In the Arena

Today in Iraq

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This article about corruption in Iraq is stunning, but not surprising. And it doesn’t even mention the oil sector–where, I’m told, the 30% rule applies: at least 1/3 of the revenues are, literally, siphoned off.
Two points: Obviously, there is absolutely nothing the U.S. military presence can do about this. And less obviously, there is very little the Iraqis can do about this, either. It is woven into the fabric of a tribal society. It was endemic during Saddam’s time–with most of the patronage and kickbacks and special deals going to members of his Tikriti gang. It is endemic through the region, perhaps the single most powerful reason why democracy simply hasn’t worked among Arab tribal countries. In a “country” like Iraq, which isn’t a country at all, the probability of corruption paralyzes the possibility of establishing a credible central government. In each of the regions, government operates for the financial benefit of those in charge, not the people.

This is another reason why Bush’s “Freedom Agenda” has always sounded so foolish in the region. It is also another reason to begin the troop withdrawals now.