In terms of a "force multiplier" don't underestimate the drop in temperatures in the months to come. When winning hearts and minds, a drop of 30 degrees will probably be worth more than three divisions.

posted by: on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

My personal prediction - everything will be much better when the weather cools down in Iraq.

posted by: John Davies on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

A black market is indicative of one of several things:

1. The commodity in question is underpriced.
2. The government taxes are excessive (prohibition being the most excessive of all3. Government controls supplies

For those who haven't heard: communism doesn't work. Shortages get fixed most quickly when prices are allowed to rise to market levels.

If oil is going to Kuwait then it is underpriced. In fact if oil was fairly priced then it would be coming from Kuwait if there were Iraqi shortages.

posted by: M. Simon on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

PM, you have missed the point. Even the majority of IRAQIS realize that it's only barely 100 days. BTW, excuses do matter, particularly if the Iraqis are aware of what is the cause of their trouble (sabotage, etc), which most of them do. Perspective is what is needed by the press, Iraqis have it. After all, the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis murdered by Saddam in a country of 24million have relatives, and these people haven't forgotten the improvement of their position in life post-Saddam. Just because a mob is shown on TV doesn't mean that even a large minority of Iraqi's are growing impatient. A similar argument would be that a riot in Compton would mean Americans are upset. These judgements based on limited press coverage/access are ridiculous and prove the limits of some poster's historical perspective.

posted by: DR on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

The troops might well have been needed to relieve and replace the US troops in Iraq but I can only report what the US administration told my govt: that the Indian soldiers are needed to patrol the relatively safer Northern Iraq so that the US troops there might be moved to more 'unsettled' areas. Failing that, we were asked to send the troops to Afghanistan, thereby freeing the US troops in Afghanistan for deployment in Iraq.
Now, I wouldn't dream of commenting on the veracity of the statements made by the US officials, but I could, and did, comment upon the impression these statements foster in this part of the world.

I also fail to see how stability in Iraq is in India's interests, other than a general, diffused interest in the world being a somewhat safer place. India's interests lie in ensuring stability in South Asia, amongst a million other things. How would it serve our interests to send our boys to die in Iraq, at exorbitant cost to the national exchequer and on a mission that would impact only negatively on our standing in the Arab world? For without the cover of the UN, we would lose the goodwill we currently enjoy in the Middle East.
The only benefit I can see is that we *might* win the US favour - and that is a doubtful proposition in itself: Pakistan *would* deploy its troops if we deploy ours in Iraq. Our effort would be considered at par with Pakistan's and, in the end, we would have no net benefit to show in terms of US support or gratitude.
But even if we *were* to secure this favour, the translation of this metaphysical concept into practical action would be always be dependant upon the US perceptions of US interests. And if history has taught us one thing [even recent, post-911 history], it is this: In the subcontinent, the US interests are usually served at the cost of Indian interests.

posted by: Ritu on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

It is too early to say that the US messed up Iraq. But it is not too early to say that things are not going well. The picture painted by Wolfowitz et. al. before we went in was that there would be a groundswell of support for US troops. This has not been the case. Even if most people know life is better now than under Sadaam it is not those people who have the upper hand. The looters and criminals still are a real factor in society. It is not right when there are lists of US translators marked for death circulating.

Now, I am not convinced the solution is more troops, I really have no idea, and I think that most people sitting in front of computers thousands of miles from Iraq have no idea either. I do know that current reports of life in Iraq don't resemble what I expected. Right now, that is not a problem, if things turn around before it is time for my voice to be heard then all respect will go to those who accomplished a very significant task. But, if things continue to go in the direction that it seems they are I think the administration, and all Americans are going to have a problem.

Americans don't see themselves as occupiers, and don't view their nation as an imperial power. But if that is the role we are going to play in the world we better do it right; and it is not clear that Bush has built the will in the public or the capacity in his government to see this project through

posted by: Rich on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

I tend to consider more troops necessary primarily because we are talking of a region where suppression and appropriation has been the norm for decades. It is also a war-ravaged region and all reports seem to indicate a significant amount of chaos and general dissatisfaction. If Paul Bremer's assessment of Iraq being a magnet for international terrorists is accurate, then more troops are needed simply to make the idea of joining the terrorists unattractively dangerous. Also, more troops would speed up the distribution of aid [a lot of NGOs and Aid agencies cite the local disorder as a deterrent to their efforts], hamper sabotage efforts, deter novice saboteurs...
I see parallels to Kashmir - my description of Iraq above would hold equally true for Kashmir in the early 1990s. That is also shortly after the time the influx of international terrorists turned a mild, low-key local resistance and disatisfaction into a full-blown offensive operation, thereby eaerning the 'war-ravaged, chaotic and dissatisfied'. The response of the Indian govt was initially insufficient and then excessive. It has taken us almost 15 years to turn the situation towards normality...

posted by: Ritu on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

Judging from some of these comments, Iraq doesn't need more troops...it needs more bureaucrats. Don't we have a whole bunch of those to spare?

