Krugman has it exactly right this morning:
Some observers also point out that the administration has turned the regular foreign aid budget into a tool of war diplomacy. Small countries that currently have seats on the U.N. Security Council have suddenly received favorable treatment for aid requests, in an obvious attempt to influence their votes. Cynics say that the “coalition of the willing” President Bush spoke of turns out to be a “coalition of the bought off” instead.
But it’s clear that the generosity will end as soon as Baghdad falls.
After all, look at our behavior in Afghanistan. In the beginning, money was no object; victory over the Taliban was as much a matter of bribes to warlords as it was of Special Forces and smart bombs. But President Bush promised that our interest wouldn’t end once the war was won; this time we wouldn’t forget about Afghanistan, we would stay to help rebuild the country and secure the peace. So how much money for Afghan reconstruction did the administration put in its 2004 budget?
None. The Bush team forgot about it. Embarrassed Congressional staff members had to write in $300 million to cover the lapse. You can see why the Turks, in addition to demanding even more money, want guarantees in writing. Administration officials are insulted when the Turks say that a personal assurance from Mr. Bush isn’t enough. But the Turks know what happened in Afghanistan, and they also know that fine words about support for New York City, the firefighters and so on didn’t translate into actual money once the cameras stopped rolling.
And Iraq will receive the same treatment. On Tuesday Ari Fleischer declared that Iraq could pay for its own reconstruction even though experts warn that it may be years before the country’s oil fields are producing at potential. Off the record, some officials have even described Iraqi oil as the “spoils of war.”
It would be an interesting project, for someone with way too much time on his or her hands, to go back and index the triumphalism of the warb loggers concerning Afghanistan, and compare it to their present and undoubtedly ongoing concern for the oppressed peoples of that beleaguered country. (And, as a secondary project, to compare that rhetoric to their convenient and newfound concern for the oppressed peoples of Iraq, who we will soon be liberating with a two-day campaign of saturation bombing, if the reports of a “Shock and Awe” strategy have any validity.)
I’ve seen it suggested that because Afghanistan did not turn into a quagmire, those who were dubious about the operation have been proven utterly and irrevocably wrong but of course, the quagmire was only one concern. The other was that the United States was going to quickly lose interest and leave the region to its own devices once again, virtually guaranteeing some new round of blowback in ten or fifteen or twenty years.
Think about it: the Bushies budgeted no money for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
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Meanwhile, on the other side of the page, Nicholas Kristof takes a test drive in a hydrogen powered car, which I only mention in order to note the confusion of a GM executive quoted in the column:
As Mr. Fosgard of G.M. put it only half-jokingly: “I don’t want to say that this car will eliminate war, but we might not have wars for energy anymore. We’d have to find different reasons to go to war.”
Silly man. He is apparently under the impression that we are about to go to war for oil, which we all know is simply not true.