Economics

The Iraq War, but This Time as Economic Pearl Harbor

|

I guess fighting one elective war isn't enough for the Bush administration. Or the Senate. Or the media.

But it's pretty clear that the White House, helped by a codependent Congress and media, has yet again manufactured a consensus for massive intervention. The last time they managed to pull this off, of course, the United States invaded Iraq. And that has worked out so well that they've decided to start a brand extension or spin-off series: Intervening massively into the economy. The bailout package as Bush Administration: Special Victims Unit.

Think about it and the parallels are disturbing: a high-ranking, respectable, above-the-fray cabinet member working the ropes to achieve bipartisan cooperation; a pliable Congress where appeals to patriotism always trump appeals to principle (sadly, those two things are almost always construed as oppositional); and a media that is fueling the fire (the dread MSM's role in spreading the Bush admin case for war has been pretty well-documented; in terms of the bailout, the most hysterical champions for intervention have been in the print and TV press). Time magazine's next cover story, I learned watching Morning Joe this AM on MSNBC, is actually an essay on "The New Hard Times" and compares our current day to those of The Great Depression. Ominous parallel or coincidence: In the Depression, people formed lines for free soup; today, people form lines to…buy iPhones?

Arguably what is stunning about last night's Senate vote is not that it happened but that it took so long to add enough "sweeteners" to put free-market devotees into an ideological diabetic coma. The bailout-stimulus-Christmas-in-October-bill that just passed the Senate should not be confused with thoughtful legislation. It's larded with junk designed to convince Main Street that it too will share in the welfare being doled out to Wall Street Masters of the Universe. The need for the bailout has yet to be demonstrated. The efficacy of the proposed plan has yet to be demonstrated. Here's hoping that the House of Representatives, that great holding pen for would-be senators and future criminals, keeps it spine and still votes no. At the same time, this might be a good time to declare citizenship in another country.

One other stray thought: The predicate for action now has been incessant comparisons, despite all available evidence, to The Great Depression, a moment where the American (and world) economy contracted over a period of years. Screw the fact that the U.S. economy, by all the normal indicators that get trotted out on a quarterly basis, is doing OK, if not quite good.

In my memory, the last time this happened with such intensity was, er, in 1992, during the closing months of an presidential election cycle where a vulnerable Republican candidate was facing a charismatic Democratic one who kept harping on how rotten the economy was. Things are different now: The outgoing GOP president is the central fearmongerer (or perhaps, given Bush's intensity on the topic, fearmongererer) in this drama, but we shouldn't forget that the election is an essential backdrop for what is happening. This is, coff coff, a particularly political season, and we should all look especially askance at the hurry-up offense coming out of the White House, the Congress, and the media. Bush is desperate for a legacy that doesn't involve quagmires and broken bodies; Congress is trying to give voters some goodies; both McCain and Obama want to show that they can lead, dammit, and please all the people all the time. And the press is desperate for copy and for change.

NEXT: One Lump or Ten?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. DUPE!!!

    Oh shit, this isn’t Slashdot. I got confused.

  2. You can say that again.

  3. They double-post this, and then delete the thread with the funny comments. Come on, Nick!

  4. What? No wage and price controls? CRAP! We will never get that promised FY08 Depression without wage and price controlls!

    This Senate just is not trying hard enough. Why have the Dems stopped listening to their Marxist handlers?

  5. The Senate overwhelmingly approves the “rescue” plan last night, and Wall Street isn’t exactly reacting with the euphoria that I was expecting as a result.

    More and more I’m becoming convinced that this is nothing but a con job; a reverse bank heist being perpetrated in broad daylight.

  6. Ominous parallel or coincidence: In the Depression, people formed lines for free soup; today, people form lines to…buy iPhones?

    Sounds like that comparison of President Carter’s gas lines, pretty much isolated to large cities across America, to the current gas lines.

    Funny thing, the current Governor of GA escapes criticism for causing his gas lines, blame gets kicked up to the feds.

  7. The Senate overwhelmingly approves the “rescue” plan last night, and Wall Street isn’t exactly reacting with the euphoria that I was expecting as a result.

    Spin: Uncertainty over the House vote sends Dow plummeting!

