May 14, 2007

Fighting Over Crumbs

As fascinating as it is that this Paul Brinkley, some deputy undersecretary of defense, is being called a Stalinist for wanting to resuscitate some of Iraq's government-run factories and put Iraqis back to work, the actual arguments against it are even more astonishing:

... Bremer wanted private investors to buy the factories, even as workers continued to be paid to stave off hardship. But the hoped-for private investors never arrived.

... The U.S. Agency for International Development estimates that nearly half of Iraqis are unemployed or work fewer than 15 hours a week, but those figures do not include hundreds of thousands who once worked for state-owned enterprises and continue to collect about 40 percent of their original salaries. If they are counted, Brinkley believes, the true figure for unemployed and underemployed Iraqis may approach 70 percent.

... Brinkley said embassy staffers called him a Stalinist bent on restoring a command economy. Another told him that if he rehabilitated factories, Iraqis "are going to use those machines to make more complicated weapons to kill our troops with."

... Embassy officials warned Brinkley that if he opened factories in Sunni areas first, he risked angering Shiites. Moreover, the electricity needed by production lines would mean less for residences. Would people really be happier, embassy officials asked, if they had jobs but less power at home? ...

Shorter U.S. Embassy officials in Baghdad: The Iraqis will be easier to manage if we keep them poor and underemployed. Therefore, we will make no constructive suggestions about ways to avoid potential problems you might encounter on the road to providing some of them with jobs.

You'd think that, just maybe, when faced with administration logic like this, more Democrats would be able to come up with the right answers to questions designed to make it seem that they're unserious about this grossly mismanaged war and occupation. Alas. With an unemployment rate of somewhere between half and 70 percent, it's a truly amazing thing that the violence isn't even worse and that more people aren't leaving.

And you could reasonably say, well, the violence is pretty bad and a lot of people are leaving. That's true of course. But these are mass anarchy levels of unemployment, of disengagement from the productive functions of society. These are daily bread riot levels of social and market failure. If things continue to go as they have, anyone surprised when they see the footage of the helicopters taking stragglers out of the Green Zone as the gates are stormed just hasn't been paying attention.

Via Atrios, via Think Progress.

Posted by natasha at May 14, 2007 09:11 AM | Iraq | Technorati links |

What happened as a result was bad enough. We took a society that, for all of its flaws under Saddam Hussein and its previous rulers in the 20th Century, had developed a culture where religious tolerance, to the point where intermarriage between Sunni and Shia was not uncommon, where women had many legal rights unheard of in the rest of the Arab world, not to mention much of the Islamic world, and tore that all to shreds.

Posted by: palamedes at May 14, 2007 11:56 AM