Sunday, November 25. 2007
The notion that the Surge has succeeded in securing Iraq seems to have become dogma. The NY Times had a note on how Clinton and Obama are falling in line -- they seem to be as adept at falling for the party line as the media. Still, the "good news" is full of caveats. In particular, the political reforms Washington favors, ostensibly aimed at reconciling Sunnis and Shiites (not to mention Iraqis and multinational oil companies) have gone nowhere. Of course, security is a relative matter. We're still not seeing US reporters wandering the markets unguarded like they could in the early months of the occupation in 2003. Quite simply, Iraq is still the most dangerous place in the world. If it's quieter now, that's most likely because it's in everyone's interest to cool it and bide one's time. Bush's days are counting down, and the best he can hope for is to hang on long enough to pin the defeat on his successors, presumably the Democrats. As for the Iraqis, well, who wants to be the last to die when there's light at the end of the tunnel?
Joseph E. Stiglitz: The Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush. While this seems like a fair summary of what Bush's policies have done to the economy, it doesn't have the rigor of Stiglitz's estimates of Iraq war costs -- which he pegged at between $1-2 billion a year-plus before Congress came up with a $1.5 billion tab. Although the slumping economy was still a big issue in the 2004 elections, the post-election growth spurt has sufficed to get Bush off the hook, at least as far as one can tell from the media. Stiglitz touches most of the bases, but I think we can simplify what's happened a bit. Three points sum up the Bushwacked economy: 1) there has been a major transfer of wealth to the rich, who increasingly are non-Americans -- e.g., weakened labor, oil prices, tax shifts, trade deficits, sinking dollar; 2) there has been major increases in risk, starting with massive growth both of public and private debt; 3) in the long term we will come to see huge opportunity costs as Bush has spent money for the wrong things, starting with the ruinous Global War on Terror. Another thing to look into is how these effects have been masked, which has thus far largely kept them out of sight and mind. The longer tensions go unnoticed in geologic faults, the more severe the eventual earthquake becomes.
Tony Karon: The Problem in Pakistan. The Bush administration is still trying to fix up its mess in Pakistan, but most of its problems are of its own making:
Karon also quotes Anatol Lieven:
Karon again: "The bottom line in Pakistan, where all opinion polls find Osama bin Laden an overwhelmingly more popular figure than President Bush, is that even the urban middle class opposes Pakistan's frontline role in fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda. It is a war that most Pakistanis see as benefiting a hostile U.S. agenda -- even those Pakistanis who want no truck with Shariah law themselves." This goes back to Bush's original imperious diktat: either you're with us or you're against us. It turns out that being "with us" means biting off a lot more than is palatable to anyone outside the GOP focus groups.
This may be a good point to note the elections in Australia, which disposed of Bush GWOT ally John Howard.
Chris Floyd: Killers and Extremists in the Pay of Petraeus. This spells out in more detail what I've suspected about the "improved security" in Iraq. It looks like the troop surge had nothing to do with it. Indeed, as long as more troops contested more territory, US and Iraqi casualties kept rising. Only after the Surge failed Petraeus came up with the scheme to cede Anbar to Sunnis willing to take American dollars and guns and quell al-Qaeda. We've known all along that the Sunni leaders would turn on al-Qaeda as soon as the latter ceased to be useful in attacking the Americans. We've also known that the key to any sort of peace in Iraq is the disengagement of US troops. The converse is no doubt true as well: put US troops in Kurdistan and you'll see violence there too.