A plan to win


Asheville Citizen-Times, January 24, 2007

Wishful thinking is the prime directive in US policy toward Iraq. President Bush confirmed it with his New Strategy. Whether from honest incompetence or a sincere scalawag desire to keep a step ahead of the hounds of public accountability, what began with misinformation has morphed into an alternate reality worthy of Lewis Carroll. If only the Red Queen’s croquet game were still played with flamingo mallets and hedgehogs rather than bullets and bombs.

It’s enough to drive a guy nuts trying to understand it. Maybe that’s what happened when my inner cynic advised me to step through the looking glass and consider Iraq from the perspective of big money. Tempting as it may be to imagine a face laughing maniacally in the control room, resist. It’s certainly not Bush. He can’t be reelected and is therefore expendable. Think synergy of petty human agendas and the appetites of corporate capital. From that point of view what is nonsense in terms of morality and world citizenship makes cold hard sense.

Iraq, like all good things, must come to an end. Cash cows get old. Eventually the costs of feed exceed the profits they generate. In the parlance of boardroom hipsters, the juice no longer justifies the squeeze.

Our plan to bulldoze Iraqi culture and replace it with a state-of-the-art market economy foundered. But hey, we gave it a shot. Lessons were learned. Next time we’ll work smarter not harder. That’s business.

It’s too bad Iraq became a training ground for Islamic militancy and that the country is now largely populated by people who hate our guts. Too bad, but not necessarily a business liability.

We’d hoped to control the Iraqi oilfields by now. It would have been sweet to divvy up the profits from wellhead to gas pump, and it still might happen. But if not we’re still okay.  The Iraqi powers-that-be will either sell us product—and we reap distribution profits—or they won’t. If they don’t we’ll further inflate prices for the oil and gas we do control. Not to mention increased opportunities for new multi-billion dollar tax subsidies to wean the country from foreign oil by resurrecting the nuclear power industry.

On the terrorism side: have you noticed the money rolling into military suppliers, private intelligence-gathering operations, mercenary outfits, and mega-construction companies? Halliburton ring any bells? Bechtel? Fluor? (These and some other early Iraq contract winners are detailed in Link.) People want protection and demand retaliatory explosions. They happily pay through the nose for the appearance of both and ask few questions. It something of ours gets blown up, people want it rebuilt. They’re willing to pay for that too. Al Qaeda should remain a global profit opportunity long after we turn Iraq over to the Iraqis.

But enough with the regrets. The Iraq war was good for tens of billions of dollars of business. Have you heard stockholders complaining about returns? While our friends in Washington remain willing to sign checks, the costs of doing business in Iraq proper are climbing. We have few positive results to show on the ground and congressional CYA committees will be looking for scapegoats. Time for most of us to take the profits and run without apology. We’re in business to make money. We made it.

Our problem has been lack of a face-saving exit plan. Some may think the New Strategy is as crazy as they thought the war was. Those guys never learn. The New Strategy is a strategy to win with a high probability of success, no fooling. The switcheroo is that victory won’t look like the ones our grandfathers achieved. It’s not about winning in Iraq. (If that was ever in the cards it isn’t now, what with the generals grumbling.) We will leave Iraq. In the public mind we will leave it as a martyred land.

The victory we’ve been searching for is in the battle theater of public consent. Try these future sound-bites on for size. We fought like hell to save Iraq from the terrorists. Freedom and moderation demand fortitude and selflessness sacrifice. We were almost there. Then, in that darkest hour before dawn, the spineless liberal blame-America-first appeasers in our midst snatched it away. We surged; they screamed bloody murder. We said, “Hang tough.” They threatened to cut off funds, abandoning our brave fighting men and women. Did our heroes die in vain for a war they weren’t allowed to win? The Democrats didn’t care. They just wanted out. No peace, all dishonor. We and the Iraqi people are the poorer for it.

Who are you going to vote for in 2008? Praise the Author of liberty and pass the checkbook. Victory is ours. Next time, suckers, buy stock.

—Michael Hopping
copyright © 2007 all rights reserved



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