Tuesday, November 11, 2003

No Speed, No Speed 

The title from my post comes from the aftermath of my friend's auto accident a few years ago. The speaker was a witness who saw the accident, which, as she puts it so eloquently, involved "no speed, no speed".

Maybe this is the sort of perspective we need when looking at Iraq.

Paul Bremer just met with top Bush administration officials to discuss alternative means of political reform in Iraq, since the Governing Council is doing such a swell job at sitting on its hands.

Now, I would agree that the "Governing" in IGC has become something of an oxymoron, but coming after some of the most vicious fighting in Iraq since May 2003, and a lot of talk about "Iraqification", I'm worried that this might be sending the wrong message.

First off: political reforms will not reduce the intensity of the attacks on Iraqis and Coalition personnel. These guys want nothing less than their system of oppression imposed in Iraq, whether it be Wahhabi, Baath, or both. People should not be getting the message that we are making political reforms to appease terrorist. Now I know that's not the point of Bush or Bremer, but it's a point that has to be made absolutely clear.

This, for example, is exactly what we don't want to be telling people:
The U.S. shift is motivated in part by security concerns -- matching the political transition to the gradual reduction of U.S. troops next year. The sooner a government that is embraced by the majority of Iraqis is in place, U.S. officials believe, the sooner stability might return, allowing troops and coalition officials to withdraw.
The second thing is that this appears to be urgent mostly because of international and UN pressure. Doesn't anyone remember when the President went to the UN, less than two months ago, and said:
The primary goal of our coalition in Iraq is self-government for the people of Iraq, reached by orderly and democratic process. This process must unfold according to the needs of Iraqis, neither hurried, nor delayed by the wishes of other parties.
Now don't get me wrong, it is still important to give local Iraqis more involvement in political and security affairs where they are most needed at this time. Even back when the US did this in Vietnam, things were not as bad as conventional wisdom tells us. But if this is part of an overall strategy to pack and go home (which was the case in Vietnam), then we're asking for the very failure that we wish to avoid but keep fearing will happen.

One thing about many economics theories is that when people expect something to happen (currency devaluation, rising interest rates, etc.), their reactions will lead to that event taking place. It's no different here.

Back to the beginning of this post: I think that we should be careful about going too fast in Iraq. With automobiles, there will be times when you will find yourself in a crash, even when nobody's trying to rush. But it doesn't mean that speeding isn't a major cause of car accidents. The same applies here, except on a much bigger scale and involving the well-being of so many more people, which makes restraint from rashness even more necessary.
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