Friday, July 03, 2009

Confined to Quarters

Our expeditionary force in Iraq, after failing to bring peace to warring factions, is now confined to quarters. Troops stay on base. If there is need, of course they can come roaring out at the beck and call of whoever inherits the leadership. But this is not guaranteed. They could sit on their hands. So their presence also ensures a certain quality to the government. Things have to at least look normal.

In a world where visibility is doubling every two years, this is not all bad.

An auction this week of Iraq oil leases failed to find but one bidder. The others wanted sweeter deals. It may be that the possibility of nationalized oil operations sets a baseline against which corporate operators must now compete. The Iraq wish is to maximize the nation's net income. Companies can no longer easily get in the door at a big profit by bribing local honchos. Democracy and visibility go hand in hand.

Of course, the absence of any coercive presence whatsoever is the ultimate reward of democracy. Where people can be persuaded to buy into the common social contract, they should not feel the need to form special contracts that escape it.

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