A couple years ago, John McCain staked his future on the idea that sending more soldiers to Iraq would solve all our problems. He was wrong.
In combination with a ceasefire by Moqtada al-Sadr, the surge did help reduce the level of violence, but Iraq’s post-invasion problems are deeper than the violence. The nation is politically divided, and that isn’t a problem that can be solved at gunpoint. Indeed, the continued presence of an occupying force only emphasizes the political instability, and creates a perverse disincentive to seek genuine reconciliation. The real test of political reconciliation is what happens when the US isn’t there to call the shots.
As yet another example of the problems plaguing Iraq (problems which can’t be solved with more soldiers) Iraq’s Health Ministry just confirmed a cholera outbreak in a province south of Baghdad:
Cholera has broken out in a province south of Baghdad and at least 20 cases of the waterborne disease have been confirmed there, a Health Ministry official said Monday.
However, local authorities in Babil province insist the real figure is much higher and have complained that the government in Baghdad has been slow in responding to the outbreak.
This is a political problem, and solving such problems is what elected governments should exist to resolve. The problem in Iraq is that the government exists for the purpose of holding together the fundamentally unsound entity called Iraq, and haven’t got the resources, interest, or talent to address serious problems like a cholera outbreak. To do that, you need to build sewage treatment plants, you need to pump and deliver clean water, and you need a public health infrastructure that can identify and react to outbreaks quickly. Cholera is treatable and preventable, and its absence is one of the basic measures of a functioning modern society.
The problem in the US is that John McCain and George Bush don’t see this sort of stuff as their problem. The Republican philosophy is to minimize government, to tie it up in partisan mayhem, and that’s how they created the Iraqi government. That it doesn’t do much is a feature, according to conservative philosophy, not a cholera-causing bug. And that problem applies in the US, also.
One could point out the failure of governance during Katrina, when the Senate was help-up from sending aid to afflicted areas by Ted Stevens, as he defended an earmark promising funds for a bridge between the middle of nowhere and its suburbs. At the time, Sarah Palin was running a fundraising group on Stevens’ behalf, and was an advocate of the earmark. Meanwhile, the CDC warned that the Gulf Coast was in danger not only from cholera outbreaks (though only isolated cases were ever documented), but chemicals and toxic detritus from oil platforms. It was a failure of government so massive as to be insulting, and John McCain bears some blame for standing in the way of an independent investigation into what went wrong.
The problems go deeper. Sarah Palin today incorrectly stated that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are government-owned, which is false. With a housing crisis under way that is putting huge numbers of families out of their homes, it’s essential to know what Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are. Those companies, foolishly privatized in the ’80s, hold a vast number of mortgages, and have been given various dispensations by the government in order to expand home ownership. John McCain has come out in support of a plan to bring those corporations back under public ownership. But Palin just came out in favor of privatizing these companies, even though they are already private, and allowing them to fail would destroy the economy, and the lives of millions of homeowners.
But Palin doesn’t know or doesn’t care about that problem. Because she wants to shrink the government, not help people hold onto their home. Nor does she care about preventing cholera and other diseases, nor protecting coastal areas from oil spills associated with offshore drilling.
That’s not the Bush way, which means it isn’t the McCain way, and surely not the Palin way.