Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Cutting and running

Whenever President Bush is asked about the prospect of withdrawing from Iraq, he sticks to the same line: the US will not "cut and run" and abandon the Iraqi people. Meanwhile, on the reconstruction front, that's exactly what he's doing:

The Bush administration does not intend to seek any new funds for Iraq reconstruction in the budget request going before Congress in February, officials say. The decision signals the winding down of an $18.4 billion U.S. rebuilding effort in which roughly half of the money was eaten away by the insurgency, a buildup of Iraq's criminal justice system and the investigation and trial of Saddam Hussein.

This wouldn't be a problem if the job was done - but its not. Electricity output is averaging 4000 MW, 10% lower than its prewar level - and Iraqis are on average getting power for only 12 hours a day (or half or maybe even a third of that in Baghdad). Oil exports are 25% lower than they were before the war began. There's still inadequate water supplies, sewage systems, roads, bridges - all the stuff that the Americans bombed back in 2003 (or in 1991, or 1997) is still in ruins. But the Iraqis are getting a lovely set of border forts (which will cost more than four times as much as will be spent on roads, bridges, and public buildings) plus a secure communications network for their new army and secret police (which will cost only slightly more than will be spent on schools) - all paid for with reconstruction money which would otherwise be used for those worthier projects.

That's the problem right there - the Americans don't seem to understand the "re" in "reconstruction". Or that they are supposed to be doing this for the benefit of the Iraqi people, rather than themselves. Or even that reconstruction funds were appropriated by Congress for civilian purposes, not military ones.

But the most telling quote is this bit:

"The U.S. never intended to completely rebuild Iraq," Brig. Gen. William McCoy, the Army Corps of Engineers commander overseeing the work, told reporters at a recent news conference. In an interview this past week, McCoy said: "This was just supposed to be a jump-start."

Really? What about Colin Powell's famous pre-war "you break it, you own it"? Instead, the US now seems to want to shirk its moral obligation to the Iraqi people in favour of international vandalism: smash it all up, then just walk away...


> roughly half of the money was eaten away by the insurgency, a buildup of Iraq's criminal justice system and the investigation and trial of Saddam Hussein.

crime always costs money - one wouldnt really want to just surrender as a result - of course there was no need to have an expensive sadam trial. Speaking of which aren't we lucky that Hitler saved us from a show trial!

> What about Colin Powell's famous pre-war "you break it, you own it"?

the US probably rebuilt the equivilent of what it broke. It just got blown up again. If iraqis choose to blow up their own stuff what can you do about it? Maybe they have jsut reached the point where it is no longer worth it to rebuild the targets.

Posted by Genius : 1/03/2006 08:56:00 AM


If you overthrow a govt and the result is anarchy - then you broke it.

Powell did not appear at the time to be saying "we'll fix anything that we bomb". He was talking about fixing a nation, not fixing a power plant.

Now whether we have a "fledgling democracy" or a "dysfunctional state about to collapse into disaster" in Iraq is debatable and debated (over and over...). But the economic/infrastructure side of things is an important (and measurable) ingredient of that, and on that measure it is obvious that the US has fallen far short of their promises.

And think about just how bad that is. Iraq as at the US invasion was at the end of a long decline after a decade of sanctions that followed soon after bombing by the US of key infrastructure during the Iraq/Kuwait war, which itself followed very soon after 8 years of brutal war with Iran.

Now it has gone downhill even from that sad state. This suggests that the nation doing badly.

In ten years time it will be obvious in hindsight that Iraq as at the end of 2005 was about to succeed/fail as a stable democracy. But right now I think it's very unclear, and that the US military spending vastly outstrips its reconstruction spending is both short-sighted and a very bad sign.

Posted by Icehawk : 1/03/2006 09:28:00 AM


What about the idea that if the Iraqis reconstruct then there might be less insurgency destruction of basic infrastructure?

I don't know if this would even be true, I'm just postulating it as a possibility.

Posted by Muerk : 1/03/2006 11:03:00 AM

Muerk: quite apart from the moral obligation, rebuilding Iraq is exactly what is needed to show Iraqis that the US is committed to their ongoing wellbeing, which is one of the core determinants of whether a military occupation is successful or not.

But then, I suspect its far too late for that now...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 1/03/2006 11:14:00 AM

> He was talking about fixing a nation, not fixing a power plant.

And in that regard he was making a promise he could not keep.
Stil - I dont suppose the terrorists are making that promise nor was sadam.

>US military spending vastly outstrips its reconstruction spending is both short-sighted and a very bad sign.

yes and no - How can you spend on reconstruction if it gets blown up straight away? beter to spend ion military and protect a little of the construction (offensively or defensively)

Posted by Genius : 1/03/2006 01:07:00 PM


It's a feedback mechanism - and a nasty one.

Provide a working economy and working infrastructure, and you'll get less insurgents.

Get less insurgents, and it'll be easier to provide a... well, you can fill in the rest.

That's why I'm saying that this is a sign of failure. Their spending is tipped 20 to 1 in favour of military spending. You might be right: it might be that they have no choice because the military situation is so bad that they can no longer rebuild. But if that is true, then they've lost.

I hope that's not true. I hope the US succeeds in building a properous, democratic Iraq. That it would make pundits like DPF insufferable ia unimportant compared to the millions of lives at stake. But you can't do that just by having troops in the area.

As for "it's more than the terrorists are promising" - is that the best we can do? "Support the US, they don't deliver on their promises but at least they promise more than the terrorists do"? Can't we aspire to a bit more than that?

