To repeat: no coherent narrative
Given the latest suicide bombing in Iraq, it’s going to be easy to claim that the place — and U.S. policy — is an abject disaster. And there are certainly some problems besides violent attacks in the U.S. administration of Iraq. However, consistent with my no coherent narrative meme, there is also some good news. ...
Given the latest suicide bombing in Iraq, it's going to be easy to claim that the place -- and U.S. policy -- is an abject disaster. And there are certainly some problems besides violent attacks in the U.S. administration of Iraq. However, consistent with my no coherent narrative meme, there is also some good news. The New York Times reports that it should be very easy to fulfill Iraq's aid needs for the next year -- about $6 billion -- in part because it will take some time for the country to have the necessary institutional infrastructure to absorb even more aid. Some cheering grafs:
Given the latest suicide bombing in Iraq, it’s going to be easy to claim that the place — and U.S. policy — is an abject disaster. And there are certainly some problems besides violent attacks in the U.S. administration of Iraq. However, consistent with my no coherent narrative meme, there is also some good news. The New York Times reports that it should be very easy to fulfill Iraq’s aid needs for the next year — about $6 billion — in part because it will take some time for the country to have the necessary institutional infrastructure to absorb even more aid. Some cheering grafs:
A month ago, administration officials said they would have a difficult time raising more than $1 billion for Iraq for 2004 at Madrid. Now officials say Japan itself is considering roughly $1 billion for next year and several billion in later years. “The Japanese are talking in the billions,” said a senior administration official. “The Europeans are revisiting their earlier numbers. They’re all beginning to look at this as a security issue, not a development issue, and they’re scrounging for money from other places in their budgets.” Administration and international aid officials say that after intense American pressure, the initial European pledge of $230 million could expand to several hundred million dollars. If that happens, one official said, the administration will press the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia “to make sure they are not left behind,” one official said.
Even more heartwarming is this Chicago Tribune story on the effects that U.S. aid are having on the Iraqi people. The highlights:
BALAD, Iraq — In the dusty towns of central Iraq, she is known as Grandma Jones, a rifle-toting, ever-smiling American soldier. Capt. Arthurine Jones of Matteson, Ill., coaxes Iraqi children to cheer and chant in English, melts the hearts of schoolteachers with a photo of her granddaughter and cajoles contractors to build schools and bridges on time and within budget. “Every time we go out and meet people we make an impact,” said Jones, a member of the 308th Civil Affairs Brigade, a suburban Chicago unit of Army Reservists. When crowds of Iraqis gather around these soldiers, it is not to attack them but to embrace them for the humanitarian work they are doing…. Those at Balad have endured frequent mortar attacks, though most of the shells landed harmlessly. One of the unit’s Humvees was destroyed in a roadside bombing. Despite the danger, the soldiers are leaving tangible evidence of their accomplishments. They already have supervised the reconstruction of about 40 schools, 250 wells, eight water-treatment facilities, a police station, a town hall and stretches of road and bridges across the Tigris River. Soon, most of the unit is expected to move on to Baghdad. Traveling recently with several members of the 308th Brigade along rolling desert scenery in the hot griddle of central Iraq, the atmosphere was anything but tense. Riding into towns, the soldiers were swarmed by children. One on an ox-cart handed a soldier a flower as they rode side by side. Some villagers stopped and stared at the troops. Others smiled and waved. At a school opening in the village of Abu-Hassam, soldiers were greeted warmly and stayed after the dedication ceremony to eat lunch with local tribal chiefs. Little girls wearing head coverings gathered near Sgt. Kirstin Frederickson, 28, of Hoffman Estates, Ill., captivated by the sight of the blue-eyed, blond soldier dressed in military fatigues and carrying an M-16 rifle. “We see the immediate gratification of what is going on here,” said Frederickson, a supervisor for a prescription drug management company.
Really, you need to read the entire article. One new and potentially intriguing part of the Iraqi coverage is that the Bush administration recognizes it needs to get more of the positive stories coming from Iraq into the media. [Why does this matter beyond the 2004 election?–ed. Because if the American people become convinced that Iraq is a miserable failure, then they’re going to start demanding a withdrawal, which would be catastrophic for regional stability] This Chicago Tribune story on Condi Rice’s latest speech suggests a new White House plan on this front:
White House officials said Rice’s speech was the beginning of a public-relations campaign to counter growing doubts about Bush’s rationale for the war and his handling of postwar Iraq. Public opinion polls indicate declining confidence in Bush’s foreign policy and overall job performance, and the administration’s $87 billion spending request for Iraq and Afghanistan faces heavy Democratic opposition. Bush himself plans speeches in New Hampshire, Vice President Dick Cheney will speak on the issue in Washington, Cabinet secretaries will go to Iraq to point up areas of progress, and the president will give interviews to regional journalists, all in an attempt to bypass the Washington press corps, officials said. Rice’s speech set the tone for the campaign, arguing that Bush was right to attack Iraq and that the reconstruction there is going well but that Americans should be prepared for a long-term commitment.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School at Tufts University and the author of The Ideas Industry. Twitter: @dandrezner
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