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The July 4 article “China stepping in with money, projects in Iraq” stepped around mentioning a stumbling block that the U.S. government and our public corporations encounter when trying to do business in the rest of the world. To quote the article, “in part because of a higher tolerance for risk and a savvy diplomatic corps that has laid the groundwork for advantageous deals.” To rephrase, Chinese companies tolerate the higher risk by not interfering in other countries’ application of human rights abuses, and they have greased the right palms, delivered the correct amount of emoluments to the right government officials, and dealt with the entrenched power brokers with cash gifts. Very slyly disguised bribery.

Our government handicaps U.S. corporations with laws that prohibit doing business this way, even as our government recognizes that this is the only way to do business in certain parts of the world. However, U.S. corporations do try to circumvent these stumbling blocks by providing opportunities to fly on corporate jets, use corporate resort facilities and offer the use of corporate assets such as luxury apartments in the capitals of the world. It’s hard to disguise the direct transfer of money to get an advantageous position. Finder’s fees and middleman’s compensation notwithstanding, U.S. business would be better equipped to deal on an international basis on the same level playing field. Then again, we’d lose our elevated sense of moral superiority if we were to do so.

In the case of the Middle East and South Asia, we are making sacrifices of our human capital to open the doors for our economic competitors. The scavengers of the world will feed heartily on our leavings, effectively doubling our losses. Lives and opportunity sacrificed for a principle, the American way.

Lou Nelson

Yokota Air Base, Japan

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