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Our Bad

| 16 Comments

I'm just swamped, as Humperdinck once said; work, family, a major house project, and a production of the Ring (that I actually have very little to do with except worry about).

But that's not necessarily a good excuse.

Over at Crooked Timber, John Quiggin dings us, as I think he should have, for not mentioning the Administration's bizarre decision not to fund Iraqi reconstruction in the current cycle.

There may be a valid and reasonable explanation for it that I just haven't seen (if you've got it, please feel free to put it into the comments); but just as I noted on the NSA issue, it's horrible optics at a time when appearances matter a lot. And that's forgetting the very real and negative consequences of projects that won't get done because there are no funds for them.

I don't get it. I think that Bush is a masterful politician who has badly misplayed the domestic hand on the issue of this war. I can't help imagining that a President more worried about victory, and less worried about midterm political advantage could have coopted much of the Democratic Party and left the Kossacks out on a limb by themselves. But we go to war with the President we've got, as they say.

We're involved in card game where the size of our poke matters; as soon as it becomes obvious that we lack the political means to see the game out and simply outsit the other bastards in the game, we're likely to lose very damn quickly.

Losing in this case would, I believe be catastrophic (I know there are some who will disagree).

So it matters a lot that we not only plan stick it out, but are widely seen to plan to stick it out.

That doesn't speak to exact troop levels, or the mechanics of our negotiations with the various factions within Iraq. But a few hundred million more right now would send the clear message that we're in the game, for the rest of the night, and not counting our chips and nervously looking at our watch.

I've seen am important part of our role here as keeping the President's butt in the chair, and I certainly don't think that now is the time to stop.

16 Comments

Seems like a reasonable question, but why did John Quiggen have to add this little nugget:

Winds of Change has done a more reasonable job than many of presenting a case for war, but they’ve relied heavily on the assumption that the Administration is committed to the task of leaving Iraq, in its own words “peaceful and prosperous”. Now that the second of these goals has been abandoned, thereby undermining the first (which in any case looks further away than ever), I’d be interested to know if their views have changed.

I don't agree with the presumption underlying the question.

Perhaps the idea is to get the Iraqis to pay for their own development by keeping the opil flowing.

i.e. Iraq is ultimately the responsibility of the Iraqis.

I suspect that the reason is velocity: we have not spent all of the money already allocated, so we don't need more money yet. This, in fact, is an occasional topic of attempted scandal-mongering from the Kossacks: if Bush cares so much about Iraq, why hasn't he spent every penny of what's been allocated?

Jeff, I'm inclined to agree that's the likely reason; but dontcha think the President could have graced us with a paragraph or two on the subject?

A.L.

This, in fact, is an occasional topic of attempted scandal-mongering from the Kossacks . . .

Only on even numbered days. On odd numbered days, its the complaint that the President is spending all this money on building fire stations in Iraq so that children will starve in America.

I wonder if this is a budget issue I remember a while back when they did the budget but left out the Iraq war so the numbers didnt look so bad. I suspect this is a non issue it will be funded Iraq has not been surrendered by a long shot but more of just a political slight of hand with the budget numbers.

The Republicans really missed a golden opportunity they could have continued the small governement mentality using the need for war funds to help push it while forcing the Dems into either asking for the deficiets or raising taxes as alternative either way not popular the Repubs would have been on the high ground but instead they went with the good old gov pork barrel ride and screwed US and themselves. I hope they get their stuff together and remember what got them into power and it wasnt half billion dollar highways to nowhear. I think its a toss up as to wether they get it together or have to take a beating in 06'.

The money is expected to run out at the end of 2006, wrapping up 3,600 ongoing or finished projects. Source. There would be plenty of opportunity for supplemental spending.

