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The Petraeus Solution

A few weeks back, Glenn Beck suggested that we should put General David Petraeus in charge of oversight for the $700 billion TARP program:

Spencer Ackerman has some related thoughts about counterinsurgency and fiscal stimulus:

Clearly, we’re not facing an insurgent threat in the U.S. that requires COIN tools for remediation and so what I’m saying here is pretty silly and astrategic. But it’s always been weird to hear military officers moot suggestions for dealing with “root causes” of insurgencies by massive government jobs programs, increasing the capacity of the state and so forth, since if you ever suggested in the U.S. that people should deal with crime by, say, getting the goverment to give poor people jobs you’d be considered some sort of squish.

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I don’t think it’s all that silly. Both a counterinsurgency and a systemic bank crisis are situation in which standard monetary policy interventions aren’t going to be sufficient to generate job growth. I’m sure Petraeus would have been happy to just have the Iraqi central bank cut interest rates and forget all about the jobs program if there were any chance of that actually working. But it wouldn’t work so we got a big jobs program. And of course there is some precedent — like with the Marshall Plan — of progressive leaders using popular military men to help build support for controversial-but-necessary emergency spending endeavors.