The Essence of Our Iraqi Involvement
A friend sent me the following link in e-mail (thanks, Ron). From the September 2004 issue of Harper's Magazine, it may be the best explanation of the original goals for Iraq I've seen. Building upon what she calls "the most cherished belief of the war’s ideological architects," Naomi Klein sets out the goal and some of the perceived potential costs of Bush’s Iraq adventure:
Greed creates profit, which creates growth, which creates jobs and products and services and everything else anyone could possibly need or want. The role of good government, then, is to create the optimal conditions for corporations to pursue their bottomless greed, so that they in turn can meet the needs of the society. The problem is that governments, even neoconservative governments, rarely get the chance to prove their sacred theory right: despite their enormous ideological advances, even George Bush's Republicans are, in their own minds, perennially sabotaged by meddling Democrats, intractable unions, and alarmist environmentalists.
Iraq was going to change all that. In one place on Earth, the theory would finally be put into practice in its most perfect and uncompromised form. A country of 25 million would not be rebuilt as it was before the war; it would be erased, disappeared. In its place would spring forth a gleaming showroom for laissez-faire economics, a utopia such as the world had never seen. Every policy that liberates multinational corporations to pursue their quest for profit would be put into place: a shrunken state, a flexible workforce, open borders, minimal taxes, no tariffs, no ownership restrictions. The people of Iraq would, of course, have to endure some short-term pain: assets, previously owned by the state, would have to be given up to create new opportunities for growth and investment. Jobs would have to be lost and, as foreign products flooded across the border, local businesses and family farms would, unfortunately, be unable to compete. But to the authors of this plan, these would be small prices to pay for the economic boom that would surely explode once the proper conditions were in place, a boom so powerful the country would practically rebuild itself.
The full article is long, but it's worth spending some time with. Given that it was published nine months ago (back before the election when, if anybody had been paying attention, it might've done some good), it's hard to say how much relevance it has toward the current situation. But I couldn't help but notice that nothing W said last night contradicts anything here. Given the administration’s penchant to "stay the course," it's possible that this article still sums up the guiding principles of Iraq policy.
There are a couple of other Iraq links that I want to pass along. Matthew Yglesias wonders how we'll know when the mission's accomplished if the administration won't specify what the primary mission is (are we fighting terrorists, or are we building an Iraqi government?). And I don't agree with everything in this piece in Slate by William Salaten, but he does make an interesting comparison between the Iraqi occupation and welfare. After quoting W's remarks last night ("Our strategy can be summed up this way: As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down"), he compares them to the traditional Republican argument against welfare:
If you prop people up, they'll never stand up, and you'll never stand down. You have to let go. As you stand down, they'll stand up.
Are we going to have to wait for somebody else to come along and end the Iraqi occupation as we know it?