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Reality bites

August 27th, 2003

This reported statement from Paul Bremer, acknowledging that reconstruction in Iraq will cost tens of billions of dollars, and that oil revenue will come nowhere near paying for this is a welcome acknowledgement of reality. But there is still no sign that the US Administration as a whole has accepted the need to spend lots more money. And even Bremer is still sticking to the party line that other countries (read Old Europe) can be expected to give buckets of money to Uncle Sam while being treated as pariahs or interlopers.

Meanwhile Howard is steering clear of the whole thing, offering no more than the handful of troops still left in Iraq and no serious money. I’m in two minds about this. Certainly, we have plenty of problems closer to home, and the benefit-cost ratio is probably higher in the Solomons than in Iraq. On the other hand, we invaded Iraq, smashed its economy to bits, and are now leaving the unfortunate Iraqis to pick up the pieces.

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  1. Jill Rush
    August 27th, 2003 at 22:40 | #1

    I am certain we had no right to invade Iraq.

    One very easy way we could help now,which would help us as well,would be to ensure those Iraqis who came to Australia as refugees are allowed to live in the community and earn a living instead of costing us a fortune in detention.

    How ridiculous that we should go to war because a regime is bad, but that those who fled that same regime are not refugees. In view of the conditions in Afghanistan and Iraq – 2 wars we have been involved in and helped create instability in those countries- people from that region who came here should be assisted.

    That Australia is liable to lose wheat and mutton markets to the USA as a consequence of the war is probably enough financial sacrifice in that region. The USA has to come up with the money to rebuild – it was the country that decided to deconstruct in the first place. The Australians would never have gone there otherwise.

  2. Jim
    August 28th, 2003 at 09:56 | #2

    John,
    Sorry to be contrary but;
    *accept we invaded Iraq
    *did we “smash its economy to bits” or was it already well and truly smashed from a combination of despotic rule and UN sanctions?
    *there doesn’t seem to be any indication that we are leaving the rebuilding solely to the Iraqis – quite the opposite in fact;the US and British are working hard to establish a more representative government than existed previously,restoring water and power supplies – in Basra apparently the effort is a marked improvement on what existed previously – supplying medecines to hospitals who had restricted access to them in the past and trying to restore order in a power vacuum in competition with terrorists.
    It might all turn out to be a disaster but,in my view, it’s a little early to tell yet.

  3. derrida derider
    August 28th, 2003 at 16:09 | #3

    From a pure national interest perspective, Howard has done OK here. And I say that as someone who thinks the Iraq invasion was wicked, founded on lies and, from the US POV, completely counterproductive.

    Nothing we said or did was going to alter events there, so from an amoral and selfish view we might as well collect the brownie points for giving political cover to our Great and Powerful Friend (GaPF™). But we were smart enough to weasel out of the nasty bit – the war’s aftermath.

  4. August 29th, 2003 at 12:29 | #4

    John, on ‘economics’: this is one story… (caveat: independent verification difficult and unlikely)

  5. August 31st, 2003 at 11:15 | #5

    Pr Q is like an addict, compulsively drawn to rhetorical excess for polemical purposes on the subject of GW II:

    ….we invaded Iraq,

    True. We also invaded the much less blood-thirsty and much less threatening fascist-dictated, ethnic-cleansing Yugoslavian state, without UN authorisation.
    Pr Q supported that.
    Or should all fascist-dictated, ethnic-cleansing apparati be allowed to sleep soundly so long as they can suck up to the French?

    …smashed its economy to bits

    It is not clear that Aust. troops or planes destroyed any civilian infrastructure during GW II. Our troops attacked Iraqi military installations, cleared mines and performed Special Ops, all done with great professionalism.
    Regime change in Iraq was all about reducing the role of the Baathist military in Iraq’s social system. To the extent that Aust. military intervention has contributed to the long-term demilitarisation of the Iraqi state, then to that extent Aust has helped the Iraqi economy.
    Iraq’s several, SH-led, wars have done more than anything to hamper Iraqi economic development. As have the UN-authorised sanctions that have been imposed to hamper his war-making ability. And getting rid of SH has, of course, allowed sanctions to be lifted which will hasten the economic reconstruction of a more secure Iraq and potentially more prosperous Iraq.

    …and are now leaving the unfortunate Iraqis to pick up the pieces

    Australia has made some contribution to the post-war reconstruction of Iraq, by way of advisors and aid. It is false to imply that the Iraqi’s have been left alone to pick up the pieces. The US is contributing some aid, and there are many nations involved in post-war peace-enforcing duties. The US is also seeking UN support for reconstruction and reformation of Iraq, and Aust is sure to contribute to this. Finally, a SH-free Iraq is likely to be a more secure zone for foreign investment than one controlled by a totlitarian despot.

    On a broader ideological level, whilst state aid to Iraq is necessary to get that country back on it’s feet, it is also the case that the habit of being suckled on the socialist teat is part of the problem, rather than solution, to Iraq’s (& the ME’s) social woes.
    It may be of some use to Iraqis to get into the habit of self-organised ecomomic enterprise, as the habit of depending on the state for largesse seems to have sapped their spirit of enterprise.

  6. John
    August 31st, 2003 at 18:50 | #6

    The Kosovo comparison exhibits the kind of legal formalism Machiavellians are supposed to disdain. For domestic political reasons, Russia was unwilling to have a UNSC resolution, but was quite happy for NATO to do the job, and was in a big rush to share in the postwar stabilisation exercise. The rest of the world supported the intervention (the Chinese were understandably unhappy about their embassy being bombed, but still did nothing to oppose it). Of course, there was no proposal to overthrow Milosevic by force, and any such proposal would have been mistaken, precisely because it.

