U.S. Middle East Policy: Funding Theives and Feeding Corruption
A powerful NYT Sunday Book Review, begins:
Across much of the world, populations suffer daily shakedowns by the police. At roadblocks, market stalls and entrances to government buildings, thugs in uniform gather “like spear fishermen hunting trout in a narrows,” as Sarah Chayes writes. But that isn’t the half of it. Globally, the three most important desiderata of our age — security, resilience and poverty reduction — are consistently being hollowed out by structural theft on a much larger scale, operating across corporations, governments, military establishments and civil services.
Chaynes argues that state corruption across Islamic Middle East countries sets people on a path to religious extremism:
She calls this a “basic fact,” showing that where there is poor governance — specifically, no appeal to the rule of law and no protected right of property — people begin a search for spiritual purity that puts them on a path to radicalization.
NCFCA debaters can read the full NYT review to get a sense of how U.S. accidently feeds corruption with current policy goals focused first on security.
|–Erasmus [From Amazon Look-Inside, here].|
U.S. military, State Department, and US AID officials know corruption is a key problem in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, and other countries. But by deferring to local policies thick with economic regulations, these countries allow those in power to obstruct and squeeze bribes from those less-powerful trying to launch and run wealth-creating enterprises.
Endemic corruption fuels religious extremism:
… Chayes’s Afghan interlocutors told her again and again that poor governance was actually what was perpetuating the conflict, with graft generating disenchantment and driving people toward the Taliban. “Western officials,” she writes, “habitually flipped the sequence: First let’s establish security, then we can worry about governance.”
Ordinary Afghans, meanwhile, took Western inaction on corruption as approval. Aid just added to the problem, in Chayes’s view: “Development resources passed through a corrupt system not only reinforced that system by helping to fund it but also inflamed the feelings of injustice that were driving people toward the insurgency.”
My previous post Ending U.S. Funding for Iraq and other Middle East Reconstruction Projects (which sadly languishes with just five pageviews), looks at the expense of U.S.-funded reconstruction project in Iraq. Similar expensive project are spread across Afghanistan. A great many of these were well-intentioned, but all are surrounded by swarms of contractors and aid agencies and their lobbyists on the U.S. side, and corrupt legislators and bureaucrats on the host-country side.
American voters are further from the day-to-day evidence of wasteful and corrupt expenditures everyday people see first-hand in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sarah Chayes‘ Thieves of State offers a first-person, close-up view of American dollars misspent on reconstruction and civil society projects in the Middle East, which continue to fund corruption and fuel religious extremism.