2003 April 16

Doing imperialism right

The Economist has a good article on rebuilding Iraq. The central point is this:

The overriding lesson from past efforts is that economic and political reconstruction are tightly linked. One cannot happen without the other. Beyond that, two further lessons emerge. First, how aid is used matters at least as much as how much aid there is. The Marshall-plan aid after the second world war, for example, was actually quite a small proportion of European GDP at the time. Second, although handing over to local government must be an explicit goal of nation-building, power should be transferred only as quickly as local institutions can exercise it properly -- no matter how keenly the occupiers feel that they must not appear to be imperialist. [+]
In other words, every political factor that militates against staying sadly makes it more likely the job will be done half-assed.

Perhaps it's because Canada's experience of the British Empire was generally positive, but it seems to me there are worse things that could happen at this point than a bit of forthright neo-imperialism. At any rate, it's the course the United States has chosen, so we kind of have to make the best of it. For the record, I'd like to state the conditions I'm holding to grade the success of the venture. (Some of these I'm stealing from Anthony Perez-Miller, who I was talking with about this stuff earlier this week.)

  1. Within two months (mid-June): An effective nationwide distribution network for humanitarian aid and essential utilities. Also, it must be reasonably safe to drive the roads without armed escort.
  2. Within six months (mid-October): Transitional constitution and government, with American authorities retaining significant influence.
  3. Within three years (2006): Full restoration of municipal authorities, including local police, under Iraqi control.
  4. Within six years (2009): Elected, functioning, post-transitional government. American hand-over of control.
  5. After ten years (2013): Government continues to survive without a coup. Press remains generally recognized as free; no journalists are in jail. There are at least two political parties with members holding some kind of executive office, including mayors, provincial governors, and cabinet members.
We can hope. If anyone thinks my standards are too high, I'd be curious to hear about it. Also, if you have any better ideas for objective, unambiguous tests of success.

One more thing, while I'm on the topic. Before the war started, Salam Pax (who I'm really hoping to hear from again) wrote something I've wanted to quote for a while, but haven't got around to:

Do support democracy in Iraq. But don't equate it with war. What will happen is something that could/should have been avoided. Don't expect me to wear a [I heart bush] t-shirt. Support democracy in Iraq not by bombing us to hell and then trying to build it up again (well that is going to happen any way) not by sending human shields (let's be real the war is going to happen and Saddam will use you as hostages), but by keeping an eye on what will happen after the war. [+]
This is now the time.

Post a comment
Yes   No   (like the Turing Test, but easier)

TrackBack Links
If you run a blog that supports TrackBack, you can link to this article with this TrackBack key.