    The action in Afghanistan had all the legalities right, but has been a disaster because the Pentagon chose to exclude any multilateral action in order to keep a clear field of fire outside Kabul. By the time the Administration was willing to contemplate any international involvement the situation had already deteriorated past the point where it was feasible.

    In the case of Iraq, Blair’s initial position was that Britain would go through the UN processes but would not be deterred by an ‘unreasonable veto’, comparable to that of the Russians in Kosovo. He should have stuck to this position and called a halt when it became apparent that the great majority of governments and of the world’s population opposed the war or at least were (rightly) unconvinced by the official casus belli.

    Supporters of the war have derided the idea that its rightness or wrongness depended on international endorsement, but the correctness of this idea is now becoming apparent. Given the falsehood of the WMD rationale, the rightness of the war depended on the existence of a credible commitment to postwar nationbuilidng and the US is not up to the task of fulfilling such a commitment.

  7. August 31st, 2003 at 22:54 | #7

    Although there is much in Pr Q’s response that is true, eg the criticism of US Afghan policy and the Kosovo intervention was more of an informal Kurdistan-style partition than a regime-change, he sows philosphical confusion where clarity reigned.

    First, like a good Kantian contractarian, or perhaps rule utilitarian, he affirms the need for civilised states to comply with absolutely binding formal international constructions:

    the rightness [of the war]…depended on international endorsement…of
    the WMD rationale

    Even I, as a sinister and cynically opportunist Machiavellian, generally agree that states should play by the rules.
    I exempt Hegemons from Kantian constraints when dire circumstances indicate deception and force are required.
    911 and the Saudi betrayal met the emergency condition.
    So “the correctness of the [UN-observing] idea” is not apparent to me, until someone can suggest a better way than Ditch S/Hitch I as means of:
    sidelining the fundamentalist Saudis
    removing the fascist Husseins
    from control of half the world’s cheap energy supplies.
    Anti-war UN-abiders have been suspiciously quiet on useful ways of dealing with this 800 lb dysfunctional Gulf Arab politico-cultural gorilla that squats in the middle of the US’s strategic conundrum.

    Then Pr Q abruptly changes tack, heading off in the direction of act utiliarian consequentialism:

    the rightness of the war depended on the existence of a credible commitment to postwar nationbuilidng

    I am with Pr Q on this. But clearly nation-building a civilised Iraq required a UN-resolution side-stepping/deceiving regime-change.
    Is Pr Q a contractarian formalist or a utilitarian consequentialist?

    the US is not up to the task of fulfilling such a commitment.

    Can I borrow Pr Q’s crystal ball?
    I am prepared to wager that the US will remain in Iraq and fork out the “tens of billions of dollars” required to stop the Iraqi state from failing.
    In short, I bet that the US will spend closer to $25 billion than $2.5 billion so far committed to reconstruction, by the time it is prepared to withdraw it’s main military force.

    I am going to stick by my guns. The US has done the right thing by regime-changing Hussein. I think that it will do the right thing by doggedly sticking to nation-building Iraq.
    If it doesn’t then my justification for GW II fails and I have been suckered by Rove/Norquist.
    More fool me, but I haven’t heard the fat lady singing yet.

  8. August 31st, 2003 at 22:54 | #8

    Although there is much in Pr Q’s response that is true, eg the criticism of US Afghan policy and the Kosovo intervention was more of an informal Kurdistan-style partition than a regime-change, he sows philosphical confusion where clarity reigned.

    First, like a good Kantian contractarian, or perhaps rule utilitarian, he affirms the need for civilised states to comply with absolutely binding formal international constructions:

    the rightness [of the war]…depended on international endorsement…of
    the WMD rationale

    Even I, as a sinister and cynically opportunist Machiavellian, generally agree that states should play by the rules.
    I exempt Hegemons from Kantian constraints when dire circumstances indicate deception and force are required.
    911 and the Saudi betrayal met the emergency condition.
    So “the correctness of the [UN-observing] idea” is not apparent to me, until someone can suggest a better way than Ditch S/Hitch I as means of:
    sidelining the fundamentalist Saudis
    removing the fascist Husseins
    from control of half the world’s cheap energy supplies.
    Anti-war UN-abiders have been suspiciously quiet on useful ways of dealing with this 800 lb dysfunctional Gulf Arab politico-cultural gorilla that squats in the middle of the US’s strategic conundrum.

    Then Pr Q abruptly changes tack, heading off in the direction of act utiliarian consequentialism:

    the rightness of the war depended on the existence of a credible commitment to postwar nationbuilidng

    I am with Pr Q on this. But clearly nation-building a civilised Iraq required a UN-resolution side-stepping/deceiving regime-change.
    Is Pr Q a contractarian formalist or a utilitarian consequentialist?

    the US is not up to the task of fulfilling such a commitment.

    Can I borrow Pr Q’s crystal ball?
    I am prepared to wager that the US will remain in Iraq and fork out the “tens of billions of dollars” required to stop the Iraqi state from failing.
    In short, I bet that the US will spend closer to $25 billion than $2.5 billion so far committed to reconstruction, by the time it is prepared to withdraw it’s main military force.

    I am going to stick by my guns. The US has done the right thing by regime-changing Hussein. I think that it will do the right thing by doggedly sticking to nation-building Iraq.
    If it doesn’t then my justification for GW II fails and I have been suckered by Rove/Norquist.
    More fool me, but I haven’t heard the fat lady singing yet.

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