Wednesday, December 20, 2006

expenses beat losses in iraq

the estimated total final cost of america's iraq invasion will be circa two trillion dollars. already the 400 billion mark is passed, with still years to go before troops can be withdrawn, if everything so far done is not to be flushed down the drain, including some 3000 dead gi's and allied soldiers. the natives count not, of course, the 130000 odd arab bodies buried are just collateral waste.

apparently, despite bipartizan advocacy, dubya and his pundits still leean toward sending more troops to the near east, reminiscent of johnson's 60's escalation of the invasion in the 'nam.

three years ago i wrote (*) why the iraqi mission liberative / mission civilatrice had little chance beyond a dubious and certainly-not-so-lasting military victory. now even dubya is getting wise to it, so i am not going into detail.

however, two other "collateral" predictions i made come through slowly: a) the cost of war is becoming prohibitive economically; b) war is centralizing the traditionally dispersed power structure of america, i.e., the federal government is getting stronger, more empowered and more intrusive, which is a political anathema for liberal americans. in this latter, i am not just talking about such abominations as the patriotic act or the homeland security torment & torture apparatus. simply imagine the power of expending two trillion dollars as a "legitimate" tool in politics, especially on an issue that brooks as much patriotic bovine excreta as a field of pumpkins can take manure. furthermore, this is the kind of cake that not all can eat. certainly, that power is not going to be concentrated or brokered in maine, utah or even delaware as much as in the eastern seaboard and greater california.

america is essentially an "ingrown" country as political economy goes - only about one fourth of its income is globally generated. it also means roughly that only a quarter of its economic potential is truly globally competitive. the burden of global gendarmerie will now force that ratio to change. it is not only my wager but also my wish that despite so called "isolationist" pressures, a more open, world oriented, active, multilateral politics as well as trade will eventually be adopted by america - the better the less time is wasted haggling with the introverts. as you see, i somehow have this totallly out-of-the-blue confidence in americans' ability to find the right way after being lost. the american political economy represents a fairly sound and dynamic system that can cure itself even with a burden of two trils.

such a comprehensive global competitivity requires even economies of scale to grow larger and more efficient, which needs huge movements of capital and corollary concentrations and centralization of monetary and political power and a bigger, stronger government in world affairs.

here is the catch then: if that super government turns out to be essentially american-ingrown, and tries to use the power of globality for its own ends at home, it will cut its own flesh like a bad toe nail. american taxpayers will end up footing most of that two trils, while more caskets are flown home from all over the globe. yet, if washington manages to be a conduit for global and not necessarily so much american as america-related business, although the central government may eventually concede a good deal of control to the forces of globality (**), it will also speak with a serene voice that will often be heard even with no large stick to carry. in short, in keeping with the generic liberal principles of capitalism, the government's loss is the peoples' gain.

how, do you reckon, iraq and iran or north korea can be subdued more easily? promising heaven in the skies or on earth? former comes dying while fighting american invaders, latter from trading with american partners.

less state, more to spare. we are all americans then.

(*) for turkish readers, see the multi-authored compilation edited by toktamış ateş and ülke arıboğan, kartalın kanat sesleri - abd dış politikasında yeni yönelimler ve dünya, ümit yayıncılık, ankara 2004 [flap of the eagle's wings: new orientations in u.s. foreign policy and the world]
(**) not globalism, which concerns a worldwide economic playground but globality - the entire world in a continuum of co-existential integration that implies interactive politics and cultures, as well as economies.

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