I can't remember where I asked it, but several weeks ago I asked who was going to pay for Lebanon's reconstruction. Some in the thread mused that we, the American taxpayers, would pay for it. Well, wouldn't you know:
The Bush administration is scrambling to assemble a plan to help rebuild Lebanon, hoping that by competing with Hezbollah for the public's favor it can undo the damage the war has inflicted on its image and goals for the Middle East.
Administration officials fear that unless they move quickly to demonstrate U.S. commitment, the Lebanese will turn more fully to the militant group, which has begun rolling out an ambitious reconstruction program that Washington believes is bankrolled by Iran.
"Scrambling to assemble a plan to help rebuild." Those Lebanese who watched Katrina on the TV or who have heard from cousins in Iraq are no doubt reading those words with dread. And any number of campaign donors probably just heard the lovely ring of "Ka ching!"
Don't get me wrong. It is utterly necessary that someone rebuild Lebanon. While it's probably way too late to pre-empt Hezbollah (which, after all, has long, successful experience rebuilding Lebanon and providing services, and which is already on the ground doing this work), if Lebanon is not rebuilt it will become more and more of a problem.
But does anyone have any reason to believe the Bush Administration can do this, even half competently? Given that we haven't fixed our DOD and AID contracting problems, is there anyone who believes this isn't another opportunity to enrich campaign donors? Does anyone believe Lebanese reconstruction won't also fall to the travesty of "transactional lobbying"?
If we go into Lebanon and make the same mess we did in Iraq, we'll only discredit ourselves further--if that is possible. I mean, think about it! After proving it can stand up to the most fearsome army in the Middle East, Hezbollah has the opportunity to prove that it can provide for civilians better than the richest country in the world. And frankly, Hezbollah's community-based aid programs have a proven history of working better than the US' aid-for-hire approach.
And the ultimate sickness of this is not lost on the LAT:
A major rebuilding investment would put the United States in the position of subsidizing both the Israeli munitions that caused the damage and the reconstruction work that will repair it. Such a proposal could meet with resistance from Congress, but administration officials said that the need for action was urgent.
Keep in mind. This gimmick is one of the only bright spots in our national economy. We bomb the shit out of a place (or let it get nearly destroyed by Mother Nature). And then we have the middle and working classes pay our campaign donors to put it back together again. It'd be pure genius if only 1) we could do this even remotely competently, and 2) we weren't broke and our creditor China wasn't getting sick of subsidizing our influence-building measures.
Read the whole article. It just gave me a sinking feeling in my stomach, thinking of all the money and graft and no bid contracts this will lead to. And knowing that there was very little chance we could achieve our desired result.