Friday, February 15, 2008

A Simple Plan for Getting the US Out of Iraq, Part II

Alternative #2. Make Use of Our Indigenous Resources

Okay. I admit we can expect some pushback from the US State Department at the idea of installing the Chinese in the Middle East. As long as guys run the world, we’re going to have to deal with governments having this football concept of what constitutes winning, and one of the silly rules is that the expansion of anyone else’s dominance means you are losing. Stupid, yes, but a basic factor in how international relations work. So, here’s another innovative approach.

The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world—we have locked up a bigger percentage of our people than anyone else. As far as I can ascertain, we've managed to lock up a bigger percentage of our citizens than any country in history. In fact, even in absolute terms we have more people behind bars than any nation has managed. The US has only a fraction of runner-up China’s population, yet we have about 2.2 million people behind bars, while China can boast only a meager 1.5 million.

Hey, we're number one! Do we rock, or what?

If you include people “in the system”—locked up, on probation, or on parole—our numbers are even more impressive: 7 million people.

Now, the majority of these people weren’t dangerous when they were sent to prison. The majority of them are petty thieves, drug users, minor dealers, forgers, people 19 years old who had sex with someone who was 17, or men who fell behind on child-support payments. But plenty of these folks come out violent and predatory. And, yes, some of the people in there were really scary when they were first locked up.

Our brilliant system of mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes means that murderers and violent gang members are constantly dumped back onto the streets to open up cells for college students caught selling marijuana. Here in California we have more than 200,000 prisoners crammed into prisons designed for 83,000. Thousands of them are sleeping on cots in what were intended to be gymnasiums and auditoriums. According to the law, you can't let out the people convicted of drug offenses until they have served their full terms, so, to free up beds, guess who gets paroled? (There have been proposals to fix this obviously broken system, but the prison-guard's union, now one of the richest and most powerful entities in the state, dumps millions of dollars into campaigns opposing any sort of changes to the law or creation of treatment programs.)

Many states strip your right to vote if you have gone to prison; and, as a former felon, most lines of work are closed to you. What few people are aware of is that US federal law also prohibits felons from ever receiving Medicare or Medicaid—which in effect means that once you’ve served time, you will probably never have health care again. This has created a large segment of the population who has no investment in the future of our country.

Now, producing tens of millions of alientated, hostile people (if you include the people who are no longer "in the system") who have limited rights, limited prospects, and who have no vested interest in whether our government lives on or collapses...well, that might seem like a suicidal policy for a society to adopt. But we have gone at it relentlessly; a basic tenet of American government is that if something doesn't seem to be working, it's because we didn't do it hard enough.

Luckily, we're an innovative people. When a Yankee businessman steps in something unpleasant, you can rely on someone on his staff to figure out a way not to only scrape it off his shoe, but also to sell it to someone.

So, in the spirit of American can-do approaches, here’s my proposal—let all these people out of prison or off parole if they'll move to Iraq. I don’t mean enroll them in the military and send them as soldiers. I mean move the ones who want to go. Give them a cash grant and some weapons.

True, a lot of the folks who would sign on for this are members of different gangs who are sworn enemies, but I’m guessing that in the face of the nuttiness in Baghdad, they’d be able to set aside their conflicts and attend to the business of imposing gangster order. Our best guys are as full-on whacko violent as anybody over there--after all, we invented the drive-by shooting--and they are also smart enough to do these sorts of things without committing suicide in the process.

You can rest assured that once our folks work out the economic analogy that oil in Iraq is the equivalent of crack in the US, there won't be anymore oilfield sabotage. True, a violent, gangster-run state is an unpleasant thing, but that's what Iraq has always been, since the day the British and French invented the 'country' back after World War I. So, it's just a return to the status quo, except that our guys speak English. Mostly. Sorta.

The bottom line: Our gangs can beat up your gangs. Give the Crips and the Bloods and the Aryan Brotherhood a few months on the ground over there, and they be pimpin’ them insurgents' scrawny little asses all over Baghdad.

So, there’s my contribution to solving our major international crisis. I offer these ideas in a non-partisan spirit, and don’t see why they can’t form a critical plank in the platforms of both parties at their respective conventions. Think of it as an export.


Neil said...

David, I'm not sure enlightening is the word I'm looking for. (For what it's worth, I much prefer option 1. Option 2 seems a little too neat for the US and nasty for Iraq.)

And is the age of consent 18 in the US? I didn't know that.

David Isaak said...

Hi Neil--

Whaddaya mean, convenient for us? Wed had to give up our position as Number 1!

As to the age of consent, you're a narried man now. You don't need to know.

Alis said...

Horribly brilliant, David. Is this the plot of your next book but one?

David Isaak said...

Hi, Alis...I hadn't cast it in those terms. Probably not one for "David Isaak", but it's the sort of thing David Biro (or whatever his name is) might write.

Usman said...


Not so sure you're whackos would win in Iraq. I am comparing Fireby shootings vs suicide bombers.
Just a thought, would the convicts be allowed to come back to US.
I say no. Look at the Aussies. The British sort of did the same and everyone lived happily ever after.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Usman-

Nope, I think you're wrong. I won't argue about who is more whacko. But one of the features of suicide violence is that in the longer run, the mathematics work against you. Killers who keep themselves alive as the first priority have more, well longevity.

As to the Australia remark, which is well-founded, see my next post!

Eliza Graham said...

Can we volunteer some of our British 'talent' for this exercise, David?

David Isaak said...

Hi, Eliza.

Hey, you folks are not only "the cousins" and therefore always welcome, but you are the acknowledged masters of the game. Of course you can play! The Great Game, ala Kipling, is all yours. We're just keepng your seat warm while you go out for snacks.

While you're at it, can you send some of those Double-O, licensed-to-kill guys (or gals)? We have those licenses here, too, but nobody in America can pass the exams. Well, except Dick Cheney.

And, as long as we're talking about credentials, what the heck are A levels and O levels, anyway? Are you guys aware that we have no clue at all what you're on about with that stuff? I see job ads in The Econmist and they want people to have "good honours degrees" as if there's such a thing as a "bad honors degree" and as if the word "honors" requires the letter "u", and then there's those levels...Why A and O? Why not A and B? What IS that, Axcellent and Ordinary? Average and Outta-This-World? What the heck are you people talking about?

Sorry, sorry. No, really, sorry. Lost it there for a moment. I'm probably just a little bitter because I never got my license to kill.

Most likely because I didn't have a good honours degree.