Posted by: Tony Carson | 25 August, 2007

The only hope: putting Iraqis to work

The Iraqis don’t want a war on terrorism, they just want jobs.

Here is the evidence.

The number of detainees held by the Americans in Iraq, explains the New York Times has grown by 50 percent since the ‘surge’ to now number a prison population of 24,500.

“Interestingly, we’ve found that the vast majority are not inspired by jihad or hate for the coalition or Iraqi government — the vast majority are inspired by money,” said Capt. John Fleming of the Navy, a spokesman for the multinational forces’ detainee operations. The men are paid by insurgent leaders. “The primary motivator is economic — they’re angry men because they don’t have jobs,” he said. “The detainee population is overwhelmingly illiterate and unemployed. Extremists have been very successful at spreading their ideology to economically strapped Iraqis with little to no formal education.”

Why can’t anyone under stand that? Why can’t anyone understand that just like the rest of us, Iraqis need jobs and they need hope. They haven’t had any for more than a generation.

For the US to get out of Iraq with any degree of success, the USA has to leave behind a sense that the future for Iraqis can be better; they have to leave behind hope.

So what form should that hope take?

The same hope we hold dear in the West: that their children will have a better life than they have.

In Iraq, that means new, meaningful opportunities that will put the people to work re-building their country, a country that is in shambles with an infrastructure that is little better than it was immediately after the war — in many ways worse than when Saddam was in control. And re-building means money.

Here is an argument that just makes sense.

Plan B: money — as an exit strategy.

The US has spent over $500 billion so far in Iraq. That works out to around $2 billion per week but does not include the costs of all the necessary replacement of capital, like bullets, AK-47s, helicopters, planes, etc. And, of course, medical costs will demand big, big bucks well into the future. Reports indicate that the war’s finally tally will surpass $1 trillion.

And then there’s the Pottery Barn factor: ‘you broke it, you buy it.’ In Iraq, the US is morally on the hook for the cost of rebuilding what it has destroyed.

So here is Plan B — Put a sum of money into a ‘pot’, say $200 billion (which is no more than two years on the ground in Iraq). Triple it if necessary, quadruple it even. And then say, ‘OK, guys, we’ve established a trust fund for you; we’re paying to rebuild your country, but you have to do all the work and we’re leaving in 6 months. To get to the money you have to follow accountable processes, fulfilling proven needs. If you can’t get it together, the money stays in the bank. If you can, you will have the funds to construct a pretty nifty place, and if you devote the necessary funds to the oil patch, you will be able to O&M your country well into the future.

The beauty of the plan is that, if necessary, the Sunni’s can look after its geography and employ its people, as can the Shiites and Kurds — the over-arching organization would be, not government, and not Halliburton, but an international accounting firm.

Think of the employment: jobs, jobs, jobs, everyone works, maybe not for Halliburton prices, but local prices would be nicely inflated because of the new demand.

The result? My guess is that the lure of the filthy lucre would be enough to inveigle even the most militant out of their rat holes and onto the job site. And the collective energy of well-payed Iraqis rebuilding their country would provide a sufficient breather for domestic diplomacy to begin to heal many of the more egregious wounds.

And the best part? It would be the most American of solutions. With a defense budget of $532 billion, the US bought it’s way into the war; for a lousy $300 billion they could buy there way out.

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