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Time To Get Serious

This blog could use a serious post, so here's an Eli Lake article reporting on the construction of a communications network in Iraq that seems to imply that the US government is envisioning a permanent basing situation there that would turn Mesopotamia into an important node in the American power-projection network throughout the broader Middle East. Now there can be little doubt that, initially, this was something the Bush administration was hoping to see happen. In recent months, the viability of such an enterprise has been rather sharply called into question, both by an increasing cacaphony of outside analysts/critics and by the evolving facts on the ground with regard to Ayatollah Sistani's electoral list. But maybe whoever's in charge of this sort of thing didn't get the memo. Since Eli was leaving comments about Led Zeppelin in the previous post, maybe he'll enlighten us with idle speculation of the sort ill-fitting a daily newspaper.

January 14, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

This is some kind of revelation?

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Jan 14, 2005 12:06:32 PM

Bet the contract gets paid even though obviously the thing is never going to get built.

Posted by: absynthe | Jan 14, 2005 12:13:38 PM

Betcha it does get built. Permanent bases in Iraq were, after all, one of the chief reasons for the war.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Jan 14, 2005 12:16:21 PM

Of course they were.

The idea though that one day they wont either be helicoptering their ass off or tearing it down in the next couple years is naive.

Posted by: absynthe | Jan 14, 2005 12:19:47 PM

We'll see...

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Jan 14, 2005 12:24:39 PM

Where exactly are the bases to be built? My impression was the Kurds would be happy to have them in their part of the country (although maybe we've alienated them too by now...).

Posted by: larry birnbaum | Jan 14, 2005 12:35:52 PM

During one of the debates Kerry mentioned something about 14 permanent military bases in Iraq. It was never discussed after that, even though it was definitely the most interesting thing said the whole time.

Posted by: dstein | Jan 14, 2005 12:44:41 PM

There is certainly nothing new about the idea that the US plans a permanent presence in Iraq. The world's largest "embassy" was interpreted this way http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3857175/ as were a number of statements by Wolfowitz, where he suggested that the real point of the Iraq war was to be able to move troops out of Saudi Arabia http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20040401/news_lz1e1golds.html

It always struck me as sort of interesting that the imperative that drove Wolfowitz (US out of Saudi Arabia) is the same one that drives Bin Laden.

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Jan 14, 2005 12:46:28 PM

If Sistani think the US is leaving and bases are to be dismantled, he should read up on the Phillipines and Cuba.

I love this quote

"I believe this terrestrial microwave system going in, whose final target is Afghanistan, together with such recent signals as a new military relationship between the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates, are further indications of the long-term implementation of the Bush vision to bring democracy to the Middle East," a former CIA officer and founder of the CIA's counterterrorism center, Duane Clarridge, said in an interview.

He also added Yesterday, the President ate some pita bread. This is another sign of the President's long term vision and committment to the democratization of the Middle East. Tomorrow, he will eat a falafel, which will bring peace to the middle east.

Posted by: Ikram | Jan 14, 2005 12:58:49 PM

"It always struck me as sort of interesting that the imperative that drove Wolfowitz (US out of Saudi Arabia) is the same one that drives Bin Laden."

On an incredibly superficial level, yes.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Jan 14, 2005 1:00:28 PM

I think that Brett and I have a similiar understanding of Bush's purposes in Iraq: World War IV, national greatness, an American empire to put the British empire to shame.

When I say so, however, I am called a tinfoil-hat paranoid, since I oppose this grand plan. At this point in history, the way to support Bush's project is to deny that it exists.

Much of Bush's support is from people who believe in him personally without really knowing or caring about any of the details of what he's doing. Conservatives normally oppsoe this kind of cult of personality, except apparently when the object of worship makes a token claim to be a conservative. In that case, they engage in submissive-wetting behavior (as do many Democrats, of course).

In a democracy there is a tremendous cost when a leader's most important initiative is fraudulently justified and sold as a pig in a poke. Democracy-promotion is now our fourth or fifth justification for the war, after WMD, al-Qaeda ties, humanitarian intervention, and the flypaper theory. I have no idea what the next justification will be.