Posted by Icehawk : 1/03/2006 02:57:00 PM


"if the Iraqi's reconstruct" - sure. Good plan. Better plan that having the US attempt to micro-manage it (or hand all the contracts to Haliburton). But how are they gonna pay for it?

Another cycle: bad economy, not much oil flowing, no money, no rebuilding, bad economy, not much oil flowing...

It's to break such a cycle that the US provided the Marshall Plan to Europe and Japan after WW2. Back when they DID do nation-building, back when they thought decades ahead and went in expecting to spend many years there rebuilding. Instead of expecting to be greeted with flowers and parades. That's the worst of Bush et al - they're such dwarves compared to giants of US democracy like FDR that came before them.

(no offence to any dwarves reading this is intended)

Posted by Icehawk : 1/03/2006 03:00:00 PM

You make it sound so terrible that the Bush isn't going to fix everything in Iraq that is broke.

Most of assests which probably broke or was near broke when the Americans invaded Iraq due to the U.N sanctions not the war itself.

It is unlikely that Congress would pass a bill for more funds for reconstruction in Iraq due to the outright oppostition from the Democrats to the war and Republicans that see it as a waste of US taxapers money.

Iraq is not a poor country with billions of dollars worth of oil reserves and currently high oil world prices at the moment.

By providing an effective police force and militiary then democracy can flourish in Iraq.

By removing the US and other allied troops from Iraq, then it should lessen the insurgency (and the suppossed reasons for the insurgency).

This should allow Iraqis to continue the rebuilding of the country.

Another example, of underfunding of reconstruction is in Afghanstian where only half of the 10bn required has been promised by the international community and it is not an oil rich country.

This seems to be ignored by the MSM as it can't blame Bush.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/03/2006 04:10:00 PM

> But if that is true, then they've lost.

I think the objectives are wrong - you can't have an objective which is so easy to deny you.

If my only objective is to deny you and it costs you 1 million dollars to build a school and be 10 dollars to destroy it then I'll be happy to play that game for the rest of time.

Unfortunately even in a fully functioning iraqi economy there will still be enough insurgents to make your spending on repair be dwarfed by the cost of protecting it.

> Can't we aspire to a bit more than that?

I am not america - they are a force of nature to me just as the terrorists are. I just note that they are - overall - a slightly nicer force of nature.

Posted by Genius : 1/03/2006 04:45:00 PM

If this post was anything more than just another anti-US tirade then a bit more attention would have been placed on the expectation of other countries stepping up to the plate. idiot, maybe those countries which were Saddam's main supporters and who opposed his overthrow - France, Russia, China - have some responsibilty to provide for reconstruction. They have done nothing, spent nothing - which is an indication of what motivated their anti-war stance. But I'm sure Chirac will be there with his grubby little hands if Iraq wants to give France millions for another nuclear reactor - just like last time.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/04/2006 10:22:00 AM

Countries that opposed wreaking Iraq in the first place should have to pay for rebuilding it??? That's like saying you should go to jail for the assassination of Bush because you opposed the assassination.

Posted by Commie Mutant Traitor : 1/04/2006 10:34:00 AM

uh, neil,

Let's get back on topic.

The US invaded Iraq. That is relevant.

So: why did the US invade? Why are they there, shooting people? To accomplish what?

Their (current) claim is that the ongoing war is to improve Iraq by replacing Saddam's reign with something better. They claim further that this will (indirectly) harm Al Qa'ida and fight terrorism by providing a "shining example" of democracy to oppose his, unshining example of religious nutterness.

But if so you need to build something better. A squalid sectarian civil war is not a shining example of democracy.

In summary: if they ain't building a better Iraq, why the hell are they there? If they are building a better Iraq, how do they expect to do it if they only spend money on bullets and bombs?

Of course, you can blame the French for selling Saddam a power plant. Or blame NZ, for selling him mutton. Or blame the Reagan's USA of the 1980s, for providing him with the means to build chemical weapons. Or blame the Kuwaitis, who gave Saddam vast sums in the 80s to spend on his military because they wanted him to fight Iran. We could put the boot into Thatcher as well, if you'd like.

But really that's evading the point: there's a damn war on, the guys who invaded and are fighting it are under a moral obligation that the rest of us are not.

Posted by Icehawk : 1/04/2006 04:50:00 PM

Icehawk, the US is actually building something better in Iraq, I thought idiot was trying to say that the US was not going to stop.

You talk of moral obligation - but why do you consider the moral obligation of those who profitted the most from Saddam to be beside the point? Given that those that did gain the most were againist the invasion and were quite prepared to continue doing business with Saddam I would have thought that anyone on the anti-war side would be demandng that those countries took on some of this moral obligation. But no, "The rest of us are not" as you say. I'm sure Putin and Chirac would agree.

This part of of this latest announcement that has been conviently overlooked - the US is not cutting and running it is trying to get other coutries to do the decent thing. (The other overlooked facts are that there is still 8 billion to be spent, that this money covers the period up to 2007 and that there have been other types of US funding - hardly cutting and running).

Another odd moral position that the anti-war side is taking is to completely ignore the moral culpability of the insurgents for disrupting reconstruction. We have a collection of secular and religious facists trying to derail democarcy and who gets the blame for the disruption to reconstruction? The US. Very odd.

I look at the antiwar movement and really wonnder what their motives are. There are no demonstrations against the insurgents, there are no human shields flocking to Iraq to protect Iraqi's from religous fanatics. There's no willingness to hold the people who made the most out of Saddam to account. But there is the relentless demonisaiton of the US. That speaks volumes about their real concerns.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/05/2006 10:54:00 AM

that should read - "I thought idiot was trying to say that the US was going to stop."

Posted by Anonymous : 1/05/2006 10:56:00 AM