December 24, 2005

Bush's Legacy: A Grim Outlook

From Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Samuelson:
How will 2006-08 work out economically and geopolitically? Here is what insiders are beginning to guess.

If there is good news, it will come from the economic side. Extensive spending on Iraq and on rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina more or less ensures that the US locomotive will continue to help sustain global growth. That is a short-run plus for Americans and for people abroad.

But for the US this short-run plus will grow into a gigantic long-term minus. Why? Because budgetary spending out of control will exacerbate the remorseless trend of increasing US indebtedness to nations abroad. Trouble, trouble for the US dollar out there a decade ahead.

Understand that American society has become a me-me, now-now, consume-consume people. Once upon a time, as a nation, we saved 10 per cent of our income. Now that's below 1 per cent. No wonder we must pawn our assets to foreigners and finance our investings from the savings of poorer people in Asia and Europe.

By good luck in Bill Clinton's second term from 1996 to 2000, his overbalanced surplus budget forced down the nation's excess consuming and stepped up the US saving rate at least a bit.

Then, as we all know, Bush's 2000-04 voodoo economics reversed all that the economic doctors had prescribed: to act now to prepare for the demographic crisis in 2010-20, when swollen numbers of baby-boom retirees will have to be supported by lean numbers of working-age taxpayers.

Ben Bernanke, who will replace Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan on January 31, recently told the world that no future disorderly run against the dollar will happen because there is a "glut of saving abroad" eager to hold safe dollar assets. Being of high IQ and with superior training in economics, Bernanke will surely soon change his mind on this and return to the majority opinions of economic experts.

Good luck in economics for Bush until 2008 will not keep him from being remembered in future history books as a voodoo economics leader whose tax handouts to our upper-income classes were most definitely not the reason for present US economic stability. To understand this, only recall how Adolf Hitler's extensive spending on preparation for Germany's war of revenge did wipe out its 25 per cent depression unemployment rates.

Turn now to 2006-08 geopolitics. Accept that US voters will not "stay the [past] course" until a free, democratic and prosperous Iraq gets established. Pigs will fly before that happens. So a new exit plan has to be in the cards.

* We won't leave Iraq "until our generals there tell us we can". Canny Washington insiders translate this as "our generals will tell us it's time to leave when the Pentagon tells them to tell us that".

* When will that be? The new game plan dates this just after "a strong Iraqi army has been built". Such a build-up could be possible. With 50 per cent unemployment rates in Baghdad and 75 per cent rates in the countryside, you can recruit an army of Shi'ites in the Shi'ite regions and a largely Kurdish army in the northern areas. A strong army of minority Sunnis in the Sunni region is more problematic. (But not impossible. An anti-American Sunni, with two sons, will be tempted to send one into the new army and send the other into the insurgent terrorist ranks.)

Africa has taught us how divergent tribal armies breed incessant civil wars. Never mind. A US exit strategy is the topic under discussion. Hopefully the marines will be back in the US before those unpleasantries do break out.

A complete US pull-out from Iraq will not be necessary. When no American soldiers occupy ground space in Iraq, no longer will television show our voters pictures of the 15-plus heroes who were killed that day.

Economists understand the principles of substitution. Bombers in the sky can displace US youths on the ground.

As in Bush Sr's 1990 Gulf War, US military might can operate by remote control. Unmanned drone planes and sky-high piloted planes can safely drop millions of bombs on insurgent outposts.

But won't that kind of bombing - as with the World War II bombing of Hamburg and Bremen and Tokyo and Osaka - kill a lot of civilians? Yes, alas. But it is the US exit strategy that is under discussion.

Along with bad press among future economic historians, Bush and Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld risk being remembered in 2050 along with Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun.

Moral: The game of geopolitics is not a game for sissies.


sevenpointman said...

Howard Roberts

A Seven-point plan for an Exit Strategy in Iraq

1) A timetable for the complete withdrawal of American and British forces must be announced.
I envision the following procedure, but suitable fine-tuning can be applied by all the people involved.

A) A ceasefire should be offered by the Occupying side to representatives of both the Sunni insurgency and the Shiite community. These representatives would be guaranteed safe passage, to any meetings. The individual insurgency groups would designate who would attend.
At this meeting a written document declaring a one-month ceasefire, witnessed by a United Nations authority, will be fashioned and eventually signed. This document will be released in full, to all Iraqi newspapers, the foreign press, and the Internet.
B) US and British command will make public its withdrawal, within sixth-months of 80 % of their troops.

C) Every month, a team of United Nations observers will verify the effectiveness of the ceasefire.
All incidences on both sides will be reported.

D) Combined representative armed forces of both the Occupying nations and the insurgency organizations that agreed to the cease fire will protect the Iraqi people from actions by terrorist cells.

E) Combined representative armed forces from both the Occupying nations and the insurgency organizations will begin creating a new military and police force. Those who served, without extenuating circumstances, in the previous Iraqi military or police, will be given the first option to serve.

