Monday, September 08, 2003
Wrong again: Krugman listened to President Bush's speech Sunday night and -- surprise -- he is not impressed. Actually, it's not clear that Krugman has ever really listened to what Bush has said, as demonstrated the second paragraph of his latest screed.
It's now clear that the Iraq war was the mother of all bait-and-switch operations. Mr. Bush and his officials portrayed the invasion of Iraq as an urgent response to an imminent threat, and used war fever to win the midterm election. Then they insisted that the costs of occupation and reconstruction would be minimal, and used the initial glow of battlefield victory to push through yet another round of irresponsible tax cuts.
An "urgent response to an imminent threat"? Where did Krugman get that idea? From the 2003 State of the Union address:
Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option. (Applause.)
Bush's argument was, and continues to be, that the United States cannot wait until the threat is "imminent" -- at that point it's too late -- your options are limited.
Now almost half the Army's combat strength is bogged down in a country that wasn't linked to Al Qaeda and apparently didn't have weapons of mass destruction, and Mr. Bush tells us that he needs another $87 billion, right away.
Phantom correction again. Krugman again acknowledges that "almost half" of the Army's combat strength is in Iraq, after he first claimed that "more than half" were in Iraq. The New York Times never ran a correction.
It gives me no pleasure to say this, but I (like many others) told you so. Back in February I asked, "Is this administration ready for the long, difficult, quite possibly bloody business of rebuilding Iraq?" The example of Afghanistan (where warlords rule most of the country, and the Taliban — remember those guys? — is resurgent) led me to doubt it. And I was, alas, right.
Surely the leader who brought us to this pass, and is now seeking a bailout, ought to make some major concessions as part of the deal. But it was clear from his speech that, as usual, he expects to take while others do all the giving.
I won't pretend to be a mind-reader, but let me say that I am skeptical that Krugman really takes "no pleasure" in claiming that he was right.
Krugman's argument is disingenuous. Somehow by asking for $87 billion for the military and reconstruction of Iraq, Bush is demonstrating Krugman is right and that Bush prepared? The administration has been saying for months that they don't know how much the reconstruction was going to cost. Now they finally come up with a number, something liberals have been demanding for months, it's an "a-ha!" moment. Bush has also been saying that we are in this for the long haul. But for Krugman, all of this is meaningless unless Bush puts a specific dollar figure on it?
It was impossible to estimate exactly how much post-war reconstruction and occupation would cost. We didn't know how bad Saddam had allowed the country's infrastructure to get. We didn't know that Saddam's army would melt into the populace instead of fighting and allowing us to rid the country of them. All of these factors, and many more have an effect on how much it costs to create a stable, non-threatening, preferably democratic government in Iraq.
The money is actually the least of it. Still, it provides a clear test case. If Mr. Bush had admitted from the start that the postwar occupation might cost this much, he would never have gotten that last tax cut. Now he says, "We will do what is necessary, we will spend what is necessary. . . ." What does he mean, "we"? Is he prepared to roll back some of those tax cuts, now that the costs of war loom so large? Is he even willing to stop urging Congress to make the 2001 tax cut permanent? Of course not.
The tax cuts were passed to help get the economy going again. Iraq was attacked to remove it as a threat to peace in the Middle East and a a a potential bio/chem weapons proliferator.
It's not an either/or choice. Both needed to be done. Do they throw the budget into deficit? Yes.
But what is the alternative? A continuing recession, turning into a depression? An emboldened Saddam Hussein? More terrorist attacks here in the United States by terrorists who see our inaction as weakness?
Once again, no solutions, only criticism from Krugman.