Friday, December 08, 2006

Light Reading: Iraq Study Group Report

I've been toting around my printout of the ISG report, reading bits and snippets and talking with people about it -- at the dentist, at a Boy Scout Christmas Party, at this office and that -- and I have to say the description of the warring factions and who's who in Iraq, Iran, etc. is damned fascinating and equally depressing.

Certain details on the "bad guys" and "good guys" make it sound like a very badly designed videogame. It wouldn't sell 3 copies if it were a shoot-em-up. You can't figure out WHO the enemy is, who to point your gun at, who to run and hide from. Certainly the situation we find ourselves in is lots less fun than any videogame I've ever played.

Certain statements jump off the page ... try these for instance:
The Shia, the majority of Iraq's population, have gained power for the first time in more than 1,300 years.
or try this for fun -- this isn't SimCity, it's SimSlum:
Inflation is above 50 percent. Unemployment estimates range widely from 20 to 60 percent.
Criminality also makes daily life unbearable for many Iraqis. Robberies, kidnappings and murder are commonplace in much of the country.
And you already knew this about Iraq oil wealth:
It as the world's second-largest known oil reserves.
But it's not just about how much oil there is ... but WHERE the oil is. Check this out:
Another key unresolved issue is the future of Kirkuk, an oil-rich city in northern Iraq that is home to substantial numbers of Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen.
And if you wondered what they pay for gas:
... the price per liter of gas has increased from roughly 1.7 cents to 23 cents ...
When Americans read that gas is roughly (okay I'll call a liter a gallon, not accurate, but workable for the moment) 23 cents, but used to be 2 cents ... well, the whole thing sounds completely nutty.

And this was interesting:
As one knowledgeable American official put it, "If there were foreign forces in New Jersey, Tony Soprano would be an insurgent leader."
So when you start playing this videogame, after reading all these rules, who do you want to be?