Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Geopolitics Edition: Word Bank Warns Iraq Reconstruction Failing

As the BBC reports the World Bank has announced that the CPA is falling behind schedule on its reconstruction of Iraq.

The president of the World Bank has warned that the reconstruction of Iraq is falling seriously behind schedule because of the continuing violence.

"The main problem is not the resource constraint," James Wolfensohn told BBC News Online, referring to the $33bn (£18.7bn) required to reconstruct Iraq.

"It is the physical constraint, the inability of (workers) to actually go into the country."

Rebuilding Iraq is key to winning the hearts and minds of the population.

So getting the reconstruction efforts back on track is seen as crucial in Iraq...

Mr Wolfensohn said that his own personnel was unable to work in Iraq and had to rely on video-conferencing with Iraqi officials from locations in Jordan or Washington.

This is an issue that was raised in the American Prospect by Matthew Yglesias. In it he lists a report by the Federal government itself that documents the carnage the insecurity has done to rebuilding efforts in Iraq.

So if you, like the Vice President, don't trust The New York Times to get the story right, you ought to go straight to the source. Lurking inappropriately on the export.gov website ("the portal to all export-related assistance and market information offered by the federal government") you can find the Pentagon's unclassified Iraq Status Report and find out how the people running the occupation think it's going.

As Matthew summarizes in his article, but the most damaging news still appears to be about the electricity production.

... Page three reveals that not only is current production only at 60 percent of the goal for June 1, 2004, but it remains below the target that was to be achieved by October 2003. Worse, the trend for the past three weeks for which data is available is pointing down. As the target date approaches, reality is moving further and further away from the goal. Electricity production in northern Iraq is, though well below goals, at least higher than it was before the war. In central Iraq -- the favored region of the Saddam regime -- the story is very different: There is 45 percent less power than there was before the war began. Even in the south we have not yet matched pre-war levels, and are only producing around one quarter of the target quantity. As a result, in five of Iraq's eighteen provinces, electricity is available only 12 or fewer hours per day. Even Basra, the top-performing province, is dark two hours a day on average. Pages 8-10 of the report, meanwhile, reveal that oil-rich Iraq remains dependent on imports for gasoline, kerosene, and diesel fuel. [emphasis added]

Meanwhile Joshua Marshall blogs about his ongoing correspondence with a friend who is a retired military intel officer who is working security ops in Iraq today. As mone might expect, the news isn't very good.

The Iraqi people, even my 150 staff think the Americans are essentially not welcome anymore. They fear for their security but would rather go through a cataclysm with a new Iraqi police and army as their security force, rather than be occupied by the Americans... but now they think the domestic troubles like the bad electricity (3 hours on, three hours off) the major Dysentery outbreak in the tap water this week (all of us have been ill due to our cooks washing with tap water) and the inability to drive down the street without having a Hummvee point rifles at you (or worse yet explode next to you) is punishment or, more accurately, incompetence.

The situation in Iraq from a reconstruction point of view is simply becoming dire. We're moving into the hot summer months in Iraq as reported by Baghdad Burning blog:

The end-of-the-year examinations have started in most of the schools. The school administrations are trying to get them over with as soon as humanly possible. It's already unbearably hot and dusty and the heat gets worse as summer progresses. Last year examinations were held in June and July and children were fainting in the summer heat in schools with no electricity. We're hoping to avoid that this year.

Last summer there was significant outcry at the failure to produce more electricity. This year the problems are going to be worse because more Iraqis will have been able to import and buy electrical products. However they aren't going to see it like that, what they'll see is continued American failure.

I've stopped blogging about Iraq and switched to mostly economic blogging with occasional geopolitical asides, but this is really an economic and reconstruction story in Iraq that's driving the underlying narrative. We can't fix their country so that feeds into the insurgency. The insurgency creates further anxiety about our ability to control the situation. The more Iraqis who hedge their bets against us the harder it becomes to fix the country. Eventually the situation spirals out of control. No reconstruction, no hope. No hope, and we're just inching our way toward disaster because it sets the context for all the political and military events that happen. This is what happens when you economically manage a country into the ground.