Brett will now to explain to you how Kennedy, Roosevelt, wilson, Lincoln, and Martin Van Buren were Just As Bad As Bush. It's funny how the worst behavior of Democrats has become the Republican goal.

It's also funny how Lincoln always shows up on lists of this kind, as if he were a Democrat. In point of fact, a considerable proportion of (Southern) Republicans absolutely hate Lincoln. It took a tremendous battle to get a Lincoln statue erected on public land in Richmond, Virginia -- I don't think that that hast even been tried yet in Alabama. (Maybe the Alabama democrats should take a shot at it).

Posted by: John Emerson | Jan 14, 2005 1:16:06 PM

"Democracy-promotion is now our fourth or fifth justification for the war, after WMD, al-Qaeda ties, humanitarian intervention, and the flypaper theory. I have no idea what the next justification will be."

Hey, I can't help it if you're so single-minded that you didn't notice that all those justifications were there all the while. *I* certainly noticed them.

I don't think Bush's goal is an empire, in the same sense the British had one. Rather, he's decided that having all these "rogue" governments around is tremendously dangerous, and is engaged in, one by one, taking them down, and replacing them with something better. Liberal democracies, ideally, but at least something less threatening to world peace. I'm not entirely happy with this, but I've got to admit it's a more legitimate activity for the federal government to be engaged in than most things the left wants it doing.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Jan 14, 2005 1:55:25 PM

... having all these "rogue" governments around is tremendously dangerous, and is engaged in, one by one, taking them down, and replacing them with something better. Liberal democracies, ideally, but at least something less threatening to world peace. I'm not entirely happy with this, but I've got to admit it's a more legitimate activity for the federal government to be engaged in than most things the left wants it doing.

I'm very interested in your basis for determining legitimacy. As a rough guide, I think you'd want to measure such activities in terms of how they "establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."

I would venture that pre-emptively removing threats to "world peace" is pretty far removed from the "legitimate" purpose of the federal government in the eyes of the framers of the constitution. If you want to measure it by more narrow goals of providing for the common defense (of this country, not the whole world) then you would have to prove the inadequacy of less drastic options that don't require reshaping the rest of the world.

FWIW, I don't intend the above as isolationism. But I think that there is a middle ground of international engagement appropriate for a superpower that does not go as far as Brett's foreign-policy-as-gang-consolidation theory.

Let me add a lot of things "the left" wants the federal government to do are clearly aimed at promoting the general welfare.

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Jan 14, 2005 2:10:56 PM


Wrap your head around this, this is the lesson of 9/11: States don't matter

You and Doug Feith can keep dropping acid and trying to torture this lesson into meaning it's opposite to fulfill your beligerent fantasies but one day this is going to bite us all in the ass in a way that makes 9/11 look like a dud firecracker.


Posted by: absynthe | Jan 14, 2005 2:11:10 PM

Brett, not sure what you just tried to say, but none of the first four justifications have panned out so far, and I'm dubious about democracy-promotion. That was what **I** was trying to say.

Yes, certainly from a little-government, strict-constructionist point of view, invading foreign nations is always more justifiable than paying for college educations, medical care, or scientific research. God bless the legal / ideological mind.

I still don't think we should invade France, though, even though aver half of the Bush voters think that France is an enemy nation.

And since understanding Bush's actual goals requires tea-leaf reading and necromancy, I'm still not sure that the Wahhabite fanatics in Saudi Arabia won't end up controlling the whole Middle East as our proxies.

Posted by: John Emerson | Jan 14, 2005 2:11:21 PM

John Emerson says: "I think that Brett and I have a similiar understanding of Bush's purposes in Iraq: World War IV, national greatness, an American empire to put the British empire to shame.

"When I say so, however, I am called a tinfoil-hat paranoid, since I oppose this grand plan. At this point in history, the way to support Bush's project is to deny that it exists."

I don't know why, but I'm reminded of the line in The Usual Suspects: "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."

Posted by: jlw | Jan 14, 2005 2:22:23 PM

"Yes, certainly from a little-government, strict-constructionist point of view, invading foreign nations is always more justifiable than paying for college educations, medical care, or scientific research."

