So let me get this straight. On the one hand, Americans are
expecting to get
out of Iraq quickly:
- "I don't think it has to be expensive, and I don't think
it has to be lengthy," a senior administration official said of the
postwar plan. "Americans do everything fairly quickly."
Even officials at the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian
Aid, the umbrella group headed by retired Gen. Jay Garner that will
lead the postwar effort, said they expect to measure their time in
Iraq in "months, not years," though Garner suggested in an interview
Saturday that the United States would persevere until democracy is
But on the other hand, quoting the same article:
- Treasury Department officials are ... thinking big,
hoping to encourage the adoption of a codified system of property
rights and a rule of law for business operations, a transparent system
of budgeting and taxation, the promotion of an entrepreneurial economy
and, ultimately, the privatization of centrally planned state
John B. Taylor, the undersecretary of the Treasury for
international affairs, said the department hopes to create "a
well-functioning market economy that is growing, creating jobs and is
promising a future" for the Iraqi people. He said the course Treasury
would like to set "most importantly undoes the changes of the last 25
years," recreating the conditions that existed before Saddam Hussein's
central planning and three costly wars.
Surely these are matters which a democratic government, should we
choose to actually establish one, would decide for itself. But then
again, the Pentagon's own plans seem
to dictate future Iraqi policy, well past when they expect
American rule to be over:
- American military officials, in interviews this week,
spoke of maintaining perhaps four bases in Iraq that could be used in
the future: one at the international airport just outside Baghdad;
another at Tallil, near Nasiriya in the south; the third at an
isolated airstrip called H-1 in the western desert, along the old oil
pipeline that runs to Jordan; and the last at the Bashur air field in
the Kurdish north.
That story goes on to quote "officials" as saying that "access is
all that is required" -- but doesn't explain why they think they can
"require" anything of the future sovereign government of Iraq at all.
Of course, there is a way to square this circle -- the Americans
really do expect an extended occupation, one which would allow them to
dictate everything from the school
curriculum to the cell
phone network, but they don't expect to pay for it; instead, they
expect it to be run by a nominally independant authority, run by
ideologically reliable satraps nominated by America, but paid for out
of Iraq's own oil revenue. Or, as undersecretary Taylor puts it:
- Taylor said that [his free-market] ambition does not
conflict with the Pentagon's rapid timetable, because defense
officials envision a phased withdrawal from Iraq. The functions that
Treasury is leading may be among the last governance efforts
transferred to the interim authority, he said.
So, we transfer the responsibility of paying for the government
back to the Iraqis first, and transfer the responsibility of deciding
what it will do last. And in the meantime, we get to decide policy
while having our
colony protectorate pay for it.
Of course, in purely financial terms, this plan might well be a
disappointment; returning to the
original WaPo article:
- Iraq experts warned that the administration could not
count on Iraqi oil to foot the bill. James Dobbins, a former assistant
secretary of state who directs the International Security and Defense
Policy Center at Rand Corp., said Iraq's current production capacity
of 2 million barrels of oil a day is enough to cover humanitarian
relief under the United Nations' oil-for-food program and to pay war
reparations to Kuwait and Iran that are not likely to be
forgiven. Concerted foreign investment could raise production to 3.5
million barrels a day, Iraq's historic high, but that would take as
long as five years, he said.
But even if that plan did make financial sense, it still
wouldn't go down well with the Iraqis themselves, as the recent spate
of demonstrations shows. But hey, who gave them a vote?
Meanwhile, there's a really peculiar sideshow going
on with the acolytes of Ahmed Chalabi, the neocon pet Iraqi exile who
the Pentagon flew into the country, with a few hundred handpicked
followers, as the hard fighting was winding down. One of Chalabi's
cronies, having declared himself "governor of Baghdad", claiming to
have been "elected" at a meeting of which no one knows anything, is already
apponting an OPEC delegation, so sure is he of his power. Even
Jay Garner demurs,
refusing to recognize the "governor." Meanwhile, Chalabi himself, who
I just heard interviewed on the BBC, is more circumspect, claiming not
to be a candidate for anything, though at the same time he is
amazingly willing to speak ex cathedra about what "the Iraqi people"
desire and believe...
Update: Rumsfeld has now
denied the portions of the New York Times report that talk about permanent basing arrangements -- but the press reports I've read don't have him denying that the US might try to "require" that it have "access"...