DIPLOMACY BASHING….This is truly a trivial observation, but read this sentence written by Patrick Belton at OxBlog:
Putin is responding to several weeks of having Ambassador Sandy Vershbow (full disclosure: a former boss of mine, and one of the few bright gems of the Foreign Service) telling him in detail about all the economic sticks which the U.S. could apply to Russia.
Don’t worry about the substance of the sentence, just that fact that Sandy Vershbow is a “bright gem of the Foreign Service.”
Here’s my question: why do I read stuff like this so often? As near as I can tell, the world is full of people who are contemptuous of government agencies and government employees, but they always make an exception for their own friends and for people they themselves have worked for. To a man, these folks are portrayed as islands of sanity in an otherwise hellish sea of indolence and backstabbing.
It’s a remarkable coincidence, isn’t it?
PING PONG SOCCER DIPLOMACY….Mooraq over at the International Sentinal has an idea for the neocons about how to reshape the world. One word: soccer.
I dunno, though, Mooraq, I’ve seen the aftermath of some of those international soccer matches, so this might not be such a great idea. Haven’t soccer fans been known to destroy entire stadiums over a yellow flag?
UPDATE: I take it all back. Apparently Mooraq is prescient.
FRIENDS AND ALLIES….Hussein Ibish has an op-ed in the LA Times today in which he claims that Lt. Gen. Jay Garner is singularly unsuited to running postwar Iraq because he’s too overtly pro-Israel. I don’t know if his argument holds water, but a couple of paragraphs in his piece made me shake my head:
The management of the port of Umm al Qasr, one of the few places in Iraq under complete Western control, has produced a split between British and American authorities. The British view is that the Iraqi manager, who has been in his position for years, is capable of doing the job. Our government insisted, however, in providing a lucrative contract to run the port to Stevedoring Services of Seattle.
Australia has expressed concern that its existing wheat contracts with Iraq will be transferred to U.S. interests.
This appears to be the pattern set for most such arrangements in Iraq, with not only allies, the United Nations and major nongovernmental organizations frozen out of the process but with local Iraqis as well, in favor of American corporations.
This is now the second time I’ve read something like this, and it just doesn’t make sense. Even if you agree that we should punish everyone in the world who didn’t support us in the war, shouldn’t we be going out of our way to pay close attention to those who sent troops to fight by our side? The Bush administration should be bending over backwards to demonstrate that good things happen when you’re a U.S. ally, but instead they seem to be engaging in the same highhanded behavior that’s been their trademark all along.
Punishing France for its opposition might be childish and shortsighted, but punishing Britain and Australia is just perverse. What are these guys thinking?
REBUILDING IRAQ….Warren Vieth has a very good article in the Los Angeles Times today about the cost of postwar Iraqi reconstruction. Bottom line: it’s going to be a lot more expensive than you think.
Iraq will emerge from the war a financial shambles, many economists say, with a debt load bigger than that of Argentina, a cash flow crunch rivaling those of Third World countries, a mountain of unresolved compensation claims, a shaky currency, high unemployment, galloping inflation and a crumbling infrastructure expected to sustain more damage before the shooting stops.
And the more oil Iraq produces to pump up its earnings, the more likely it becomes that prices will fall, leaving it no better off than before.
“Clearly, it’s a basket case,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. “Once you start talking about it, you see what an impossible situation it is. I don’t think the Bush administration is anxious to have that conversation.”
Read the whole thing to get the grim financial details.
Now, even the moderate, non-France-bashing CalPundit is willing to concede that paying off the Iraqi debt to France from weapons sales is probably a pretty low priority. And war reparations to Iran and Kuwait might get put on the back burner too.
Still, the overall picture is grim, and if we truly want to rebuild Iraq into a stable nation state instead of simply installing a not-unfriendly client government and then leaving, it’s going to set us back a few dollars. It sure is too bad we did this against the wishes of the entire world, thus forsaking our best hope of getting financial help with this, isn’t it?