America’s chronic inability/unwillingness to build stuff that lasts

Powerful indictment of Washington by Peter Van Buren in TomDispatch about the privatisation disease that sweeps the world and delivers little except profits to a group of corporations. This is what imperialism means in the 21st century:

With the success of the post-World War II Marshall Plan in Europe and the economic miracle in Japan, rebuilding other countries gained a certain imperial patina. Both took relatively little money and time. The… reconstruction… of Germany and Japan cost only $32 billion and $17 billion, respectively (in 2010 dollars), in large part because both had been highly educated, industrialized powerhouses before their wartime destruction.

In 2003, still tumescent with post-9/11 rage and dreams of global glory, anything seemed possible to the men and women of the Bush administration, who would… cite… the German and Japanese examples of just what the U.S. could do as they entered Iraq. Following what seemed like a swift military defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the plan had gotten big and gone long.…  It was nothing less than this: remake the entire Middle East in the American image.

The country’s mighty military was to sweep through Iraq, then Syria — Marines I knew told me personally that they were issued maps of Syria in March 2003 — then Iran, quickly set up military bases and garrisons (“enduring camps”), create Washington-friendly governments, pour in American technology and culture, bring in the… crony corporations… under the rubric of “reconstruction,” privatize everything, stand up new proxy militaries under the rubric of regime change, and forever transform the region.

Once upon a time, the defeated Japanese and Germans had become allies and, better yet, consumers. Now, almost six decades later, no one in the Bush administration had a doubt the same would happen in Iraq — and the Middle East would follow suit at… minimal cost, creating the greatest leap forward for aPax Americana… since the Spanish-American War. Added bonus: a “sea of oil.”

By 2010, when I wrote… We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, the possibility that some level of success might be close by still occupied some official minds. American boots remained on the ground in Mesopotamia and looked likely to stay on for years in at least a few of the… massive permanent bases… we had built there. A sort-of elected government was more or less in place, and in the press interviews I did in response to my book I was regularly required to defend its thesis that reconstruction in Iraq had failed almost totally, and that the same process was going down in Afghanistan as well. It was sometimes a tough sell. After all, how could we truly fail, being plucky Americans, historically equipped like no one else with plenty of bootstraps and know-how and gumption.