Max Cleland on Iraq

I’ve been hoping George Bush and his political goon squad would live to regret what they did to Max Cleland. Here’s a start, anyway: an op-ed Patrick Nielsen Hayden accurately describes as “incandescent”: [*]. “Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President. Too bad you didn’t go when you had the chance.”

Which reminds me: Glenn Reynolds and the rest of the warbloggers keep telling us how well things are going in Iraq, and what scoundrels the reporters are for saying otherwise. But even Tom DeLay admits that the Congress is experiencing “sticker shock” over the $87 billion down payment on occupying and rebuilding the place.

So here’s my question: Did the President and his advisers expect to have to spend so much? If so, was it wise or forthright not to mention that before committing the country? If not, then what unpleasant surprise has happened since?

Note that unlike most of my fellow citizens, and unlike the Congressional Democrats, I’m not especially bothered by the money. If we spent 1% of our GDP per year for a couple of years and got a free, prosperous, and friendly Iraq out of it, that might well be money well spent, though I can imagine other places where the same money might be spent with even better results. But the fact that everyone professes to be surprised by the bill suggests that the administration either miscalculated or deceived, and I’d like to know — or at least have some reporters ask — which it is.

And of course it would be deliciously ironic if the “starve-the-beast” strategy — passing huge tax cuts in order to create deficits in order to create political pressures in order to make large government spending programs politicall impossible — claimed as its first casualty the one area in which Mr. Bush regards profligate spending as a virtue.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com