Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Jazz and Policy

The fundamental difference between be-bop jazz and most forms of music that preceded it is that be-bop leaves room for dissonance and improvisation. In be-bop a trumpet player can go off melody and beat, creating wildly dissonant patterns. I love be-bop... as a form of music. Be-bop, however, is not a bureaucratic or political style that goes over too terribly well. That, according to an article in The Nation, hasn't stopped it from being tried as we struggle to create a future for Iraq.

I'll spare you the particulars of the article. Andrew Ackerman already wrote them, so I'll simply give you the necessary bits. According to Ackerman the Pentagon has awarded a nearly $3M contract for the protection of diplomats in Iraq to Aegis Defence Services, a London-based mercenary firm headed by the notorious Tim Spicer. Spicer is widely known in military circles as one of the most scandalous and disreputable men in a field that is hardly overburdened by ethics. The reason he is "widely known" is that he has, historically, been less than discreet while engaging in very questionable activities. He has previously violated international and British law by trafficking arms into Sierra Leone, accidentally triggered a coup in Paupa New Guinea, and, while commanding a Scots Guard unit in Belfast, allowed men guilty of murder to return to duty.

Five senators, led by Ted Kennedy, have lodged a protest with the Department of Defense to no avail. Protests raised by competitors to the GAO have had similar results. Simply put, Spicer's company meets all the bureaucratic requirements to be awarded the contract, and, frankly, were this a traditional war zone, I would think this a perfectly reasonable situation. War zones, however, are no longer traditional. The United States is, for better or worse, trying to build a free and modern state where once there was a despotism. This task must be taken personally. Every leader involved must share, or at least comprehend, the vision of a free Iraq. For the Department of Defense to outsource security duties to conflict-prone mercenaries is tantamount to the conductor of an orchestra allowing a trumpet player to go off melody during an Aaron Copeland symphony. Be-bop, it turns out, simply doesn't sound good as policy.

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