If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.
Thursday 10 January 2013
Read gnomica 1-200 here!
Before we give you billions more,
we want to know what you’ve done with the trillion you’ve got.
Les Aspin (21 Jul 1938 – 21 May 1995)
If it were only so!
Things did not work out well (Somalia was his undoing) in the end for this brilliant man (Phi Beta Kappa and a summa at Yale [in history], MA from Oxford and Ph.D. from M.I.T. [both in Economics]), one of the bright young analysts working for Robert McNamara (another ‘brilliant’ man things did not in the wretched end work out all that well for), a congressman from Wisconsin (1971-1993) and Clinton’s Secretary of Defense (1993-1994). But the particular bit of dark humor (and remember, that was a generation ago!) above hits a very large nail quite squarely on its flat head, and it is to that point I address myself in the following.
Readers of this blog will have read some earlier comments of mine here and there about my views on foreign aid and bribery, but I call special attention to this posting (in the interim, it seems to me, things have only gotten more preposterous). Now, I do not know if what I say below is true, for it is only intelligent (I hope!) reflection and speculation on my part about what I can garner from information in the general press that the government allows the citizens who pay for it all to see. But I do believe something like the following is roughly what’s going on.
Looked at directly, with immediacy and without evasions and the government’s misdirecting exculpations of one sort or another, foreign aid simply has to be a scam — that is my belief! It simply does not make even elementary sense for this country to be pouring these Niagaras of unaccounted-for dollars into the darkest corners of the earth where despots and tyrants operate in unaccountable and the most unimaginably un-American ways to subdue and harass their citizens while they and their kinsmen cart their bribes aka ‘foreign aid’ off to private bank vaults in Vanatu, sink them into prime beach properties on the Costa Brava or Malibu, and bid up prices of apartments and condos in the sixties through the eighties of Manhattan along the East River or throughout le 16ème arrondissement along the sedate Seine in Paris.
For sure, for absolutely sure is that nary a nickel of all those billions ever really got, almost a year on now since the earthquake on 12 January 2010, to Port au Prince for ‘rebuilding’ in Haiti. The point is that nobody somehow seems sort of you know to be able to tell anybody just exactly what happened to the money … it’s just kind of gone … went somewhere … but, you know, well, it’s kind of unclear where. And I’m figuring it wasn’t all a matter of — you know – ‘travel’, ‘overhead’, ‘transportation’, ‘outsourcing’, ‘administrative costs’, ’incidental expenses’, etc. etc. etc. … you know, all those usual suspects always rounded up at about this point in the narrative as the familiar and obligatory thematic interlude known as ‘the thorough U.N. investigation now underway’ into where the money was disappeared to and by whom.
And that one’s right on our doorstep, so to speak!
How about Kabul? You know, Afghanistan. Over there.
But first, what do I think is going on here. Let me back up a bit.
My belief is that the current unfunny tragi-comedy that has become foreign aid is the failure it is because, ironically, American foreign aid to Europe (the Marshall Plan), particularly in Germany, and to Japan was so hugely successful after the end of World War II. Take a look at some news photos from 1945 of Dresden or Berlin, of Tokyo or Nagasaki. Few things standing are taller than the piles of rubble as far as the eye can see. There was nothing! But … one generation later Japan and Germany (and Europe) were on their way to becoming the civilized industrial powerhouses that helped to drive the world prosperity that only recently has seemed to stumble more than just a bit. My thinking is that the very success of that foreign aid instilled in the establishment a short-sighted and very erroneous conviction that if that could be accomplished in Germany and Japan, why not everywhere? In one generation!
In one hundred generations Afghanistan will be no further than it is now which is in effect probably not much further than it was over two millennia plus (c. 330 BCE) ago when Alexander the Great finally saw the light of reality about Afghanistan and hied himself and the Greeks out of there as fast as he could.
And we’re so different today, then?
Why do I think it won’t change? Am I being insufficiently multicultural? Too Eurocentric? Culturally insensitive? Post-colonially hegemonic? I would say no, and say that to me it’s really pretty obvious (and quite obviously, in the minds of many, dreadfully incorrect politically): if you run a contemporary society on the basis of what some old men claim a deity conveyed about 1,500 years ago to one of them about how things should be, and then on top of that not only dispense with but by fiat proscribe inclusion and involvement of the energy and intelligence of half your adult population, and demonize that half, I just don’t see how that society will change itself. Call me insensitive. But I just don’t see it!
What America’s foreign aid enthusiasts now in charge — and so desperately eager to spend money we don’t have where it won’t do a bit of good — forgot somewhere along their euphoric and spendthrift way was one extremely important point about the post-WWII situation: like America, both Japan and in particular Germany were world-class civilizations in terms of education and scientific know-how and engineering achievements before they went off the rails (our American university system — now the envy of the world — was built on the model of the nineteenth-century German university system [especially the University of Berlin] – then the envy of the world). Nothing, absolutely nothing even remotely comparable exists or existed in Haiti or Afghanistan or any of the many other mendicant hand-out cultures lining up to exploit our folly – and it is just exploitation by the connected few, because even the pretense that we are ‘rebuilding’ hardly passes a giggle test since there simply wasn’t and isn’t anything to rebuild (as there very definitely was in Japan and German sixty-five years ago) in the first place.
One question I do not have an answer for is this: why does America do this? Why?
To me it makes absolutely no sense at all, and I admit I simply do not understand why America persists in this loony business, absolutely insists on doing this.
There is something here that I just have no clue about!
I do appreciate, however, that I probably seem heartless and uncaring in the way I talk about these matters. Believe me or not, as you will (and I have no wish to dramatize), but I was myself once one of those desperate children in midnight flight with family from an invading enemy, and it is a memory of April 1940 as vivid in my mind today as it is unforgettable. And I was one of the lucky ones in the Europe of the 1940-1945 madness!
If and only if simply throwing money at a problem achieved desired ends, I would feel less adamant. But here it clearly has done anything but!
In the end, in America’s longest war (now over eleven years), just exactly what has been achieved, really, in Afghanistan for the Afghan people (which in my understanding should include females) and for the American people (which in my understanding does include females). The cost so far (Oct 2012): some 2,000 Americans have died in Afghanistan and 17,000 Americans have been wounded, and American taxpayers have borrowed about one point two trillion dollars (that’s $1,200,000,000) to pay for this deeply tragic exercise in shadow theater. Of course, I don’t think that includes any of the money that’s been promised into what’s beginning to seem like an endlessly receding and misty future …).
It is not at all inappropriate, then, to raise these issues on the day before the start (Obama to host Karzai at White House on Friday [i.e., 11 Jan 2013] of yet one more production in Washington of the by now dreadfully familiar, ritualized Afghan Kabuki starring Karzai. You remember him, right, Karzai, our frenenmy and ally who just a few short months ago [4 Oct 2012] Accuses U.S. of Duplicity in Fighting Afghan Enemies and a couple years before that [2 Nov 2009] Obama Warns Karzai to Focus on Tackling Corruption) with ever emptied (Intrigue in Karzai Family as an Afghan Era Closes [3 Jun 2012]) hat in empty hand on our doorstep.
And, finally, what happens there in 2014 after America’s so-called ‘withdrawal’ (be sure to read the ‘Comments’ section) when Afghanistan and the Afghans are left more to their own tribal impulses?
Is that enough ‘foreign aid’ or is that enough ‘foreign aid’ or what — for just this one vastly venal venue?