War with Iraq - one very cynical opinion

posted 12/14/2003

(This was written, for the most part, shortly before the beginning of "Operation Iraqi Freedom", but not finished, or posted, until mid-December. My bad.)

I may be an exception, but I for one look forward to the looming war with Iraq and view it not as the mindless vendetta of the man who claims to be the U.S. President (Did you vote for him? I didn't vote for him...) against his father's enemy but a great opportunity for the American people.
It's not a war about oil, or democracy, or NBC weapons. We've already got oil, and democracy (or so they say), and we've got all the nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons we'll ever need. To quote a much-overused catchphrase from another president, it's the economy, stupid, the very thing the war will be waged to distract attention from.
A war - any war - has sizable impact on a nations' economy for years, even decades to follow, and it's not all bad. We start off with the buildup to war: Uncle Sam gives money to a number of large companies, who produce the essentials of war: ammunition, military clothing, gas masks, military rations, body bags, that sort of thing. This allows these companies to stay in business, even hire more employees to keep up with the DOD's insatiable appetite for 5.56mm ammunition, or whatever.
Once all these goodies are in the "theatre of operations", or as the media likes to say, the war zone, we have to uproot the men and women of our armed forces and send them overseas on short notice. They get paid (quite well, including combat pay, eventually) to defend our various interests, kick butt, take names, and so forth. Most of this money goes straight back into the domestic economy, since nearly all the soldiers' basic needs are taken care of by Uncle Sam. The temporary deployment of reserves depletes the domestic workforce, effectively lowering unemployment, all other things being equal.
War arrives! The media covers the war as they've never covered a war before, always eager to outdo their coverage of the last war. People tune in and watch. Big business pays big bucks to put advertisements in front of big numbers of people. Being good consumers, we go out and stimulate the economy by buying the products advertised during the war. "CNN's ongoing coverage of the Gulf War, Part Two is brought to you by Mylanta..."
But wait. There's more. Because once the war ends and our brave and heroic soldiers come home, there's a magic word a-floatin' on the air: Surplus. Yep. Uncle Sam never has room to warehouse all the goodies they bought to wage war with, so they're sold off for pennies on the dollar to entrepreneurs and businesses looking for deals. These people then turn around and sell this surplus merchandise to individuals, other businesses... sometimes even back to the government!
The economy is thus stimulated in myriad ways, and in this day and age ANY good news about the economy is front-page leading news, sure to overshadow the Vietnam-war style daily totals of U.S. and Coalition soldiers killed or wounded in the fighting, or the number of children killed by landmines and cluster bombs.

I started this page the week before "Operation Iraqi Freedom" began, but didn't post it - didn't finish it beyond this point, even - at the time. Now, six months after the supposed end of combat operations in Iraq, on the day we announced the capture of Saddam, I can finally get around to finishing it.
It's not that I think Saddam's capture changes anything, mind you. U.S. soldiers are being ambushed and killed because the people waging the attacks hate - and rightly so - the United States, not because they're trying to liberate their (former) leader or any other high-minded idealism.
To a large extent, the predictions I wrote in the beginning of this article early this year didn't hold true. The gross mismanagement of the war, the blatant croneyism and no-bid contracts to Halliburton and others, the whole controversy about the countries excluded from rebuilding Iraq, and Donald Rumsfield's inability to speak a coherent sentance all managed to blow up in the administration's face, largely overshadowing the scant but much-needed news of (possible) signs of economic recovery.
Nonetheless, in the upcoming election, I'm sure much will be made of the war's impact on the economy... but the election, and the lack of even remotely decent candidates, is a subject for another day.
Just remember, though, as we hear of the politicians crying foul over the profiteering of big political contributors such as Halliburton, that the war helped the little guys (and gals), too. It isn't necessarily a just, necessary, or well-planned war, but the hidden agenda was, largely, successful, which is, naturally, why the administration is so pleased about the progress of the war when nobody else is...


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