Iraqis want to work, the DOD wants to make KBR money


Wired has just run Wiring The War Zone, a short version of "Bullets, Bombs, and Bandwidth", an article about Ryan Lackey and Tyler Wagner, two American net geeks doing contracting in Iraq, setting up IP infrastructure. From what I've seen, Ryan is reasonably unbiased w.r.t. the war, so the end bit about the state of Iraq is quite interesting:

One of the few things Ryan and Tyler agree on is their scorn for America's attempt to secure and rebuild Iraq. Tyler rages that the US military "couldn't bother to protect" the road between Baghdad and Anaconda, or even the four-kilometre stretch between Baghdad International and the Green Zone. And he found that when most other Americans dealt with Iraqis, "they were very insulting, they were often very condescending, and in many cases I felt that they treated them like subhumans."

Both of them lament the sorry state of the electrical system. "Not having power was probably the single biggest problem that created animosity among Iraqis," Ryan says. "The US tried to rebuild it in the Western industrialized-country model. The way Iraqis install a power system is, they put a bunch of small generators on neighbourhood blocks, with power cables running to everyone's house, and just sell them access directly. And it's easy to have a market-driven pricing mechanism. But the US solution was to give large US companies business here … If they'd had electricity working within a month or two of the invasion, there probably wouldn't have been near as much violence."

Iraqis desperately want to work. "You don't see people begging for money. You see people selling gas for money, selling cigarettes by the side of the road," Ryan says. Tyler agrees: "I interviewed a lot of people, and I never met one that wasn't so painfully eager it almost hurt to turn them away." But their economy remains paralyzed.

"The best way to deal with terrorism in the long run is to fix the underlying conditions that create terrorism," Ryan says. "It's difficult to fix their ideology, but it's easy to fix their infrastructure. But the US has done a bad job … It's like a feedback loop. They got on the wrong side of the feedback loop." Iraqi frustration breeds insurgents; insurgent violence cripples reconstruction efforts; and the resulting lack of power, communications, finances, and jobs breeds more frustration.

In the face of this feedback loop, American forces have withdrawn into heavily guarded enclaves. SSI's modern, globalized, best-of-both-worlds strategy, bringing Americans and Iraqis together to help rebuild the shattered country, has faltered. Blue Iraq's neo-colonial approach, living and working exclusively on military bases, continues to thrive. The seeds Tyler has helped to plant – a team of crack engineers still erecting dishes around the country – may someday help drag Iraq into the 21st century, one satellite link at a time. But not until the rain of insurgent bombs and bullets has ended. And neither Ryan nor Tyler expects that to happen for years.

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Hmm, Matt, there is one

Hmm, Matt, there is one very big drawback to your idea. It doesn't satisfy the sponsors... How could Haliburton pay its dividends (and political contributions) without the expectation of a return on their investment? :wall:

This is where the military

This is where the military really falls down. It's a common joke in some circles that the DoD is the only truly planned economy left in the US, and boy does it ever show. The Onion ran an article a couple of years ago about just giving the Iraqis $1000 each and letting them sort everything out. While that was deliberately silly, the Pentagon would have done a lot better to open the bidding process more widely and employ more local companies from the ME. They've got better on-the-spot knowledge and since they're local they have more incentive to get the job done.

You know, I rarely agree

You know, I rarely agree with Catallarchans, but I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree here. It's amazing how much the Iraq war is a patronage-fest.

Trillion dollar fraud Linda

Trillion dollar fraud
Linda Bilmes in a recent New York Times column estimates the total outlay for the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan will come to $1.3 trillion. Christopher Westley cites a 2002 study by William Nordhaus estimating the ten year cost of an Iraq inv...

The Mandos has spoken.

The Mandos has spoken.

Yes indeed he has! And O

Yes indeed he has! And O what golden words they were!