If the Dems are serious about censuring Rumsfeld (something that should have been done, oh, on September 12, 2001), then they might well want to get their list of offences from Robert Looney’s article in Strategic Insights, the journal of the Naval Postgraduate School. Discard Looney’s major new idea in the article, another fixer upper suggestion that begs the entire question of means – Looney would like to see Iraq adopt an Alaska style distribution of oil wealth to every member of the population. That’s fine and dandy, and perhaps Looney might consider running on that platform in Basra – except, of course, that if he landed in Basra, he would literally be running for his life. Like others of the ‘reformer-bots’ that have sprung up in the last twenty five years, Looney comes ready programmed with the neo-liberal default settings, which is the plug and play standard in D.C. (we must be brave and wise/and always, always privatize!) as they intone in their mass think tanker meetings.
On the other hand, his article is a quick survey of the collapse of Rumsfeld’s Mesopotamian protectorate. He has conveniently bullet pointed the ‘goals’, the ‘achievements’ and the, uh, failures of the occupation’s first phase – up to January, 2005. Here they are:
“Scope of the Problem
Many reconstruction challenges confronted the coalition after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Some of these were met successfully, while others have presented on-going difficulties and are still present today. In addition new ones have arisen. Of the initial tasks several stand out:
· Restoring government economic functions after looting and state collapse;
· Preventing currency collapse, hyperinflation and economic chaos;
· Rebuilding infrastructure ravaged by war, sanctions, looting and neglect;
· Rehabilitating a health care system cut off from medical advances for two decades;
· Dismantling corrupt, dysfunctional state economic controls; and
· Stimulating the growth of a private sector that had been stunted by government interference.
A number of major successes did occur, especially under the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). Major successes under the
· Re-established nationwide food-ration system;
· Introduced a new currency and stabilized the exchange rate;
· Liberated most prices without igniting inflation;
· Rebuild the government’s economic ministries;
· Promulgated market-oriented banking, taxation, foreign trade, investment, and business regulations;
· Rehabilitated several thousand schools, health clinics, and hospitals;
· Provided public services to populations that had been deprived under Saddam;
· Increased electrical generation and output;
· Funded small projects across Iraq to meet critical community needs.
Still the Coalition’s economic accomplishments were overshadowed by its unfulfilled promises. During the occupation the CPA failed or was unable to:
· Prevent rampant looting or infrastructure and production facilities;
· Attract foreign investment;
· Implement its newly enacted economic regulations;
· Restructure state-owned industries.
· Fulfill promises of substantial job creation;
· Meet targets for electricity production (despite increases)
· Restore oil output to prewar levels;
· Eliminate costly distorting energy and food subsidies;
· Combat corruption in reconstruction projects;
· Spend more than a fraction of the $18.4 billion the U.S. Congress allocated for Iraq’s reconstruction.
"Patterns of Success and Failure
Following Henderson, several patterns emerge. Most importantly, the Coalition’s success stores shared some essential elements. Its less successful ventures had their own set of distinctive characteristics. Specifically, successful initiatives appear to have imposed no major costs or sacrifices on the population at large.”
LI’s crow side can’t but revel in certain of the bullet points – we particularly liked the achievement of unilaterally restructuring Iraq into a neo-con paradise of de-regulation, and, on the other side of the ledger, the failure “to implement its newly enacted economic regulations.” Yeah, that implementation – the Heritage foundation crowd leaves that for others. No excitement there, baby! While the cowed, second amendment supporting American, his bumper sticker reading “You’ll have to pry my cold dead fingers from my trigger”, passively watches as the entire manufacturing base of the country is shipped off to parts unknown and the structural elements of inequality are put in place so that his kids will go to junior college and serve up fresh fries to the children of the upper 1 percent, busy talking on their oh so splendidly outfitted cell phones (we just love the new program that allows you to launch nuclear weapons while driving your hummer!), the addled Iraqi masses did not greet the reforms as the second coming of the ten commandments. Funny, that. Looney quotes a survey that hasn’t quite garnered attention, as in any, in the media:
“A UNDP household survey documents the impact the slow pace of reconstruction is having on the average Iraqi household:
1. The UNDP survey suggests the poorest 20 percent of the population earns 7 percent of the income, while the top 20 percent earns 44 percent.
2. Iraq’s median household income of 144 dollars has dropped from a post-war high of 255 dollars in 2003.
3. One-third of Iraqis canvassed by UNDP described themselves as being among the poor.
4. One-sixth of interviewees met all or most of the criteria suggesting that they lived beneath the poverty line.”
For those familiar with the disease, this is a shock therapy portrait. Plummeting incomes following an initial surge, a top level that aggrandizes its wealth as it builds in ever more indifference to the consequences of that wealth – it could be Russia in the 90s, n’est-ce pas? A situation that Americans might have wanted to examine a bit more closely, since we are surely going to get there by and by, reform-bot by reform-bot.
And that, of course, is the real constraint on Democratic opposition to the Iraq war. The opposition centers on that failure of implementation. Oh, how DLC-ers ache to manfully shoulder that job! They would make sure that flexible job markets and strong private sectors would make Iraq a happy little beehive. The drones would go back to what drones do, instead of devising those nasty IEDs.
Two other one shots from Looney, and then the crow will take wing:
Under the sententious heading, redolent of business inspiration books,
“High hopes and lofty promises are no substitute for sound planning and prudent expectations:”
“As we receive clearer accounts of the functioning of the CPA it is shocking to find how little planning went into the effort.”
And, our favorite sentences in Looney’s article:
“In part, the loss in reconstruction momentum stemmed from the CPA’s assumption that market forces and a surge in private investment would follow the initial reconstruction efforts. Ideological blinders and the lack of a contingency plan made it difficult to overcome these errors when confronted with the effects of increased violence and uncertainty.”
Ideological blinders? I doubt it. You don't put blinders on the blind.
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"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads