The sprawling new American embassy complex in Baghdad will cost at least half a billion dollars to build, probably much more. It will be by far our largest foreign service installation in the world, practically a self-contained town with its own power, sanitation, dining and housing. The size reflects the security situation, of course, but it also reflects the strategic importance that war planners put on our presence in Iraq. It’s not an accident that our Iraq outpost sits conveniently between Syria and Iran.
Now if you expect invading Iraq to end badly then the embassy complex probably strikes you as hood ornament on a monstrously expensive lemon of a project. If you supported Iraq and think that this mission might still work the embassy project is much, much more important. Although not as critical as, say, resolving Kirkuk or settling the beefs between Sadr, the Sunni councils and the central government, at the very least the center of our presence in the country ought to be habitable.
One would expect Republicans to take it worse than anybody that managers of the embassy project handed the project to a firm that never did embassy work before, mismanaged the proceedings and then buried evidence of major safety issues. They won’t, of course. A central theme of modern Republicanism is that appearing to do something is more important than doing it well. The mentality isn’t limited to the embassy, of course. It pervades contracting throughout Iraq. When Stuart Bowen, the Inpector General responsible for Iraq, uncovered evidence that America’s contracting money was largely disappearing down a fraud hole the White House reponded by trying to sack him. If any right-wing voices complained about that I don’t remember hearing about it.
Take abstinence only education. Studies have variously showed that it either doesn’t work or causes more underage sex than doing nothing, yet ordering teens to cross their legs until marriage remains a central point of the White House’s education agenda. The disparity between goals and results has gotten so stark that some states have given up federal funds so that they can implement sex ed programs that work. Hurricane FEMA. Setting aside programs that are meant to contradict their official purpose, which include mine safety, climate science and environmental protection, more often than not programs which Republicans want to work still collapse from miserable implementation.
Sure, as a guy who shares almost none of their agenda I won’t be supporting modern Republicanism any time soon. The billion dollar question is why anybody would.