Monday, April 30, 2007

No One's Listening? - No Kidding

Niall Ferguson looks at the fact that no one really appears to care about the consequences of Iraq.
No doubt, President Bush will veto the bill. But it is significant that only one presidential candidate is now sticking by the president's policy of a "surge" to bring Baghdad under control as a first step towards stabilisation. Although I am one of those advising John McCain on foreign policy, I had nothing to do with the speech he made in the Senate a month ago, which spelt out with unflinching clarity the three likely consequences of a premature American exit:

1. A "real prospect" of genocide in Iraq if sectarian violence spirals out of control

2. "Massive humanitarian displacement, growing Iranian influence and wider bloodshed" throughout the region

3. The degeneration of Iraq into a new "failed state", ideally situated to provide a haven for terrorist organisations like Somalia and Afghanistan in the Nineties.

McCain is surely right about this. At the very least, we need to contemplate such a worst-case scenario, rather than blithely assuming that an American withdrawal will somehow improve matters - a far less likely scenario. What's more, McCain argues on the basis of unmatched experience, including real military experience. None of the other candidates has so much as tried on a uniform.

Yet according to the opinion polls, his "Straight-Talk Express" is currently lagging behind their Hot-Air Balloons. That strikes me as yet another sign that Americans don't want to face the reality that they are at war - and about to admit defeat.
"Admit defeat?" Hell, most of the country is calling for defeat. And yes they are ignoring everything he listed and forget that this will have consequences in economics and security, not just for the US but for the rest of the world. McCain is the only one standing squarely on the right side of this, though it is one of the few things he's been getting right.
What went wrong in the Seventies? Clearly, it was more than just the loss of South Vietnam, which turned out not to matter much (to the United States, that is). More significant were the economic consequences of Lyndon Johnson's attempt to have both guns and butter: war in Vietnam plus the "Great Society" welfare programme.

What were, by our standards, quite modest deficits and quite minor balance of payments problems translated into a creeping inflationary pressure, not least because of the strength of organised labour and the weakness of the Federal Reserve. When the Middle East blew up in 1973, sending oil prices sky-rocketing, the United States was swept into an inflationary spiral that neither Richard Nixon nor Gerald Ford nor Jimmy Carter was able to halt.
Can we expect similar problems with a failure in Iraq? Ferguson seems to think so. I think it will quite obviously have a fairly large impact considering the security of the whole region will be destabilized, and that doesn't typically cause a drop in the market price of oil.

But the Dems seem to think that there are no consequences that will make problems for the US, so why not just bug out.

Then there is the Infrastructure study which apparently from the MSM reports tells of the US extreme incompetence. Though it fails to do any really analysis of the issues or who actually owns responsibility for things like maintenance.
A severe lack of maintenance appears to be threatening the future usefulness of some of the facilities renovated during the effort to rebuild Iraq, says a new report from the U.S. inspector general monitoring reconstruction.

Inspectors from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which is charged with reviewing Iraqi reconstruction projects that are financed by the U.S., visited eight facilities throughout the country, to determine whether the buildings were operating at full capacity.

What the inspectors discovered is that, even though those facilities had been completed and declared to be successes, and subsequently met the stated "objectives" of reconstruction, they were not functioning properly.
The question that immediately comes to mind is "who is responsible for maintenance?" And, does this reporter really think that the US should maintain the facilities in perpetuity? No doubt there should be some irritation if the facility was built wrong, but considering that the projects were likely built by local contractors, does that make this as much of a sign of US incompetence as this report would have you believe. And if this report is so indicative of failure, what did they have before? The MSM provides much print space and air time to those bellowing for withdrawal, but then puts forward reports like this that call for US maintenance programs? Seems a bit hypocritical unless their intention is to put the US effort in Iraq in a very bad light.
While officials said the eight sampled projects could not be the basis for solely judging the success or merits of U.S.-backed reconstruction efforts in Iraq, the functionality of the facilities raised serious concerns about the rebuild effort, which to Washington has been almost as important as a military victory.
Oh yes, eight projects don't define success, but the press certainly is using it to maximize political damage here at home. Wonder if the report shows any successes? Doubtful, since that would be an inconvenient balance of truth. Nor does the reporter bother to address the benefit of even a substandard facility compared to a nonexistent one.
"These first inspections indicate that the concerns that we and others have had about the Iraqis sustaining our investments in these projects are valid," Stuart W. Bowen Jr., who leads the office of the special inspector general, told The New York Times for an article published Sunday.
That is a truly odd way of looking at it. The only return the US can expect from any investment is stability. The Iraqi's are the one's who must maintain and utilize the facilities to their benefit. If they choose not to, there is little the US can do.

This also is quite blind as to what other benefits were gained from these projects. Ignoring the jobs and money that were provided to the local people is foolishness. The facilities themselves continue to be signs that the US wants the local people to be safe, the real issue comes with the Iraqis deciding on whether they want to continue to have the benefits of the facilities and support them going forward. But, obviously this report throws the blame squarely on the US as the problem rather than those who must "stand up" at some point if they want to benefit from the initial investment.

Makes you wonder who makes these reports, and why they can't be bothered to be clear as to who is responsible for the up keep after the facility is provided.

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