Sunday, August 16, 2009

All the money that they're making is going to the man.

What makes a man a man?
Am I a man?
Yes. Technically I am.

I don't feel that I need to cite my sources if I am going to say that one of the prime issues facing US/"Western"/What-have-you investment in Central Asia is corruption. Every dollar sent stan-ward makes cents go to all sorts of fascinating places, usually not where they were intended.

However, endemic corruption isn't exactly a cultural phenomenon. People like to ascribe failed states to failing due to corruption, but I'm not sure how accurate that is. I would bet that corruption is a trailing indicator, that is, folks in high (and low) office tend to start looking out for themselves when it becomes obvious to them that nobody higher on up is. I, of course, have nothing to back this up.

But more likely, corruption is everywhere, from Illinois to India. The Susurluk scandal is still my absolute favorite example. And Every Day Should Be Saturday gets to the heart of the issue in a way only he can,
"Given the rump parliament of retards, kiss-ass ninjas, fuckwits, slaglobed shitboxers, lizard people, and sluts who ran student government at Florida, we assume the Alabama Student Government must be populated with the same type of half-people who always seem to pop up for these things."


So why is corruption so vilified over there, and shrugged about over here? Here it's institutionalized. Earmarks, pork spending, Bridges to Nowhere, lobbyists, the whole ugly shebang is simply How Democracy Works. But when institutions are built from the ground up, the Poli Sci majors running the joints tend to hope that We can build a really more perfect union over There. And regional experts tend to be blithely ignored, to the point where the Wall Street Journal wonders why nobody ever studied it, giving Christian Bleuer the opportunity to mock them and hard.

Corruption will exist. Everywhere. And USAID and SecState and all of those good folks in well-cut suits will not turn CAsians into little bureaucrats out of a BBC regency drama, these are actual human beings, with actual life goals and dreams. Not tools with which to solve America's issues.

On a very simple level, if you are trying to build a better stan, you have to deal the cards that are in the deck. It helps to know the area, and ask some stupid questions to some Ph.D. folks. A solely military solution is not the answer, and nobody is expecting it to be. But a solely governmental solution is likely not going to get anyone much further.

So what is the solution? I don't know, these things are complicated. But my bet is that things like architecture, infrastructure, and a sensical legal code matter just as much if not more than poppy culling, baddie busting, and high-level talks. People, on an individual level, need to be involved, and that means much more than USAID and Peace Corps.

Corruption happens. It's something to be worried about, of course, but I sincerely doubt it's going to be seriously solved on the outside any time soon. There are other ways to get serious economic and quality-of-life progress going on. They may be more obscure, they may read like something out of bldgblog, but they're as worthy of serious consideration as anything else.

Context and creativity is worth more than teeth gnashing and moral turpitude. And complaining that Their corruption is so much more unseemly than Ours really doesn't seem too much like the former.

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