That's why economics is important. The life of a country depends on it. Without it, the military and political situations are bound to go to hell no matter what else you do. Likewise the continued economic deprivation of a country reinforces negative conditions. Positive economic engagement on the other hand gives people an incentive to behaive. This is a lesson that Nicholos Kristof discusses in the NYT in his op-ed piece:

Nuts With Nukes

Published: May 19, 2004

There is one force that could rescue Iran's hard-line ayatollahs from the dustbin of history: us.

For all its denials, Iran seems to be pushing for nuclear warheads and for missiles to carry them. It could make its first weapon in two years, and it could eventually produce enough enriched uranium at Natanz for 25 weapons a year.

Iran's leaders have regularly gotten away with murder. They apparently helped bomb U.S. marines in Lebanon in 1983, a Jewish center in Argentina in 1994 and U.S. military barracks in Saudi Arabia in 1996. So it's easy to understand why President Bush declared recently that it's "intolerable" for Iran to be on the road toward nuclear weapons, adding, "Otherwise they will be dealt with, starting through the United Nations."

To Mr. Bush, not unreasonably, Iran conjures up a frightening combination: nuts with nukes. The push for a tougher approach toward Iran isn't partisan, and a President Kerry might also pursue a more confrontational, albeit more multilateral, approach to Iran.

But that would be a mistake.

First, it won't work. If we haul Iran before the Security Council, it will restart its programs (it has suspended at least some) and kick out inspectors. Iran will respond to more pressure not by dropping its nuclear program, but by accelerating it.

Second, we'll create a nationalistic backlash in Iran that will keep hard-liners in power indefinitely. Our sanctions and isolation have kept dinosaurs in power in Cuba, North Korea and Burma, and my fear is that we'll do the same in Iran.

What I fear is this: Over the next year or two, the West will press Iran harder, Iran will halt its nuclear cooperation and evict inspectors, Israel will bomb a couple of Iran's nuclear sites (a possibility widely discussed in security circles, although it would slow Iran's nuclear progress without ending it), and Iran's ayatollahs will benefit from a nationalistic surge to stay in power and rule more rabidly than ever.

This is a narrative that has been enforced recently by General Wesley Clark's review featured on Kevin Drum's site about how it was engaged pressure that won the Cold War and not military confrontation.

Clark's point is a simple one: Neither Reagan nor any of the seven Cold War presidents before him ever attacked either the Soviet Union or one of its satellites directly. This wasn't because of insufficient dedication to anticommunism, but because it wouldn't have worked. In the end, they knew that democracy couldn't come at the point of a gun; it had to come from within, from the citizens of the countries themselves.

However we seem to have lost this lesson, that fundamentally it is gradual social progress from within and economic engagement coupled with a strong military defense and not offense that won over cultures antithetically opposed to us. More Peristroika and less bombing campaigns on Karbala, more rebuilding of water and electricity delivery and less use of torture - that's the lesson that history and economics has to offer us. The World Bank is sounding an alarm, and it is one that is being heard loud and clear by seemingly everybody but the Bush Administration. The Washington Post discusses how the US public itself is slipping into distrusting the chances of success in the Iraq venture under current management and game plan.

U.S. Faces Growing Fears of Failure
Wolfowitz Concedes Errors as Damage Control Continues
By Robin Wright and Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, May 19, 2004; Page A01

The Bush administration is struggling to counter growing sentiment -- among U.S. lawmakers, Iraqis and even some of its own officials -- that the occupation of Iraq is verging on failure, forcing a top Pentagon official yesterday to concede serious mistakes over the past year.

The greatest product or service that America ever exported to other countries was prosperity and hope. Unless we get back into that business, and learn the kind of roll-back-the-sleeves and getting into the mix of can-do-know-how building up real economic progress from scratch then we are going to be in a very tenuous position. The economic progress and lack of it in Iraq is a barometer for our success in the War on Terror, if we can't build a new world of hope and peace for people to live in then we are going to end up living in a ruined world of terrorism and poverty.


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