Strange Bedfellows

The trolley must be off the track when Dennis Kucinich and Charles V. Pena agree that we should get out of Iraq, like, this weekend.

Kucinich sincerely understands a deep truth not accessible to most of us: our destiny is to overcome the collective illusion of war as the answer, but his methods sound too far out for the electorate. He probably doesn’t know that he’s echoing what Dwight Eisenhower said about peace 40 years ago:

I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.

Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and co-operation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace.

(Jim Moore doesn’t seem like an Eisenhower disciple, but this sure sounds like Jim’s Second Superpower meme.)

Charles V. Pena is the Director of Defense Policy Studies at the Cato Institute: the most aggressively libertarian think tank in Washington. Presumably, his goal is the same as Cato’s: dismantle the government, starting with overseas adventures:

The United States must leave Iraq posthaste before the Iraqi mission becomes a sinkhole that swallows billions more of taxpayer dollars and all too many American lives. The best way to guarantee the safety of American troops is to bring them home.*

[Securing Iraq is] doable if they’re willing to make hard choices. But politically the administration has said there are enough troops. And they’re trying to avoid all comparisons to Vietnam,” says Pena. “But if you ramp up to almost a quarter of a million troops, suddenly Vietnam comparisons become impossible to avoid.”*

With the edges of the bell curve lobbying for a quick exit, we may get one. Let’s game this out a little. We can watch the political forces drive up the costs and casualties relentlessly over the next 3-10 years, a Viet Nam replay, or we could find a rational way to clear out fast. This will require some fancy footwork.

Recovering an out-of-control Plot Line

Our government’s like a novelist who has lost control of his characters and plot development, with the dialogue somehow taking his creation where he hadn’t imagined. That being the case, this novelist must go with this disastrous flow or come up with a deus ex machina real quick now. If there might be such a mechanism, what might it look like? We need a quick and plausible way for the Iraqi stakeholders to build consensus, capitalize development, get people working on a common vision, and we need to do it without our people present. Aha! The perfect answer: a magical web app!

“Any sufficiently advanced technology…

…is indistinguishable from magic.”
–Arthur C. Clarke

I’ve got economic and political advice that Dr. Dean hasn’t asked for, and neither have his policy people (though at least I’ve met them). As the potential substitute novelist trying to wrestle this story line from disaster, Dr. Dean should have an alternate plot outline available. The best outline would be one that seems most plausible coming from the Dean camp and compelling enough to gather hope and credibility.

The Dean campaign is filled with savvy Netizens who have convinced us that they know more about this stuff than the rest of us. They could develop a web-based enterprise whereby Iraqis and their allies can complete forms, make commitments, securitize their commitments and receive electronic transfers to fund their vision, infrastructure, institutions and civility.

The funds would come as private loans, guaranteed by the $87 billion we’re about to commit but won’t need if we get out of Iraq quick. Transfers would be based on real outcomes, one of which would be documented commitments to build, for example, bridges and schools and hospitals. would provide so many ways for Iraqis to make money that they’d be more interested in how to use the new WiFI & ATM infrastructure than their AK-47:

  • Credibly commit to build a $25 million Halliburton bridge for $1 million = $50,000
  • Deliver engineering drawings for the bridge = $50,000
  • Start, continue, finish bridge construction, etc., etc., etc.= $100,000, $100,000, $100,000
  • Send a child to a non-religious school for a month = $10 (?)
  • Teach in a non-religious school for a month = $500 (?)
  • Guard a pipeline within view of one of the 100,000 new webcams = $25/night

Would it work? Who the hell knows? But it’s at least as plausible as the thinking we’ve seen so far. And unlike the current plot, there’s no prequel proving that the plan can’t work. The current plan was so flawed from the outset that even a Vermont physician knew it would fail.

I bet Bezos would put the whole program together for a dollar a year. Now that Amazon’s book scanning project is finished, he’s probably got enough untapped processing power to host it. (Sorry, Jeff, no patent rights) com

In fact, does the government even need to host these services? Why not model it on the fed-insured Student Loan model, where a government guarantee has spawned an entire industry offering terrific web applications to put serious money to work for you.

Of all the answers to the Iraq mess, is the only idea that might not fail.

1:21:35 PM    comment [commentCounter (226)]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: