Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Joe Biden, meet George Marshall

David Broder gave the partition of Iraq a boost in his Washington Post column Thursday. Broder supported Senator Joe Biden's idea of a federation with national defense in the hands of the central power and otherwise locally determinant, separated into Sunni, Shi'a and Kurdish regions. Partition like this is not the complete answer, nor is it the utterly outlandish idea that the Bush regime has painted. It is a "recognition," as Broder puts it, of reality. Recognizing reality is a difficult thing for the Radical Right and the Bush team. But as we've said here, we have three choices: partition now, partition after a long and bloody civil war, or unity under a tyrant like Saddam who enforces it the Rumsfeld way.

The demise of unified Iraq has been sufficiently foreshadowed. If you ask a European or two, you get the impression this quagmire and disintegration was inevitable. (During the delay in agreeing on a prime minister you could almost hear the scuffling in the back rooms as people jockeyed for position and consolidated their bases.)

The country of Iraq has no history. It was cobbled together for the convenience of the British, and held together by nothing less than the iron rule of Saddam (shake my hand, Don Rumsfeld) Hussein. To make a stable society, we will need to recognize indigenous leadership, of which there is none spanning the three major groups. The Kurdish region is already a state unto itself, and participation in a united Iraq is mere courtesy to Americans for all their help. The Sunnis seem to be the basis for the most active insurgency. The Shiites, as the majority, must be weighing how many American guns they can use without becoming illegitimate to their own people.

But until an economic system comes into being which generates the possibility of self-determination and self-reliance at the individual and family levels, it won't matter if mullahs, ministers or monarchs are in charge, the result will not be stability. For in order to have a "fabric" of society, there needs to be a weave of relationships, not mobs with guns, nor camps, nor long lines – but schools, workplaces, a house to build, and so on.

What is needed is a Marshall Plan.

The limit to the dumping of money into Iraq has long since passed. Abandoning the rebuilding effort as a mess and a bad job, as the Seattle Times, among others, has suggested, is not the answer. What is needed is a Marshall Plan. Not the airlift of corporate corruption into a devastated country, but a program modeled on the original, immensely successful plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II.

World War II was fought by all Americans and won by all Americans. It's financing did not include big tax breaks for the rich. The rich and their corporations benefitted enough from the intense demand. We did not allow systematic corruption. During the war, the Congress – notably the Truman Committee – rooted out and exposed war profiteering and fraud. The current Congress provides no oversight whatsoever, which is a clear and obscene violation of its Constitutional mandate.

And when the War was over, under the leadership of General George C. Marshall – twice Time's man of the year, once during and once after the war, "the great man," as Truman called him – the US rebuilt the society of Europe at the same time rebuilt the shattered infrastructure.

The Marshall Plan worked directly with and for the indigenous economy. It identified and supported their projects, through their business, labor and political leaders. Europeans identified the needs and the methods. Americans provided technical assistance and material. People had work and that work developed an economic structure and stability.

This approach was partly in recognition of the mistakes following World War I, when the Allies had insisted on huge reparations from Germany. The Economic Consequences of the Peace was written by John Maynard Keynes, a young civil servant who resigned from the negotiating team at Versailles when the outcome became apparent. In this book, Keynes correctly predicted the turmoil resulting in Nazism and the Second World War as the outcome of the literally impossible terms of peace. So after the Second World War, with the need not for revenge, but for stability in the face of advancing Stalinism, the victors developed the Marshall Plan, not only for the defeated, but for the devastated allies.
In Iraq the US has chosen a different route. Here we have imported American machinery, manpower and plans and attempted to impose them on the landscape. In the process, staggering amounts have been lost to corruption and more to expensive security to protect the work sites and workers. The sitting vice president benefits from his continued association with one of the largest contractors, one cited regularly for overbilling and other fraud, recently for spending nearly $80 million drilling in unstable geology. Incompetence and corruption and Corporatism.

The enormous security costs associated with protecting Americans will leave on the same planes as the American contractors. Efficient, focused and functional rebuilding will arrive on flights carrying independent contracting authorities, perhaps from the UN or another agency with a semblance of legitimacy. Reestablishing reliable utilities will do more than any number of political deals to pacify and stabilize the country. And most helpful of all would be putting Iraqis back to work. Defense intelligence reportedly estimates that six out of ten Iraqi workers are without a job. [Widely reported from John Murtha and not disputed by anyone in authority as far as I am aware.] Sixty percent unemployment! How can that be? The country needs enormous reconstruction. There should be work for everyone. And how can idleness of that magnitude be anything but destabilizing?

What Iraq needs is not American projects produced by American corporations. The whole idea of constructing facilities then handing over the keys to whatever secular or religious faction happens to be in power is just a recipe for further failure.

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