16 November 2003

Perfect as the enemy of the good in Iraq


The Washington Post uses the example of a cement factory in Sinjar, Iraq, to illustrate a problem with the nation’s reconstruction:

Burned and looted in the aftermath of the war, it was up and running again by mid-September.

But it was not put back together by the U.S.-led interim government and the fleets of contractors being paid billions of dollars to fix the country. In fact, had the plant managers gone the “American way,” the factory might still be in pieces.

U.S. Army engineers who came to survey the damage proposed rebuilding the plant into a shining showcase for the best in modern technology. They suggested buying a fleet of earth-moving equipment and importing machinery from Europe, estimating it would take $23 million and up to a year to complete the job.

The Iraqis had more modest ambitions—they just wanted to get the factory running again, even at minimal capacity. With the help of $10,000 from the U.S. military, and $240,000 left over in factory bank accounts, they used scrap electronics, tore up one production line to get parts for the other, and fixed the plant in three months. It was not the state-of-the-art facility that the Americans envisioned, but it got the job done.

“Members of the Iraqi Governing Council and other local leaders argue that the bureaucratic American process wastes money and time and that the country would be in much better shape if they were given a stronger voice in the process as soon as possible,” reports the Post. The overbureaucratization of Iraq’s reconstruction would seem to be a point of political vulnerability for the Bush administration. Too bad America doesn’t have an opposition party that opposes excessive regulation.

Actually, this seems an excellent example of the perfect being the enemy of the good in the third world. It doesn’t have to be up to US standards to be better than what went before. It’s unacceptable to hold Iraqis back because they can’t jump to the 21st century in one shot.

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Facts on the ground

This article from Little Green Footballs has a picture that really brings home the truth of how brutal and oppressive the Israelis are. While a gunman opens fire on the IDF with an automatic weapon, a crowd of onlookers watches casually. Clearly none of them are really concerned about return fire from the IDF. It it were any other military on the planet, the whole lot of them would be paste on a wall by the time the photographer snapped the picture. But firing at the IDF with automatic weapons - that’s just a normal outdoor activity.

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How dare you over-react to my over-reaction!

[source, source]

Armed US Secret Service agents will have the right to “shoot to kill” when they provide the bodyguard for President George W Bush on his controversial state visit to the United Kingdom this week. […]

More than 100,000 protesters will take to London’s streets on Thursday for the Stop The War Coalition’s “Stop Bush” demonstration. Organisers fear “trigger-happy US Secret Service agents” could over-react and kill protesters. Politicians opposing Bush’s visit fear over-reaction by US agents could cause “mayhem” and want the trip cancelled.

Over-reaction by the Bush people? Maybe the protestors should, you know, be non-violent and not stalk the President [via LGF].

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It's those darn anti-government forces messing up government!


Despite 38 home visits, social workers didn’t realize that four children adopted by a New Jersey family were starving. The New York Times proposes a solution: regulate home schooling.

Clearly, if the state child welfare department is incompetent, the solution is to have those incompetents watch over even more people.

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