State Department Spreads Democracy—and Money

A friend points me to a recent article on Foreign Policy’s website written by a career State Department employee who spent a year in Iraq trying to “win the hearts and minds” of the Iraqi people. I’ve pretty much become numb to stories about government failure, but this one left me with my forehead planted on my desk.

Here are some of the ideas that government officials actually gave the green light to, using your tax dollars:

  • French pastry classes for Iraqi women.
  • A play about a town’s dispute over “the value of shade cast by a donkey.”
  • A road constructed to facilitate commerce was instead used by insurgents to carry out attacks.
  • A local artist was paid to paint a mural of “oiled, homoerotic Steve Reeves musclemen” on the wall of a gym.
  • Bicycles were bought for impoverished children in a Baghdad neighborhood. However, the roads were too damaged and dangerous for the kids to ride their bikes, so the bike wheels ended up being used on wheelchairs for injured Iraqis.
  • The creation of a Baghdad Yellow Pages even though only 250 businesses with permanent landlines could be found.

I suspect that some readers will respond that the federal government should instead be using taxpayer dollars to build roads and fund the arts here in the United States. However, as we demonstrate over and over again at DownsizingGovernment.org, the federal government does a lousy job of spending other people’s money at home or abroad—period.