  8. “I guess fighting one elective war isn’t enough for the Bush administration.”

    I have a question. Why is it that all you lame-ass creeps cannot address simple facts of reality in plain English without resort to threadbare metaphors handed down from about five generations ago?

    You’re a dolt, Gillespie, just like almost everyone else on the scene now. You don’t fool me. You never have.

  9. Liked the article. But maybe you haven’t heard, we’re actually winning the war in Iraq.

  10. OK, Billy, how would you describe it?

  11. Liked the article. But maybe you haven’t heard, we’re actually winning the war in Iraq.

    Does that mean we can leave soon?

  12. Liked the article. But maybe you haven’t heard, we’re actually winning the war in Iraq.

    How can you tell?

  13. Jay,

    “Congratulations, here’s your dye-poisoned goldfish. And you only had to spend $20 on ping-pong balls to get it!”

  14. How can you tell?

    Reduction in violence.

    Increase in Iraqi GDP.

    Elections.

    Turnover of security control to the Iraqis.

    Negotiation of treaties governing US presence in the country.

  15. Americana, you are a woefully ignorant and foolish people. I’m ashamed to be from the same state country nation planet as most of you.

  16. Jay, even assuming that’s the case, if someone had told you in 2003 that in five and a half years, after spending a couple of trillion dollars, we would be “winning the war in Iraq”, would you still have supported invasion?

  17. Same question for RC Dean. Keep in mind that “reduction in violence” and “increase in GDP” are actually merely returning to levels of violence and GDP that are still worse than they were pre-invasion.

  18. Hi Billy Beck boy!

    I see you’ve come to add another of your thoughtful insightful and nuanced comments to the discussion.

    Oh yeah, almost forgot, FOAD.

  19. Reduction in violence.

    Increase in Iraqi GDP.

    Elections.

    Turnover of security control to the Iraqis.

    Negotiation of treaties governing US presence in the country.

    And all it cost was our diplomatic credibility around the world, trillions of dollars, and a few thousand American dead (not to mention many times more Iraqi civilians dead).

  20. RCD —

    You can’t call it a “victory” until the country we broke is working better than before we broke it (since after all, we did it “for freedom” or some such shit).

    On *most* measures, it isn’t. If someone pulled a Reagan “are you better off now than you were four years ago” poll question on the Iraqi people, how do you think they’d respond? The ones that are still alive, that is?

  21. Liked the article. But maybe you haven’t heard, we’re actually winning the war in Iraq.

    Oh great, so in five years this bailout plan will start to repair the tremendous damage it will cause until then. Got it.

    But I see your point; after all, we don’t want the smoking gun to be a great depression.

  22. You can’t call it a “victory” until the country we broke is working better than before we broke it (since after all, we did it “for freedom” or some such shit).

    By this measure, when did we achieve victory in WWII?

    Saddam – gone. Victory condition number 1 met.

    Establishment of a functional Iraqi state. Victory condition number 2 – on its way (the metrics above).

    “Working better than it did before” – not a victory condition in any war.

  23. RCD,

    Prediction: No answer you give, no matter how factual, will be accepted by the Surrender Monkey classes.

  24. Victory Condition Number 3: It wasn’t a colossal blunder invading in the first place.

    That’s why the whole “victory/defeat” approach to thinking about Iraq is a nonstarter. Achieving stupid goals is not “victory” (not that we have achieved them yet) unless you add “Pyrrhic”.

  25. So, RC, was it worth the cost? You seem to be avoiding that question for some reason.

    “Working better than it did before” – not a victory condition in any war.

    If there was some terrible danger that had to be averted by war, I would agree that merely keeping things as they were would be an acceptable goal. That wasn’t the case here, and the administration’s pre-invasion rhetoric about turning Iraq into a shining model of Arab democracy shows that improvement was the goal.

  26. Prediction: No answer you give, no matter how factual, will be accepted by the Surrender Monkey classes.

    Oh, so that’s why you guys have given up and just spout counterfactual nonsense. Thanks for clearing that up.

  27. That’s right, Guy! Everybody who wants to withdraw our troops from Iraq as much as most Iraqis do are “surrender monkeys”? How dare those dirty damn towel-heads demand that our troops leave. And how dare their sand-monkey sympathizers in the US resent funding the occupation. We’re fighting for freedom and democracy, dammit!

