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August 07, 2005

What Are We Doing in Iraq?

Unqualified Offerings parses the U.S. military's attitude towards hearts-and-minds in Iraq:

Famous Last Words: "With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them." Lt. Colonel Nate Sassaman, quoted by Dexter Filkins in the NYT, December 7, 2003.

So what was the problem, do you think?

  1. Not enough fear and violence?
  2. Not enough money for projects?
  3. Cockamamie theory in the first place?

And:

Famous Last Words II:

David Clark Scott, writing in the Christian Science Monitor, November 26, 2003:

US soldiers trying to create goodwill in Fallujah echo the bitterness. "We thought we were doing something good when we built a soccer field," says Maj. Allen Vaught. "We brought in engineers, earthmovers, welded goal posts, and trucked in some smooth dirt." The next day looters took everything. "Goal posts, nets, and the good dirt. How can you help people who steal dirt?" he asks incredulously.

I am reliably assured that there are all kinds of libertarians with all kinds of views on the war in Iraq, the Global War on Terror and the global struggle against violent extremism. But it seems to me that any libertarian ought to have no trouble listing the conceptual errors in Major Vaught's plaint. Just to get you started: Collectivism: Lumping "people" who weren't involved in removing things from the soccer field in with "people" who were is sloppy thinking.... Dispersal of Information: A soccer field may not have been the most productive use of fertile topsoil for that town at that time. Fallujans may have been able to increase their utility by turning the piping and netting of the goals to other uses.... (The article offers no evidence that troops first asked locals, "Hey, how about we build you guys a soccer field?")...

A soccer field's worth of dirt is multiple dump truck loads. Somebody really wanted the stuff. And there was no functioning order enforcing the U.S. military's view of what should be what.

Posted by DeLong at August 7, 2005 08:32 PM