Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 2, 2006
WAR: Light at the End of the Tunnel?

The Washington Post today runs a lengthy front-page story on the Bush Administration's plans to wind down the civil-reconstruction aspects of its presence in Iraq:

The Bush administration does not intend to seek any new funds for Iraq reconstruction in the budget request going before Congress in February, officials say. The decision signals the winding down of an $18.4 billion U.S. rebuilding effort in which roughly half of the money was eaten away by the insurgency, a buildup of Iraq's criminal justice system and the investigation and trial of Saddam Hussein.

Just under 20 percent of the reconstruction package remains unallocated. When the last of the $18.4 billion is spent, U.S. officials in Baghdad have made clear, other foreign donors and the fledgling Iraqi government will have to take up what authorities say is tens of billions of dollars of work yet to be done merely to bring reliable electricity, water and other services to Iraq's 26 million people.

The whole thing is worth reading, for a more detailed and comprehensive look than the usual media focus on individual acts of violence. There are important signs of military and civil progress:

U.S. officials more than doubled the size of the Iraqi army, which they initially planned to build to only 40,000 troops. An item-by-item inspection of reallocated funds reveals how priorities were shifted rapidly to fund initiatives addressing the needs of a new Iraq: a 300-man Iraqi hostage-rescue force that authorities say stages operations almost every night in Baghdad; more than 600 Iraqis trained to dispose of bombs and protect against suicide bombs; four battalions of Iraqi special forces to protect the oil and electric networks; safe houses and armored cars for judges; $7.8 million worth of bulletproof vests for firefighters; and a center in the city of Kirkuk for treating victims of torture.

At the same time, the hundreds of Americans and Iraqis who have devoted themselves to the reconstruction effort point to 3,600 projects that the United States has completed or intends to finish before the $18.4 billion runs out around the end of 2006. These include work on 900 schools, construction of hospitals and nearly 160 health care centers and clinics, and repairs on or construction of nearly 800 miles of highways, city streets and village roads.

Of course, the article also details how expectations for progress in the reconstruction have had to be lowered as a result of the insurgency. And wrapping up the US role in rebuilding Iraqi infrastructure isn't the same as ending the need for US troops to work on the security situation. But progress is marching on, and it shouldn't go unappreciated.

UPDATE: Aziz at NoEndButVictory thinks this article is a sign of a "cut and run" by the Administration. It's a fair reading of the article, but an overreading, in my view. There's nothing here to suggest we're backing down militarily; the issue is simply how much the U.S. will continue to bankroll the Iraq's economic development and physical infrastructure. And the U.S. was never going to have a permanent commitment to financing the reconstruction. Naturally, there's a fair debate about where you draw the line, and I could be persuaded that we should shell out some more money here, but we always understood that a line would be drawn at some point, just as we've already drawn a line on the political redevelopment of Iraq, which is now in the hands of the Iraqis.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:47 PM | War 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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