‘Stalinists’ in the Pentagon?

Here’s a story you won’t find repeated in the ‘left’ press. The Washington Post‘s brilliant Rajiv Chandrasekaran reports that a DoD unit in Iraq has sparked a confrontation with the State Department over its plans to reopen state-owned companies in Iraq.

“Paul Brinkley, a deputy undersecretary of defense, has been called a Stalinist by U.S. diplomats in Iraq. One has accused him of helping insurgents build better bombs. The State Department has even taken the unusual step of enlisting the CIA to dispute the validity of Brinkley’s work. His transgression? To begin reopening dozens of government-owned factories in Iraq. Brinkley and his colleagues at the Pentagon believe that rehabilitating shuttered, state-run enterprises could reduce violence by employing tens of thousands of Iraqis. Officials at State counter that the initiative is antithetical to free-market reforms the United States should promote in Iraq.”

This is interesting on two counts. First, it shows a modicum of realism at some level in the Pentagon, which has made an ungodly mess of Iraq. Second, it runs completely against conventional wisdom, especially on the left, which doggedly insists that the Bush agenda in Iraq continues to be privatize, privatize, privatize. That may be true in theory, and I may have contributed to that group-think myself. But there’s strong evidence that – except for oil – Pentagon’s privatization plans for Iraqi industry went out the window in 2004, and Chandrasekaran’s fascinating piece bears that out.
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