At least on a federal level; I've never quite grasped why liberals are so absolutely determined that things which would be perfectly constitutional if done by state governments, have to be done by the federal government instead. To the point where if you suggest that the federal government not do them, they act as if you've suggested they not be done...

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Jan 14, 2005 2:29:43 PM

Brett and I agree about many things.

Posted by: John Emerson | Jan 14, 2005 2:33:43 PM

I've never quite grasped why liberals are so absolutely determined that things which would be perfectly constitutional

Because the net result of this sort of state worship of a dead ass document written for a small agricultural group of loosely connected former colonies gives me eyestrain from the rolling.

Also because said "strict constructionists" tend to head to Congress and bitch about how things like the federal highway system are unconstitutional and then fight to take home as much federal highway money as they can.

Ditto gun control (which is not a priority of mine one way or another and I'm going to own guns legal or not). Make your argument that you like guns, do NOT sit around and tell me you have a god given right to own any weapon you want because no one would live in that society at least since the invention of the nuclear weapon.

Posted by: absynthe | Jan 14, 2005 2:44:13 PM

Sounds like a reasonable hedge to me, not strong evidence of permanent plans. $10 million on 12 towers and some buried fiber is a pretty minor investment.

Whether we are in Iraq for six more months or 20 more years such a system will be cheaper and more secure than the current tactical communications system. If anything Rumsfeld is an idiot for not doing this a year ago, he would have saved a bundle and freed up a bunch of satellites and associated personnel.

Expenditures on the permanent bases would be more convincing evidence.

Posted by: tib | Jan 14, 2005 2:48:38 PM

There are two problems I see with devolving social programs down to the state level. The first is a practical matter of funding. Taxes are already going to the federal government. I don't have a principled objection to a scenario in which revenue is moved from federal to state taxes to fund state programs without changing the total revenue going to social programs. I just don't see it happening. This would also pose a problem for states that are now net beneficiaries of federal funding.

The second is a matter of uniformity. Maybe this is not justifiable on constitutional grounds, but most liberals like myself would prefer to see worthwhile programs extended to the nation as a whole. On the other hand, given national trends, I have been trending towards the position that maybe the best I can hope for is the preservation of liberal programs in "blue states" so you won't really see me complaining if states start taking care of themselves.

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Jan 14, 2005 2:50:14 PM

But that "dead ass document" allows most of what you want done, to be done at the state level. So you haven't answered the question: Why pick the fight? Why insist that these things which states can constitutionally do, have to be done by the federal government instead?

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Jan 14, 2005 2:52:05 PM

Hm, since the only real funding advantage the federal government has, is the ability to deficit spend, I'd have to guess it's the "uniformity"; Less charitably, the oportunity to force things on states that wouldn't do them if they had a choice in the matter.

Nope, sorry, I don't see that as a good reason for violating the "dead ass document".

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Jan 14, 2005 3:00:29 PM

Well, Brad, why don't you try and win at getting rid of social security in the legislature instead of trying to cram a Jeffersonian interpretation of the constitution down everyone elses throat?

Maybe because that constituancy could have it's meeting in a phone booth?

Posted by: absynthe | Jan 14, 2005 3:04:58 PM

Brett-
Two reasons immediately come to mind. The first is economies of scale. As ineffecient as the federal government appears to be, I would think that it would be far less effecient to have to replicate many federal bureaurcracies 50 times over. By having an agency centered on the federal level, it doesn't have to hire 50 individual directors for each state, 50 of every assistant the director needs, etc. This would also suugestthat having these bureaucrcies on the federal level lowers the net of federal + state taxes compared to the alternative of managing through the states.

Also, some reforms may seem to be so urgently needed to remedy injustice that it is important that every state take that reform asap. While it would be possible to lobby for the reform in every state simultaneously, it seems easier to do it once, in Washington.

I'm not claiming that either of these are dispositive, as there are clear benefits from seperation of powers between the states and the federal government (these benefits tend to be clearest when the federal level supports policies that you oppose). Also, there is clearly something to Brandeis' idea that states can serve as laboratories. But the first two reasons are still relevant to any reasonalbe discussion of the issue.

Posted by: washerdreyer | Jan 14, 2005 3:16:52 PM

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