Monday, May 17, 2004

Krugman editorial on Iraq

Paul Krugman editorializes on President Bush's recent supplementary budget request for $25B to aid in the Iraq war. After summarizing the history of past budget requests, he says:

Now Mr. Bush is back for more. Given this history, one might have expected him to show some contrition — to promise to change his ways and to offer at least a pretense that Congress would henceforth have some say in how money was spent.

I would think, for a prolific critic of this administration, Mr. Krugman would not have expected anything like contrition from a President who recently was unable to give an answer when asked what his biggest mistake in office was. You can't be contrite if you've been right every time.

He concludes that sooner or later, Congress will "disown" the debts of the Iraq conflict, and the U.S. will face defeat and a huge blow to its international prestige.

This is so wrongheaded it hurts me, as a sincere admirer of Mr. Krugman. To hell with our prestige and our political situation. We removed a brutal dictator from power and destroyed his power base, and now the best outcome in Mr. Krugman's mind is that the U.S. would withdraw, leaving a power vacuum and utter chaos in Iraq? Yes, the situation is a mess, but it is a mess at least partly of our own making, and we are nothing but a bunch of hypocrites if we let our politics and our budget pull us out of Iraq, only to see it dissolve into internecine warfare, chaos, and possibly religious and ethnic cleansing on a scale that has prompted us to intervene in other regions in the past.

Iraq is a mess, and quite possibly an intractable problem. It's been said before, and by people smarter than I am, that we need to get the U.N. more involved and to change the character of the troop presence in Iraq from occupation to peacekeeping. We need to really focus our resources and the resources of the world community on rebuilding the critical infrastructure that would make life more tolerable, like clean water, electricity, telephones, schools, and hospitals, just to name a few. At the farthest extreme, the international community might have to enforce a partition of Iraq.


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