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Iraq: The Economic Angle

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  • Iraq: The Economic Angle

    There is an interesting article up on Tomdispatch regarding Iraq. Since we are mostly talking about that in the Sandbox lately, I thought I'd toss it up here.

    In it, Michael Schwartz talks about the rise of the insurgency and other militant forces. Instead of discussing the sectarian and tribal differences that define the battlelines, however, he analyses the economic reasons ordinary Iraqis would have to take up arms in the first place. It is an interesting read.

    We do not remember much of this now, but just after Saddam was toppled the American victors announced that a sweeping reform of Iraqi society would take place. The only part of this still much mentioned today -- the now widely regretted dismantling of the Iraqi military -- was but one aspect of a far larger effort to dismantle the entire Baathist state apparatus, most notably the government-owned factories and other enterprises that constituted just about 40% of the Iraqi economy. This process of dismantling included attempts, still ongoing, to remove various food, product, and fuel subsidies that guaranteed low-income Iraqis basic staples, even when they had no gainful employment.
    To get past the intro and directly to the meat of the piece, scroll down to Does the Media Have It Right on the War?

    Edit: You know what would help? The link. :row__688:
    In game handle: Steel Scion
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  • #2
    Re: Iraq: The Economic Angle

    The tough part with this assessment - that by failing to properly secure and fuel the local economy, the U.S. significantly stifled Iraq's potential for stability through economic growth - is in proving itself to be correct. In other words, this is all talk - and purely economic talk at that. It's now a known fact that unemployment in Iraq and the general lack of a stable economy is undermining any reconstruction efforts there. Some argue that this doesn't matter - that if wealthy American taxpayers can prop the country up with enough aid, the economy will follow. Whether or not any of this was avoidable in the first place becomes less and less important and time wears on.

    To the half/empty half full debate, there were some numbers released yesterday that seem to suck some more water out of the glass...
    http://today.reuters.com/News/NewsAr...mber=0&summit=

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    • #3
      Re: Iraq: The Economic Angle

      Yeah I don't think the "vote for us, we'll restore the stalinist economic institutions and infrastructure to Iraq" platform is going to fly too well.

      If you want to understand why Iraq's economy is in such poor share, one might also look to the many countries who have a significant interest in Iraq's success and who are playing no part in providing a solution.

      I think it would have seemed bizarre to everyone, no matter how wise in retrospect this author claims it would have been, had we kept SH's people and institutions in place after he was deposed.

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      • #4
        Re: Iraq: The Economic Angle

        He mentions that maintaining the old Baathist army was most likely incompatible with the establishment of a new government - in fact, he states that the dissolving of the army is only the most oft-cited error, not the most important. It is the combination of sudden unemployment as the old government dissolves with the outsourcing of critical services to other nations that made it difficult to avoid a depression.

        I think he's right that the culling of the civic sector in favor of foreign multinational corporate administration was a bad move. Remember the "New Bridges" program? People were so eager to get foreign investment and sales into Iraq that it wiped out what little state infrastructure was still standing. The problem is that foreign money is fickle. Economic econstruction, like so many things, needs to be a local effort or it lacks permanence.

        Originally posted by leejo
        Yeah I don't think the "vote for us, we'll restore the stalinist economic institutions and infrastructure to Iraq" platform is going to fly too well.
        You'd be surprised how many people might vote for exactly that. How do you think totalitarian states become popular to begin with? When people can't get work, food, power, medicine and other necessities, they look to regimes that promise that. It's the "at least the trains are on time" mentality. Look at what's happening with the surge in socialist factions in Latin America.

        If we cannot show that a capitalist system will deliver the goods, then people will turn away from it.
        In game handle: Steel Scion
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        • #5
          Re: Iraq: The Economic Angle

          Oh you mean in Iraq? Well, yeah, maybe. But what foreign aid there is will evaporate if they do that. I was referring to the Bush shouldn't have waged this war/Bush screwed up the aftermath/Bush screwed up their economy drumbeat. Many besides myself have challenged folks to describe their more positive visions of how things shoulda woulda coulda and still all I see and hear is 20/20 hindsight. I only get that out of this article too. OK so privatizing things may not have worked out so hot. Is the author suggesting that leaving the stalinist institutions and those who benefitted from them in place would have been better, and if so, what historical example should have guided the administration's decision to leave them in place? Given the anticipated revulsion the liberated Iraqiis would have had for the baathists and all things Saddam, how does the writer think THAT policy would have gone over? And isn't it at least possible that such an effort would have gone even worse?

          I think there is an interesting discussion to be had about these issues, but unfortunately it seems that every time someone brings up a salient point it's personalized with the face of Cheney or Rumsfeld, or Bush, and it simply reeks of expedient griping.

          Why IS Latin American shifting to the left? What actually should be done in Iraq now, and by whom? There are many interesting questions there but little room left for ideas once you strip away the blind hatred of or loyalty to this administration.

          That's why I support the military so strongly. They're there. They know what's going on. They're doing the work.

          Homeboy would have written an interesting article if he'd checked his attitude at the door.

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          • #6
            Re: Iraq: The Economic Angle

            Originally posted by leejo
            Many besides myself have challenged folks to describe their more positive visions of how things shoulda woulda coulda and still all I see and hear is 20/20 hindsight. I only get that out of this article too.
            1. If you ask people to say "how should we have done this?" then you are categorically asking for advice in hindsight. So stop complaining when you get it.
            2. Economists and military planners and many others were suggesting that the privatization scheme was a bad idea at the time, so this is not exactly a new revelation after the fact.

            Is the author suggesting that leaving the stalinist institutions and those who benefitted from them in place would have been better...
            He says quite explicitly no. But forming a civic infrastructure that relied less on foreign investment and more on civil services built in Iraq itself might have helped. But the Provisional Authority had no interest in that and merely doled out cash to unmonitored contractors - most of which was lost.

            And isn't it at least possible that such an effort would have gone even worse?
            Maybe. I guess we'll never know. All we can do is analyze and refine decision-making for the future. In the future, we should remmmber not to do it this way.

            I think there is an interesting discussion to be had about these issues, but unfortunately it seems that every time someone brings up a salient point it's personalized with the face of Cheney or Rumsfeld, or Bush, and it simply reeks of expedient griping.
            --
            Homeboy would have written an interesting article if he'd checked his attitude at the door.
            There's nothing partisan about pointing out objectively bad performance. If even the slightest hint emerges that a speaker disapproves of the President, that invalidates his commentary? It seems NO criticism of the administration will ever satisfy you, no matter how sound the analysis.
            In game handle: Steel Scion
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            • #7
              Re: Iraq: The Economic Angle

              That was a partisan piece. If you don't recognize that I can't help you.

              Someone more interested in maintaining the appearance of objectivity would have used more deferential language.

              And if I read another perpetuation of the myth that Shinseki was forced into retirement early, I'll barf. Look it up. He served his full 4-year team as Army Chief Of Staff. Since WWII no-one has served longer than that.

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