May 12, 2008

Greed Is Good - and Sometimes, So Too Is Corruption

Hatched by Dafydd

One of the joys of writing a blog is the opportunity it gives to mock one's enemies. In this case, we rise to mock the naiveté of the Associated Press... which is shocked, shocked to discover bribery and corruption in the Arab Middle East. (Of course, the other possibility is that AP knows its point is asinine yet mendaciously makes it anyway, hoping to fool its liberal readers.)

AP claims to have just realized, to it's spiritual horror, that Iraqi officials are often corrupt... and that the Bush administration, rather than fall off its high horse, declaim about purity of essence, and order mass arrests of everyone from the Iraq prime minister on down, instead turned a blind eye to low-level skulduggery in order to give the new Iraqi government time to become much more stable -- as it has:

The Bush administration repeatedly ignored corruption at the highest levels within the Iraqi government and kept secret potentially embarrassing information so as not to undermine its relationship with Baghdad, according to two former State Department employees. [Now there's as unbiased a pair of witnesses as I've ever seen!]

Arthur Brennan, who briefly served in Baghdad as head of the department's Office of Accountability and Transparency last year, and James Mattil, who worked as the chief of staff, told Senate Democrats on Monday that their office was understaffed and its warnings and recommendations ignored.... ["If only they had listened to me!"]

The State Department's policies "not only contradicted the anti-corruption mission but indirectly contributed to and has allowed corruption to fester at the highest levels of the Iraqi government," Brennan told the Senate Democratic Policy Committee.

First of all, note that the "former State Department employees" immediately ran to tell "the Senate Democratic Policy Committee -- not, for example, the Inspector General at the State Department, the Department of Justice, or even a real Senate committee (one that has Republicans as well); the SDPC is just an unofficial caucus with no actual investigatory or oversight authority.

That should tell you what desired outcome actually motivated these two witlesses.

Second, what have they discovered? That Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki "eviscerat[ed]" "Iraq's top anti-corruption office." Corruption in an Arab country! Stop the presses!

What purpose does it serve to highlight corruption and bribery in a government that is three years old? Isn't it more important to gain a measure of stability first... and only then start really working on applying the rule of law equally and evenly?

Now that the Iraqis have achieved some real stability (because of the counterinsurgency -- which the Democrats fought hammer and tooth) -- this is probably the right time to start pushing them to become more open and transparent. But we must bear in mind, that goes against literally thousands of years of Arab culture. (Arab tribes ran on corruption long before Islam came along; it wasn't even considered corruption... just what Heinlein called "squeeze.") It will be very hard and take decades to root corruption out of Arab society.

But realistically speaking, corruption rarely brings down a government. If the citizens have a reasonably good assessment of the level of corruption, and it's a level they can deal with, then they may even panic if it suddenly disappears.

Sachi made a point about the endemic nature of corruption around the world: Typically, corruption simply becomes an important part of the infrastructure. What the Soviets called the "nomenklatura," the permanent bureaucracy, is so poorly designed, so badly implemented, so enmeshed into every level of society, and so unrealistic in what they require, that it stifles necessary functions of the government.

Corruption is the universal solvent that eats through decades (centuries!) of accumulated crud and allows the system to work. Take away the corruption from, say, Soviet "republics," Arab states, Near and Far Eastern oligarchies, and prehistoric African or South American cultures flooded with ancient Soviet T-62 tanks and AK-47s... and the State will probably collapse.

Some Americans -- especially ideologically pure liberals, who are irritated whenever reality comes along to ruin the fun -- are spoiled by living in a culture where the level of corruption in New Orleans, Chicago, and Detroit is considered a national shame. In most countries, bribing public official to do their jobs is so routine, there is not even an attempt to hide it from public view; they may even advertise their rates. After all, the next guy needs to know who to pay off!

I believe Democrats themselves realize how foolish this carping and whining sounds; I think they're uneasy about the likelihood that most people who read the news or follow obscure congressional non-committee committees are aware that Arab culture tolerates a much higher level of corruption than American culture; even Europeans are more blasé about it than we. So the Senate Democratic Policy Committee is trying to make it seem as though it's taking "testimony" (it has no such authority) about something more interesting and important than the garden-variety collection of "user fees" (bribes) for doing one's job:

Sen. Byron Dorgan, head of the Democratic Policy Committee, said the testimony was critical in light of upcoming legislation that would appropriate more than $170 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Senate Appropriations Committee, of which Dorgan is a member, is expected to approve the legislation Thursday.