But the clear indications are that this will be it. Here's the President today:

So far, other nations and international organizations have pledged more than $13 billion in assistance but many have been slow to make good on their commitments. The President calls on all governments that have pledged assistance to follow through with their promises so Iraqis can rebuild their country and provide a better future for their children. The President also calls on all nations who froze Iraqi assets during the Saddam Hussein regime to return those assets to the free people of Iraq. . . . International lending institutions are also stepping forward. Last month, the International Monetary Fund approved Iraq's request for a $680 million loan to carry out economic reforms. The World Bank recently approved its first loan to Iraq in over 30 years.

I think one of the things that's happening is that rebuilding expenditures for Iraq are being normalized into existing aid channels, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development, which will be undertaking some building projects. Also, I recall that a number of nations that offered to help Iraq were not willing to do so under American military occupation, so this does seem like an apt time for these countries to step up.

I'm still curious what exactly Congress thinks a 3+Billion authorization to outfit the USS Jimmy Carter 'for underwater secret missions' means.

The defense industry seems to feel that one of the top missions is tapping underwater fiberoptic cable. Which sounds like a far more wholesale approach to intercepting foreign communications.

Also, I recall that a number of nations that offered to help Iraq were not willing to do so under American military occupation, so this does seem like an apt time for these countries to step up.

That sounds nice and all, but honestly we're the only country that will be blamed if the money doesn't come through. This has become our endeavor, and we'll get all the glory/shame that comes with it.

#8 (Al)

The defense industry seems to feel that one of the top missions is tapping underwater fiberoptic cable. Which sounds like a far more wholesale approach to intercepting foreign communications.

Hmm. It's hard to keep the people who know about the operational status of a FO cable from noticing an interruption of service... But any submerged repeaters might be eligible for Tempest-style sniffing. And normal (oblivious, in-the-clear) communicators probably won't do anything after any interuption, even if they hear about it (which is hard to assign a likelihood to).

No question we go to war with the President we have not the one we'd like. Can you imagine the fire storm from the right and principaled conservatives if a Democratic President ratted out a CIA operative for political reasons, attempted to circumvent the court system specifically designed for covert intellgence gathering, lack of proper supplies or troops and didn't come up with the money to fund reconstruction let alone money to keep the oil going?

I can conjecture a perfectly cold political calculus behind this decision. Some (e.g. Dan Darling) have expressed fears that the Republicans are feeling pressure to withdraw troops from Iraq before this year's mid-term elections. The Jacksonian types who supported the war initially are wondering why we're still there. The reconstruction funds don't play well to this audience either.

Continued funding for Iraq would be a club that Republicans could expect to be hit with by Democrats - funding schools in Iraq vs funding schools in the US, cutting taxes while spending on Iraq, etc. [I'm not commenting on the fairness or merit of these attacks, but they have happened and if more Iraq funding had been approved, these attacks would have continued.]

At this point in the evolution of Iraqi politics, incremental rebuilding funding will likely not be decisive to the outcome, while the political strength to sustain certain troop levels may yet be crucial. So a decision to defund Iraq reconstruction might make "sense" in this light.

This kind of analysis is likely to please nobody, but there it is.

"if a Democratic President ratted out a CIA operative for political reasons, attempted to circumvent the court system specifically designed for covert intellgence gathering, lack of proper supplies or troops and didn't come up with the money to fund reconstruction let alone money to keep the oil going?"

Cant imagine what it would be like if a Republican President did it either.

I think lewy14 is right -- there is no broad concensus on the Republican side for rebuilding. And while one would hope that the Internationalist wing of the Democratic party would help create a concensus, they would rather Bush fail.

BTW, the President's remarks I linked to yesterday (#7) show an emphasis on rebuilding the oil infrastructure. I suppose the hope also remains that Iraqi oil will pay for a lot of future redevelopment.

"Cant imagine what it would be like if a Republican President did it either."

Apparently someone hasn't been keeping up with the news.

"Apparently someone hasn't been keeping up with the news."

Apparently someone gets their news is byte sized nuggets and believes everthing Koz wants them to believe. If you have evidence Bush divulged the supersecret information that Valerie Plame worked for the organization she drove to every day and drew a paycheck from, please win yourself a Pulitzer and divulge.

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