Really ending the sanctions on Iraq
Posted by aogSunday, 05 October 2003 at 22:58 TrackBack Ping URL

This article is getting cited here and there. The reporting is once again a confused mess with key facts omitted or not understood. I’ll just hit the high points.

First we have the lead paragraphs:
Some of Washington’s top Republican lobbyists are counting on ties to the Bush administration, the congressional leadership and the Iraqi provisional government to turn the embattled country into a major new profit center.

“It’s like a huge pot of honey that’s attracting a lot of flies,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Let’s translate to real life: “profit center” means “worth trading with”. Places that aren’t profit centers for business are depressed, poverty stricken wastelands of hopelessness. Being upset that Iraq is seen as a profit center means that one is upset that
  1. Iraqis have things worth buying.
  2. Iraqis can buy things that they want.

Why either of these is evil escapes me. Ending the sanctions against Iraq means allowing Americans to trade with them. I thought that was generally favored.

But the confusion at the root of trading with Iraq begins to show itself in the next bit:
The opportunities — and risks — of doing business in Iraq are far more varied than in traditional Washington lobbying.
Uh, “doing business” and “lobbying” are not the same thing, regardless of how much the Left and tax sucking corporations try to claim it is. The fact that lobbying is involved is a clear sign that what’s going on is corporatism, not capitalism. However, that’s somewhat undermined by the next bit:
New Bridge Strategies, whose interest in Iraq has earned considerable attention because of its close ties to the Bush administration, is gearing up to seek distribution rights for major U.S. companies producing everything from grain to auto parts to shampoo.

“Getting the rights to distribute Procter & Gamble products would be a gold mine,” said one of the partners at New Bridge who did not want to be named. “One well-stocked 7-Eleven could knock out 30 Iraqi stores; a Wal-Mart could take over the country,” he said.

Here’s a critical bit of information that is missing — who is going to give the distribution rights for Proctor & Gamble products, the Bush Administration or Proctor & Gamble? There’s a yawning gulf of difference there, the existence of which seems to have escaped to the writer. Gene complains about this thusly:
I’m not advocating that US and other foreign companies be kept out of Iraq. But I’d like to suggest that the interests of the Iraqi people— for instance, the owners and employees of those 30 stores— may not always coincide with the interests of well-connected American corporations.
This is internally contradictory - you can keep the American companies out or you can keep the Iraqi stores. But it’s not clear that this event, replacing 30 Iraqi stores with a well stocked 7-11, would be a net negative for Iraq. That store would be selling stuff, presumably desired by Iraqis, for much less, thereby improving their quality of life. It’s like the protests against WalMart which are primarily the work of outside agitators, not the locals. The article then switches abrubtly to another topic. Or maybe it doesn’t - since key bits of information are missing from the early section it’s hard to tell what exactly it was talking about. But, based on the 7-11 and Walmart comments, I read it as being about doing business in Iraq with Iraqis. But the article, without a segue, goes on with
Republican members of Congress are highly receptive to arguments that U.S. companies should receive a big share of the business of rebuilding Iraq.
This is a completely different kettle of fish, one that does in fact have some real meat on it. I certainly wish Big Media would spend half as much time investigating how the Iraqi reconstruction money is being spent as they do looking in to what Arnold Schwarenegger did thirty years ago. It would be a chance for some constructive criticism instead of parisan sniping. I do want someone to keep an eye on the Occupation Authority. That’s something that would actually be beneficial to the USA and Iraq, which probably explains why it’s not of much interest to major media.
Comments — Formatting by Textile
Gene Monday, 06 October 2003 at 06:49

Please note that I used the words “may not always coincide” rather than “do not coincide.”

If employees of local stores are put out of work by a 7-11, they may be able to buy a Slurpee™ for the first time in their lives, and they may be able to buy cheaper milk, but they’ll still be out of work. I was just trying to say that capitalism has consequences, and it doesn’t always make life better for everyone.

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 06 October 2003 at 10:40

Fair enough. I’ll certainly admit that capitalism almost never makes life better for everyone. It’s in the overall, long term picture that capitalism wins.

End of Discussion