"It is a cruel irony if we are appropriating money next Thursday or did appropriate money last month or last year and that money ends up actually providing the resources for an insurgency in Iraq which ends up killing Americans," said Dorgan, D-N.D.

But corruption and support for insurgency are two completely separate problems. When did Democrats first get het up about the latter? Their only reaction to such revelations in the past has been to demand we surrender, flee the region, and allow it to collapse into complete chaos -- and a haven for those very terrorists.

Unrealistic Democratic posturing is a far more dangerous attitude than letting petty corruption in Iraq slide for a while, until the new democratic nation can perform its most critical tasks without corruption to grease the skids anymore. At least bribery helps make things work; sermonizing about Iraqi original sin is just cutting off your nose to wash your face.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 12, 2008, at the time of 10:44 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Seaberry

Looks like Anne Flaherty is located in the Corruption Capital of the World…Washington, D.C., and she wants to focus on Iraq?!

Judging by the amount of AP article she writes, it is clear that she is a STRONG Democratic Party supporter...perhaps she should look closer into Obama's connection with Tony Rezko. Is it considered "corruption" for a reporter to be 'biased' when reporting the news?

The above hissed in response by: Seaberry [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 13, 2008 8:01 AM

The following hissed in response by: Geoman

The concept of baksheesh is not well understood by the west.

In middle eastern cultures there is little difference in what we would call alms for the poor, tipping, and outright bribery. As long as the amounts are reasonable, not one looks twice.

Government officials are often very poorly paid. And it may require considerable work to get something done. And they may have to pay a certain level of baksheesh to other individuals both inside and outside the government to accomplish anything, for which they expect reimbursement. Therefore baksheesh for a government official is a little of all three - alms, tip, and bribe.

Get over it Democrats.

"I'm shocked, shocked to find that (bribery)is going on in here!"

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 13, 2008 9:21 AM

The following hissed in response by: Geoman

Ah, the better quote from Casablanca:

Rick: "Who did you bribe for your visa? Renault or yourself?"

Ugarte: "Myself. I found myself much more reasonable."

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 13, 2008 9:23 AM

The following hissed in response by: David M

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 05/13/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

The above hissed in response by: David M [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 13, 2008 10:10 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dishman

This is SOP for the Dems...

Try to break everything the Republicans support, and then blame the Republicans for it not working.

The above hissed in response by: Dishman [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 13, 2008 11:44 AM

The following hissed in response by: TerryeL

Considering the fact that these same people were more than willing to overlook the Food for Oil scam, I find their concern to be questionable. At best.

The above hissed in response by: TerryeL [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 13, 2008 2:15 PM

The following hissed in response by: John Anderson

"Corruption is the universal solvent that eats through decades (centuries!) of accumulated crud and allows the system to work."

Alas, true. And in many places driven by the ridiculously-low pay scales of government functionaries vs politicians or even the private sector (except the last may not in practice exist or have available jobs). And we in the US and Canada do not understand. The long-accepted use of baksheesh (sp?) is regarded in many places the way we consider tips to waitstaff: part of doing business, probably necessary to the recipient (and in fact considered part of wage structure), flexible as opposed to standardized rates... The "controversy" has been going on as long as I have been paying any attention - I recall businesses getting into legal troubles for paying "bribes" at least back to the mid-Sixties.

The above hissed in response by: John Anderson [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 13, 2008 2:43 PM

The following hissed in response by: John Anderson

Oops, I really should have read comments before trying to post - I usually do.

Geoman in the very first one made 90% of my point.

The above hissed in response by: John Anderson [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 13, 2008 2:47 PM

The following hissed in response by: BarbaraS

Too, too funny. Democrats worrying about corruption. What's the matter? Are they afraid some of this money might slip from their hands? If we pay for this war and the rebuilding of Iraw with its attendant corruption that means they (the democrats) will have less to steal. Feinstein, Reid, Jefferson, Mollahan, etc. Go to Washington and get rich on the public's dime. Democrats could teach people in the middle east a better way to finesse cash on the sly.

The above hissed in response by: BarbaraS [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 13, 2008 5:04 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

John Anderson:

baksheesh (sp?)

I believe the correct spelling is بخشش <g>.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 13, 2008 6:57 PM

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