  28. Sorry for the incoherent rant. I was set off by the “surrender monkeys” comment.

  29. economist,

    No point in using ugly racial slurs against a portion of our worthy opponents. While I certainly believe that you view all of them as indistinguishable from one another, I can assure you that is not the case.

  30. It was satire, Guy. Look it up on Wikipedia if it confuses you.

  31. See, Guy views Iraqis as “our worthy opponents.” In that case, the war certainly has worked out just fine.

  32. And somebody buy him a Foster’s, already.

  33. Call it what you want, when can we leave?

  34. economist, calling Iraqis bad names is bad. Wantonly destroying their homes, infrastructure, and killing them for no good reason is OK though.

  35. nj,

    When the job is complete, of course.

    Should be a lot quicker then leaving Germany, Japan or South Korea.

  36. I don’t remember President Truman having to fly into Tokyo or Munich with the lights off on his plane in 1950.

  37. cunnivore,

    Wow, anybody that old could be expected to forget about Berlin.

  38. I mentioned Munich because that was in the US zone of occupation. Berlin would also apply, as it wasn’t troublesome until the 1960s, and that was because of, you know, the other superpower that happened to want complete control of it. Someone slightly more scary than Iran (though I’m sure you’re wetting your bed in anticipation of the Islamic Revolutionary Inflatable Raft Navy sailing up the Potomac to destroy Washington)

  39. And even during the Berlin Airlift those planes weren’t flying in with their lights off. The Soviets could have shot them down at any time.

  40. If the Iraqis are our opponents, can we just nuke them? Or is that cheating?

  41. Bush is desperate for a legacy that doesn’t involve quagmires and broken bodies…

    That boat sailed a long, long time ago.

  42. So, RC, was it worth the cost? You seem to be avoiding that question for some reason.

    Ask me in five years. Still too early to say.

    You might, however, try asking some Iraqis. Or some military people. They are more intimately acquainted with the cost than I am.

  43. “””Bush is desperate for a legacy that doesn’t involve quagmires and broken bodies…”””

    How about his domestic spying legacy?

  44. “””When the job is complete, of course.”””

    What job is left for us to complete?

    Saddam out. Check
    Democratic type government installed. Check
    Violence to an acceptable level. Check

    Reasonable security (policing), national defense, keeping AQ in check, and rebuilding their nation is their job, not ours. Sure we can still give aid, and provide military assistance, but we do that with countries without a war posture. If Iraq is in any decent shape, we don’t need 130,000 troops there.

  45. So, TrickyVic, it’s “their job” to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed by an unjustified invasion?

  46. “”So, TrickyVic, it’s “their job” to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed by an unjustified invasion?”””

    Who gets to determine if it was, in fact, unjustifed? Just because the Bush admin played us for fools doesn’t necessarily mean it was unjustified. The war could be just for reasons other than the ones stated. I don’t think the Iraqis would classify the invasion to remove Saddam as “unjustified”, only the occupation. They were cheering in the streets when we rolled into Baghdad for a week or so. But that’s beside the point. It’s a war. The loser in a war has no expectation that the winner is responsible for their rebuilding.

  47. DEATH TO THE BUSHPIGS ALBA GU BRAH WHERE THE HELL IS THAT F%^&ING ELF!

    MY BRAINS ARE DRAINING OUT MY BUTTHOLE MY BRAINS ARE SWEATING OUT MY SKIN AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

  48. Die, surrender monkeys! DIE!

    Spartans, prepare to kick some sandmonkey asshole!

  49. problem w that is it violates like my fundamentalist rights or something or gosh im so high i have no idea what’s going on hey did you see south park last week?

  50. IT’S TIME TO CRACK SOME WING-NUTS! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

  51. Smegga blegga! churrip! hahhaahhahahah! My brains. uuuggghhh! my braindognoafkgn;oakr

  52. Hey, baby. wanna know why im called “cunnivore”?

  53. Lemme get high. I know I can remember if I just get high.

  54. Free market fundamentalists all around me! I can hear them breathing through my brain! Maybe they’ll go away if I insult them!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.