Cascading Systems Disruptions Pt. 3

Baghdad is home to roughly a fifth of the entire Iraqi population, and it is the center of Iraqi non-petroleum industry. It was a reasonably modern city at one point in the not too distant past. Now it is undergoing a repeated series of systems disruptions. These system disruptions are not entirely caused by insurgent attacks, although second and third order effects can be linked back to insurgent attacks that created new or exploited pre-exisiting chokepoints and societal bottlenecks. These disruptions feed on themselves in a positive feedback loop.

Right now half a million people in Baghdad are without clean water due to infrastructure breakdowns. These infrastructure breakdowns have minimal direct guerilla input, but the high costs of providing any security for infrastructure projects combined with limited funds due to the successful anti-pipeline campaign is showing its effects here.

“It’s the first time we don’t have water during winter,” said Jawad Hakeem, resident of a Baghdad suburb. “They say it’s a problem with the pipes, but I believe that careless maintenance and corruption are the main factors behind the shortage.”

The insurgency sees three direct positives here. The first is the direct physical effects of cutting water supplies; it reduces industry, economic activity, and diverts government resources from other projects. The second is illustrated by the above quote — individuals believe that their government is ineffective, incompetent and corrupt. Finally the systems failure in the water delivery system will increase systemic stress on other systems. For instance, the Iraqi medical system is already under severe strain with significant brain drain and constant trauma operations; low fresh water availability will lead to an increase in waterborne diseases thus placing more stress on a critical subsystem of a modern state.

Oil and refined fuels are another area of critical systems disruptions. We learned via Tim Lambert that a signicant amount of new electical capacity that has been installed in Iraq is next to useless because there is no capability of the newly installed units to be fueled. There is no fuel for the generators because of a combination of US incompetence (not listening to the Iraqi engineers and technocrats on what makes sense in Iraq in 2003 is kicking us in the nuts) and high levels of violence that prevents relatively “easy” fixes from being made to the fuel distribution network. Instead, these generators which cost a third of a billion dollars in lost opportunity cost sit still or consume $85/bbl Turkish diesel fuel. The price is that high because of the high transportation costs that are directly related to the lack of security.

And if you remember a previous post of mine, that Turkish diesel is no longer reliable supplier because the Iraqi government can not pay for their orders with cash on the barrel, and their credit is not that good.

Right here are three examples of systems being disrupted in order to create interacting ripple effects that are targeted against both the physical means of supporting a modern quasi-industrial state, and the moral support of the current political order.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook