The Associated Press reports that our new Defense Secretary Robert Gates is really quite bothered. The Chinese just closed a deal with the Iraqi government for $100 million worth of military equipment. According to Iraqi President Jalal Talibani, he simply had to purchase the weaponry in question from the Chinese because American manufacturers weren't delivering product in a timely way. The Iraqi National Police needed munitions and they needed them now.
At this news, the Pentagon voiced some appropriate concerns. Foreign arms flowing into Iraq, even to the government's military and police, might be "harder to track" and just might fall into the hands of insurgents. Of course, at the Pentagon, they know that of which they speak, having themselves "misplaced" approximately 190,000 AK-47 rifles somewhere in Iraq over just the past little while.
Just imagine where those Chinese guns could end up!
But actually Secretary Gates said rather confidently that he is "not worried." He claims he's not all that bothered that Iraq is turning to the Chinese for weapons. He can still cite that the US has already delivered on about $600 million worth of product. There's somewhere between $2 billion and $3 billion more on order. Business is good.
But it could always be better.
"This is an issue that we have to look into and see what we can do in the United States to be more responsive and be able to react more quickly to the requests of our friends," the Secretary said. According to the Defense Department, it generally takes us about five months to deliver our product to the (excuse the term) "marketplace" once we receive a detailed order. But we are working to improve upon that. Gates points out that we've opened up offices in Baghdad for "military sales." With improved customer service, the US hopes to "get (customer) requirements more quickly and get them processed more quickly." We can all rest assured the The Pentagon and The Defense Security Cooperation Agency have been working on this problem for quite some time.
It's maybe a little strange, the way Secretary Gates uses the word "friends."
He might have consulted his star general before making his marketing and sales analysis. It might have been worth noting that our recently reported "successes" in Anbar province involved the US directly arming local Sunni tribal elements. According to General Petraeus, these former insurgents and Ba'athists were able to turn on al Qaeda with our support and drive “the enemy” from the region.
Remember? It was on the news.
At the same time, these Sunni tribesmen were also able to assume local control of Anbar province, in direct opposition to the militant Shia factions operating from within, yes... The Iraqi National Police. (Yes, that's right, the same folks who were looking for quick turnaround on their weoponry needs.)
I am reminded that one of the great "think tank" sources for rationale for this war was (and continues to be) "The American Enterprise Institute." We are, after all, supposedly in Iraq to "defend" the principles of "American freedom and democratic capitalism." When you analyze this war in terms of marketing and sales, in terms of a bottom dollar bottom line, I suppose one can conceive of it as an enterprise, one beset by challenges, but ultimately, as our vice-president once said, "a remarkable success."
I am also reminded of a conversation I once had with another American, a businessman in fact, and an immigrant from Iran. We were talking about the way our country is perceived, around the Arab world, in Iraq and Iran. There was that question, why are we so resented? Think back to 1980's, he said. While Donald Rumsfeld was hugging Saddam Husssein at photo ops and offering support to the Iraqi military, Colonel Oliver North, from his White House basement office, was trading arms with Iran. Sit with that a while, he said, a war of ten years, that took a million lives. And we were arming both sides.
Sit with that a while.
A war conceived of as an enterprise can indeed be really quite remarkable. Today we arm Sunnis, whose allegiance was once to the regime we obliterated. We do this so as to hold in check the Shia who, it seems only yesterday we were liberating. We fund and arm both the central government and separatist factions. And our Secretary of Defense concerns himself with lost business opportunities.
Viewed through such a lens, the casualties, Iraqi combatants and civilians alike, our own soldiers, all become nothing more than the cost of doing business.
sadly, I'm not making any of this up... read the ap story