Interesting tidbit…

[politics filter]

Report on construction of new intelligence facilities in Iraq. Interesting both for its own utility and for what it implies about America’s long-term plans in the region. Compare and contrast with the continuation (with no end in sight) of low-intensity conflict there – what are we getting ourselves into? Can we maintain a long-term committment in the area?

No doubt we have the physical capability to do so, but there are some questions about the costs, how those might rise over time (Vietnamization, even?) and how dependent we may become on being able to hold that position. If costs rise, political will may wane, and then the gods alone know what may come next.

The real thing that could (permanently) keep these costs down, and make this enormously profitable for us in the long term, is to couple this investment in intelligence with a nation-building effort of a scale we haven’t tried in a very long time. Rather than the cursory “oh, they’ll set up a local administration soon enough, we just need to put some basic resources to keep it stable briefly” approach that seems to be running things at the moment, we need to consider setting up a permanent joint American/Iraqi(/British?) administration in the area which would try to combine local culture with American governmental expertise.

Iraq may be uniquely suited to it. Religious fundamentalism has far less of a hold there than in much of the rest of the Middle East, and Saddam Hussein was an efficient organizer – the area has a recent history of law and order, albeit of a somewhat brutal nature. If we were to start to set up a strong administration, importing police and services and gradually transitioning them to more of a local force, getting services running quickly, we could create a society in which American presence was actually locally supported.

Of course, several of you are about to say “That’s exactly what we’re already doing.” I’m just suggesting two changes: First, to make this program far more aggressive. Given the extent and details of our warfighting plans, our postwar plans look hopelessly meager by comparison. We really need to have an extensive overseas political corps (that is, stationed on-site) analogous to what Britain had for its empire; we need to be dropping not just American construction companies but American lawyers, insurance agents, and schoolteachers on the scene; that is, a real full-scale presence, trying to bring Iraq into the American fold by total (beneficial) engulfment.

Second, we need to be thinking about Iraq as a long-term posession. If we’re investing $0.5b in intelligence stations right now, and intend to be investing more in the future (and rightly so – this is a damned good place for these) we need to start thinking about how we’re going to stay in this area for some time to come. Which means not thinking about administrations we set up as transitional measures, hopefully enough to keep the place from descending into civil war for a decade, but rather as ways to create long-term government in the area and raise a new generation of Iraqis that sees America as a normal, and valuable, part of their lives.

OK, end of rant. We now return you to your regularly scheduled weekend.

Published in: on June 28, 2003 at 14:29  Comments Off on Interesting tidbit…  
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