Modest proposal: take at least one-half of all those involved in the ridiculous 'drug war' in America and send then to Iraq to catch real criminals...

posted by: Cliff on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

If you think they need bureaucrats, then forget the "Drug War". Send the whole Dept. of Education or Health and Human Services over there. It just might be one of those cases where we'd end up improving both countries. And just to give the bureaucrats some incentive, tell them if they don't get everthing fixed by Christmans, they aren't coming back.

posted by: Raoul Ortega on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

I don't think deploying more troops is the best way to deal with the guerrilla war in Iraq. It is just not going to stop, no matter what. The United States has to get out of that mess as fast as it can. It is absolutely unbelievable that this administration did not have a plan to rebuild Iraq after the war, as the world now knows.

posted by: Márcio Guilherme on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

We really need more boots on the ground. In a hostile environment one soldier for every ten civilians might be adequate.

So instead of the mere 140 K troops we have we need something like 2 million plus to adequately police a hostile population.

The total of all Ameican Armed Forces is 1.4 million including Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines.

We need to conscript at least two million Americans at once and probably another million a year to maintain the force necessary.

Or we can continue to take casualties for another year or two until the Iraqis can police themselves.

Given that it would take at least two years and possibly three to enlarge our army what do you think will happen?

I look back at the German miracle at the end of WW2 and wonder why we can't have a peaceful, prosperous, deNazified Iraq a week and a half after the war was over like we did in Geremany. It has been 4+ months now and reconstruction is only just beginning. And it is going to cost us a pile.

The Marshall plan was in effect a day and a half after the war was over and we had German prosperity by day three. You have to wonder what is taking so long in Iraq. I mean they knew Iraq was 4,000 MW short of generating capacity before the war even started. Why hasn't the plant that was needed and planned already been installed? I mean just because such a plant takes two years to build in highy developed America is no reason it can't be done in five days in Iraq. Especially since the need is so great.

Every one knows how to make a human baby in one month in America. You put nine women to work on it. The fact that laying the foundations for an electric plant and letting the concrete cure takes a minimum of several months is no excuse for the slow pace of results. We don't even have workmen putting in the forms yet, let alone pouring concrete.

I know. Bush is incompetent. And stupid. He never anticipated the problems the way Truman did.


All kidding aside. The reason there is time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.

Iraq is going to take YEARS. It is not going to be a cake walk. Saying "electric plan"t does not produce one KW of electricity.

We can have fair bidding, a long timetable, and low cost for the Iraqi reconstruction. Or we can have awarded contracts, a shorter timetable, and higher costs for the Iraqi reconstruction.

Given the political costs of either move what should the dumb Bush do? Ask for UN help? Call Clinton for advice? Send out for Monica and blow it all off?

The last option sounds good to me. But I'm dumb enough to think Monica is one cute chick. Nice boobs too.


There must be an economist here who understands the problems of logistics.

posted by: M. Simon on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

Ritu: Current US policy vs. Pakistan & India is being adversely affected by cold-war hangover issues and temporary strategic considerations. Objectively, the US should be strongly aligned with India and against Pakistan, for many reasons, including:

1. India is a large industrialized democratcy, and Pakistan is a typical islamofascist state.

2. India has strong economic and cultural ties to the US - all that outsourcing and 401B visa people has increased the familitarity and cross-pollination between the two nations. (This is very noticable at the company, Oracle, where I work. Many of of my co-workers are Indian in origin, and the company outsources work with Sierra Atlantic a lot, with some work done in the CA office and some in India. In general, the outsourcing stake of US companies have in India may very well have prevented the most recent dust-up between it and Pakistan from going nuclear - beacuse the instability is not good for business.) Pakistan, on the other hand, is just another -stan in a dangerous region full of them.

3. India's religous/cultural base (Hinduism, Buddism, etc.) is not a ideological/political threat to the world, and likely never will be, despite a few fanatics (all religions have fanatics). Islam is such a threat - and Pakistan is a big part of it.

4. Pakistan is a dangerous nuclear proliferator. (Are they helping the Iranian nuclear program right now? Seems likely.) And if the current strongman government is overthrown by Islamists and they gain possession of its nuclear arsenal, the we will have a NK sort of situation on our hands - and a high chance of war.

