Campaign 2008, Politics

Good Riddance To Bad Rubbish

Sen. Ted Stevens, perennial embarrassment and convicted felon, has narrowly lost his Senate seat. Had the GOP been sensible, they would have asked him to resign—and it was that lack of sense that has contributed to the waning fortunes of the GOP over the past few years.

There is no excuse for corruption. Not cleaning house was a major mistake. Losing Stevens’ seat puts the Democrats closer to a filibuster-proof majority, but the Republicans were fools to rely on him in the first place.

Idiotarianism, Politics

The GOP Needs an Enema

Sen. Ted “Series of Tubes” Stevens has been indicted for failing to report over $250,000 in gifts.

Sen. Stevens is a national disgrace, and I join with the editors of National Review in calling for him to resign immediately. Furthermore, Sen. McCain should disavow himself from Sen. Stevens and his brand of “scratch my back” politics. For the good of the Republican Party, and more importantly the good of the Republic, Sen. Ted Stevens should leave the Senate.

Sen. Stevens represents the very worst of the American political system. He not only demonstrated an astonishing lack of education on the issues he was trying to legislate with his “series of tubes” harangue, but he has squandered taxpayer money on boondoggles like the “Bridge to Nowhere.”

The American people have little faith in Congress, and for good reason. If the GOP is to be the party it should be, it cannot allow its members to continue to disrespect the values of our party. Limited government and fiscal discipline requires personal discipline on the part of our elected officials. Good government requires a willingness to put principle ahead of party loyalty.

Sen. Stevens has continually broken his trust with the American people. He should resign. The Republican Party’s brand is tarnished because our leadership continues to behave in a manner that betrays our principles. If they are unwilling to embrace a true commitment to political reform and an end to the corruption that plagues Washington, then they will sow the seeds of electoral defeat.

Economics, General, International Relations, Iraq, Political Philosophy, War On Terror

The Other War In Iraq

Instapundit has a lengthy note from a Colonel in Baghdad on the recent fighting in Basra. He observes that the driving force in that conflict was not Moqtada al-Sadr, but the lack of services being provided by the Iraqi Government. Indeed, that highlights a bigger issue: over the long term, the biggest problem in Iraq isn’t terrorism. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has been largely crushed. Moqtada al-Sadr was forced to cry uncle and is viewed by all as an Iranian stooge. While there are still acts of violence in Iraq, they’re less and less the sort of organized attacks that we’ve seen over the course of the war.

The real issue is going to be corruption. The biggest roadblock to democratization is corruption, and it’s endemic in Iraq. The Iraqis have a source of revenue in oil, and it’s enough to sustain their development. The problem is without a system of accountability and transparency, that money won’t go to where it’s needed.

Over time, we’re going to need a new “surge”—but one that focuses on working with the Iraqi government to stop corruption. We’re in a unique position to help, and working alongside the Iraqis we need to develop systems that help make sure money goes to where it is truly needed and those that steal from the Iraqi treasury are brought to justice.

Most NGOs focus on issues other than helping improve the rule of law in foreign nations—and it seems counterintuitive to think that accountants rather than aid workers can truly help developing nations. Yet, if a nation is to transition successfully from autocracy to democracy, fiscal accountability is absolutely crucial. Many democratizing states fail to democratize because the government does not act with accountability to the people, which causes the people to lose faith in government.

The US needs to work with NGOs like Transparency International and the Iraqi government to create a more democratic and accountable political and financial system for the Iraqi people. We have made great strides in terms of fighting terrorism and providing security—yet that alone won’t be enough to make Iraq a strong and functional nation. The future of Iraq hinges on the ability of the government to provide critical services while remaining accountable to the people. If it cannot do this, then the Iraqi people will be forced to turn to militia leaders for help, and Iraqi society will fragment. This does not have to come to pass, but in order to prevent it we have to start looking beyond basic security and towards governmental reform.


Building A Government From The Ground Up

Bill Ardolino takes a deep look inside the tumultuous politics of Iraq in The Long War Journal. He gives a level of analysis we never see in the mainstream media, delving deeply into the structure of the Iraqi government and examining what is working and what is not:

While divisive politics and naked sectarian interest receive most of the blame for Iraq’s political inertia, government inefficiency, corruption, and administrative inexperience arguably pose larger problems.

“We think our system is bureaucratic … their system is even more bureaucratic. It tends to be a paper-based system. … They tend to require lots of signatures from different technocrats along the way. They tend not to delegate much,” said Brigadier General Terry Wolff, the Special Assistant to the President and the Senior Director for Iraq and Afghanistan Policy Implementation on the National Security Council.

As an example, a paper-based system of requisitions adds layers of difficulty for various provincial police headquarters getting equipment from the Ministry of the Interior. Thus, both Western observers and police officers in a Sunni province like Anbar might view equipment shortages as the product of sectarian hostility by the Shia-dominated federal government, when much of the delay is really administrative.

Iraq’s problems are becoming less visible, but the Iraqi government still has a long way to develop. The Iraqis are returning to the model they know, which is the corruption and centralization of the Ba’athist regime. It will take some time for their to be the political transitions necessary for Iraq to have a truly stable government. That will mean clearing out corruption in the various ministries and streamlining bureaucratic processes. It will also require the Iraqis to have a view of government that promotes democratic accountability rather than the centralization of the Ba’athist era.

Those are all multi-generational changes. The Iraqis have not had anything even close to democratic government in at least a generation. The transition from dictatorship to democracy is never easy, and it cannot be accomplished in the space of a mere 5 years. The Iraqis are making some progress, but that progress is slow. What matters is not that the Iraqi people have a fully functional government quickly, but that they carefully start building the legal, political and administrative foundations for good government.

Ardolino’s look inside the Iraqi government gives us an idea of what’s going right and what is going wrong. In order to understand what’s going on in Iraq, we can’t merely rely on the crude stereotypes in the mainstream media. Iraq is far more diverse, far more vibrant, and far more complex than the caricature presented by the media. This unique look inside the Iraqi government gives us a perspective we might otherwise never gets, and will give future researchers and political scientists an opportunity to see the process of democratic development in a way we’ve never been able to see before.

UPDATE: It’s Bill Ardolino, not Bill Roggio. Mea maxima culpa.