[DEBATE] : The Three Trillion-Dollar War
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Tue Feb 26 10:36:20 GMT 2008
Riaz K Tayob wrote:
> The Three Trillion-Dollar War
> By Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes
> The Times of London UK
On another list, Juriaan Bendian had a good rebuttal:
Prof. Stiglitz argues: "The Bush Administration was wrong about the
benefits of the war and it was wrong about the costs of the war. The
president and his advisers expected a quick, inexpensive conflict.
Instead, we have a war that is costing more than anyone could have
But that is a straightout falsification of the facts by Prof. Stiglitz.
The US leaders never expected a "quick inexpensive conflict", at most
they had hoped, that Iraqis would be more enthusiastic about the
military overthrow of Hussein's Baathist regime, and therefore
co-operate more in rebuilding the country. Their own Manichean politics
distorted their political vision.
Given the strategic importance of Iraq, then, as Bush, Wolfowitz, Powell
and many other leaders explicitly put it, the US would do "whatever it
takes" and stay in Iraq "as long as necessary". Mr Bush indeed touted
the vague perspective of a "permanent war", or what Barack Obama calls
"open-ended conflict", a conflict without end, a global war of position
with a constantly shifting terrain, which shades off in an eternal
battle of good and evil.
Once the occupation began, there was no turning back, not in the least
because leaving Iraq would strengthen the position of Iran and other
neighbouring countries who are rivals for American power in the Middle
East. That was known by all leaders in advance. The option of invading
Iraq with an occupation force had moreover been in the Pentagon "policy
cupboard" ever since the first Gulf War.
Why build a huge military infrastructure and airbases for the US armed
forces in Iraq, if the real purpose is to leave as soon as possible? In
reality, the dispute has only ever been about what would be the "minimum
level of military effort" required to maintain order and control.
Like the other liberal democrats. Stiglitz talks about the "costs of the
war", as if this in itself is radical and progressive. But although he
is an economist, he forgets all the while that for every cost, there is
an income, $3 trillion of income. A lot of liberals grew very rich from
The war has been a bonanza for US, European and Asian corporations,
contractors, individuals and bible bashers. How you draw the balance
sheet of costs and benefits just depends on your own position in the world.
The ideological problem is just that US workers who are killed and
maimed in the war, have no real stake in fighting it anyhow, apart from
earning a living. They are just pawns in the geostrategic chessgame of
the elites, fighting a war the very meaning of which is in dispute.
But most of all, Stiglitz does not really explain what is wrong with the
war on principle. He does not explain why you cannot create liberal
democracy by military invasion. He implies that, if the Bush
administration had won in Iraq, that it would have been right about the
costs and benefits of the war, and therefore, that such wars are
In other words, Stiglitz implies that the problem with the war is not
that it is wrong to fight it, but that, seen as the US is not winning
it, it is too expensive (compared to, say, Clinton's war against
In reality, the ideological function of Stiglitz's apologia is just to
provide the next US president with arguments for why austerity is
necessary and inevitable, why workers need to tighten their belts, and
why the reason for that is "not the fault" of the new administration -
its hands being tied (among other things) by a war that it did not
initiate, and the wasteful spending of the previous administration.
For this purpose, Barack Obama is the ideal figurehead, precisely
because he is not tainted with the decision to go to war in Iraq. The
war is not his fault, and the budget blowouts are not his fault either.
If, therefore, it turns out that he cannot deliver on his campaign
promises, because the money isn't there, that is not his fault either.
In the Stiglitz vision, "By the time George W. Bush was sworn in... It
was a moment ripe for Keynesian economics, a time to prime the pump by
spending more money on education, technology, and infrastructure—all of
which America desperately needed, and still does, but which the Clinton
administration had postponed in its relentless drive to eliminate the
deficit. Bill Clinton had left President Bush in an ideal position to
pursue such policies."
Yeah, nice story. But in truth there was never any real intention by the
US political elite to "spend significantly more public money on
education, technology, and infrastructure" at any time, before or after
the change in government.
Now Stiglitz envisages that "The most immediate challenge [of the next
US government] will be simply to get the economy’s metabolism back into
the normal range. That will mean moving from a savings rate of zero (or
less) to a more typical savings rate of, say, 4 percent. While such an
increase would be good for the long-term health of America’s economy,
the short-term consequences would be painful."
That is, because "there’s a momentum here that will require a generation
to reverse", workers should patiently accept "economic pain" dished out
by liberal economic surgery.
All the bad things are caused by the past.
All the good things are in a future which however cannot yet be reached.
Therefore, US workers should suffer pain now, but be fulfilled by "Hope"
for a better world.
There you have a recipe for Obamarama, with Stiglitz as its economic
apologist and the Left as cheerleaders.
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