5. Despite the grudging co-operation of the Pakistan leadership in the WOT, significant portions of that government (ISI) and nation are deeply hostile and dangerous. The current situation is fragile and can't last. But looking at the map at the beginning of the WOT, with the need to deal with Afganistan paramount, we had to hold our nose and make nice with Pakistan to accomplish our aims.

The current inverted political situation is also a legacy of the cold war. Pakistan has a history of co-operation with the US. (And yes, it was the typical "He's a strongman, but at least he's *our* stongman" sort of equation that was common during the cold war - no apologies, it was a matter of priorities.) On the other hand, India was generally hostile to the US during the cold war. They drank deeply of the Socalism kool-aid, buddied up with the Communist bloc, and generally viewed the US with suspicion. They need to get over this attitude - it was a loser to begin with and is really dated now. Until that happens, the politics of the region won't make sense.

posted by: Eric E. Coe on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]


How about your country sending troops to Iraq with the understanding that the US will insist on a UN Security Council permanent seat for India?

posted by: on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

And another seat for Japan.

Another preferred change would be going from three European seats on the UNSC to one (perhaps alternating between the EU and Russia), but it's too late to put the dentifrice back in la tube on that one.

posted by: on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]


There were ZERO allied casualties of war in the post-war occupation of Germany. Same is true for Kosovo. That's right. ZERO.

"According to America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq, a new study by former Ambassador James Dobbins, who had a lead role in the Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo reconstruction efforts, and a team of RAND Corporation researchers, the total number of post-conflict American combat casualties in Germany—and Japan, Haiti, and the two Balkan cases—was zero."


posted by: bobdobbs on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

Money should be spent on Iraqi workers rather than contracting no-bid jobs to outside mega corps:


posted by: eric rolph on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

The entire premise of Professor Drezner's post is that "rising discontent in Baghdad and Basra" actually exists.

As evidence for the existence of "rising discontent," Professor Drezner cites two newspaper articles featuring interviews with angry residents of Baghdad and Basra, and one violent demonstration.

That's not evidence of rising discontent.

To have evidence of rising discontent you need valid polling data demonstrating attitudinal change over time. I'm not aware that we have that, and I suspect Professor Drezner would cite it if it did.

My own reading of the polls is that the numbers have been holding steady, which is why I've felt much better about the reconstruction of late. Roughly seventy percent of the citizens of Baghdad, where conditions are by all accounts most difficult, say that the invasion was worth it, the privations are worth it, life will be better in the foreseeable future, and so on.

In one of the more recent polls, also limited to Baghdad, people said the CPA was doing better now than just one month ago, which is probably evidence of a positive attitudinal change, not a negative one.

It's critical to "consider the source" in thinking about Iraq. I'm a journalist myself, and I can tell you that the First Law of basic journalism, especially feature-writing which these two newspaper articles verge on, is that you can't even *write* a story unless you cite "rising discontent"--or, even better, "skyrocketing discontent." I used to have editors insert the word "skyrocketing" into my leads routinely. It would be "skyrocketing divorce" or "skyrocketing obesity" or skyrocketing-whatever-you've-got. Something had to be skyrocketing to write the story.

What was especially ridiculous was the fact that the magazines I wrote for did extensive fact-checking. Everything had to be documented *except* for the assertion that whatever horrible social problem I was discussing was rising, skyrocketing, or increasing at alarming rates.

The next time you read the paper, check out how many rising-this's and increasing-that's you see. They're everywhere. It's a MEME, for God's sake!

I might add that it's not even an issue of liberal-media-bias. It's an issue of genre and "master narratives." A newspaper story has to be a *story,* which means it has to have conflict and change. Read your Aristotle! Narrative is conflict!

Or read your Robert McKee! The story has to have an arc! The characters have to change over time!

OK, here's a story. My neighbor had a policy of keeping her young son away from TV news because she didn't want him to get upset. He was kind of a dark little kid anyway, and she didn't want him getting any darker.

So one day he managed to find the news when she was somewhere else in the house & not paying attention. He watched the whole thing.

Then he came to her and said, very excitedly, "Mommy! Mommy! There's a TV show where they tell you all the bad things that happened today!"

OK, last question.

I think it's extremely unlikely that any of us would predict the outcome of an election based on one demonstration and two newspaper articles featuring interviews with people who are upset.

So why do we see a university professor basing his own perceptions of what's happening in a faraway land, unfamiliar to him personally and (I presume though don't know) outside his field of study, on precisely these sources?

I think we could use some peer review around here.

posted by: Catherine on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

Anthony Cordesman called it: Gulf War I ended in 91. Gulf War II ended in April. And now we are in Gulf War III: the war of the U.S. military against the Iraqi people.

posted by: mike on 08.12.03 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

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