F) After the second month of the ceasefire, and thereafter, in increments of 10-20% ,a total of 80% will be withdrawn, to enclaves in Qatar and Bahrain. The governments of these countries will work out a temporary land-lease housing arrangement for these troops. During the time the troops will be in these countries they will not stand down, and can be re-activated in the theater, if both the chain of the command still in Iraq, the newly formed Iraqi military, the leaders of the insurgency, and two international ombudsman (one from the Arab League, one from the United Nations), as a majority, deem it necessary.

G) One-half of those troops in enclaves will leave three-months after they arrive, for the United States or other locations, not including Iraq.

H) The other half of the troops in enclaves will leave after six-months.

I) The remaining 20 % of the Occupying troops will, during this six month interval, be used as peace-keepers, and will work with all the designated organizations, to aid in reconstruction and nation-building.

J) After four months they will be moved to enclaves in the above mentioned countries.
They will remain, still active, for two month, until their return to the States, Britain and the other involved nations.

2) At the beginning of this period the United States will file a letter with the Secretary General of the Security Council of the United Nations, making null and void all written and proscribed orders by the CPA, under R. Paul Bremer. This will be announced and duly noted.

3) At the beginning of this period all contracts signed by foreign countries will be considered in abeyance until a system of fair bidding, by both Iraqi and foreign countries, will be implemented ,by an interim Productivity and Investment Board, chosen from pertinent sectors of the Iraqi economy.
Local representatives of the 18 provinces of Iraq will put this board together, in local elections.

4) At the beginning of this period, the United Nations will declare that Iraq is a sovereign state again, and will be forming a Union of 18 autonomous regions. Each region will, with the help of international experts, and local bureaucrats, do a census as a first step toward the creation of a municipal government for all 18 provinces. After the census, a voting roll will be completed. Any group that gets a list of 15% of the names on this census will be able to nominate a slate of representatives. When all the parties have chosen their slates, a period of one-month will be allowed for campaigning.
Then in a popular election the group with the most votes will represent that province.
When the voters choose a slate, they will also be asked to choose five individual members of any of the slates.
The individuals who have the five highest vote counts will represent a National government.
This whole process, in every province, will be watched by international observers as well as the local bureaucrats.

During this process of local elections, a central governing board, made up of United Nations, election governing experts, insurgency organizations, US and British peacekeepers, and Arab league representatives, will assume the temporary duties of administering Baghdad, and the central duties of governing.

When the ninety representatives are elected they will assume the legislative duties of Iraq for two years.

Within three months the parties that have at least 15% of the representatives will nominate candidates for President and Prime Minister.

A national wide election for these offices will be held within three months from their nomination.

The President and the Vice President and the Prime Minister will choose their cabinet, after the election.

5) All debts accrued by Iraq will be rescheduled to begin payment, on the principal after one year, and on the interest after two years. If Iraq is able to handle another loan during this period she should be given a grace period of two years, from the taking of the loan, to comply with any structural adjustments.

6) The United States and the United Kingdom shall pay Iraq reparations for its invasion in the total of 120 billion dollars over a period of twenty years for damages to its infrastructure. This money can be defrayed as investment, if the return does not exceed 6.5 %.

7) During the beginning period Saddam Hussein and any other prisoners who are deemed by a Council of Iraqi Judges, elected by the National representative body, as having committed crimes will be put up for trial.
The trial of Saddam Hussein will be before seven judges, chosen from this Council of Judges.
One judge, one jury, again chosen by this Council, will try all other prisoners.
All defendants will have the right to present any evidence they want, and to choose freely their own lawyers.

Buchenwald Daughter said...

Your assertions about Spirit of America are absurd and make me very angry. I can understand your desire to stop the immoral actions of our government but attacking Spirit of America is really off base.Don't you think you could focus you energies on more pressing matters? Those who are emprisoned? Or Those being tortured?

Certainly you should realize that the annoymous blogging guide seeks to help those at risk and help avoid the future emprisonment of other bloggers?
My father was a Holocaust Survivor and I have sought all my life to stop torture and educate myself about the motives of governments. Most recently, my husband and I visited Buchenwald where my father had been a prisoner. Our family is committed to stop torture and never forgetting the lessons of the past. I can assure you that my husband, Curt Hopkins would not work for an organization unless it was a legitimate humanitarian organization. In fact, he was one of the first people to come up the idea of an annoymous blogger guide and tried through email communications with other journalists to get a guide published. Others were inspired to put out guides~so realize that one person had the idea to try to help all those people he would post to his blog The Committee to Protect Bloggers.

I find your attacks on the annoymous blogging campaign to unfounded, paranoid and inflammatory. Those who work for the Spirit of America are not part of some big conspiracy or connected to the CIA.The Spirit of America is an organization that attempts to leave politics out of the humanitarian projects. The Spirit of America attempts to correct the horrible atrocities that our government has committed in the name of democracy. Please focus your passion for justice to shed light on the evils of genocide and torture that are taking place right now. Why don't you do some work to help improve the world that you live in? Take some real action instead of sitting at your computer and making up stuff and posting it to your blog. You should really be ashamed of yourself.


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