Monday, August 13, 2007

Iraq- No Bootstrapping Without Boots

By Cernig

The Bush administration seems to hate admitting mistakes. I think I understand why - every time they do they can't help but reveal the nonsensical ideology-driven alternate reality that drives their decision making. Take this for example:
Years of economic policy mistakes after the fall of Saddam Hussein left unemployed young Iraqis easy targets for recruitment by al Qaeda and other insurgents, a U.S. Defense Department official said on Sunday.

Paul Brinkley, deputy under-secretary of defense for business transformation in Iraq, said Iraq's shattered industrial base had to be revitalised to bring down unemployment levels of about 60 percent and help reconciliation.

He said political, social and economic stability would be much easier if factories, many left idle since the 2003 invasion to topple Saddam, could win even a small fraction of the trade the United States conducts every year with economies like China, India, Indonesia and Thailand.

"If we could just get some of that factored into Iraq we'd uplift the lives of every Iraqi and al Qaeda wouldn't have any people to recruit," Brinkley told Reuters in an interview.

Brinkley said early economic planners had made the understandable mistake of assuming that a free market would rapidly emerge to replace what he described as Saddam's "kleptocracy", and create full employment.

This mistaken assumption led to a series of decisions which "sowed the seeds of economic malaise and fuelled insurgent sympathies" after industrial production collapsed and imports flooded in to replace locally made goods.
Why was such a mistake "understandable"? The infrastructure that makes any real free market possible, and which is predominantly originally paid for and run by government, had just been bombed back into the Stone Age.

The current "cure" for this situation is to stimulate local factories so that they can trade on the global marketplace...and then the free market will make everything alright again. Yet the infrastructure needed for that to be possible - power generation and distribution, roads and bridges, healthcare, potable water and sewerage - is all still minimal or non-existant. If you reconstruct a factory, it will stand idle.

Iraq should be a salutary lesson to the conservative "free market" evangelists that you can't haul yourself up by the bootstraps if you've no boots. But they still don't get it.

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