David Brooks: Nation Building Works

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Iraq ranks fourth in the Middle East on the Index of Political Freedom from The Economist’s Intelligence Unit — behind Israel, Lebanon and Morocco, but ahead of Jordan, Egypt, Qatar and Tunisia. Nearly two-thirds of Iraqis say they want a democracy, while only 19 percent want an Islamic state.

In short, there has been substantial progress on the things development efforts can touch most directly: economic growth, basic security, and political and legal institutions. After the disaster of the first few years, nation building, much derided, has been a success. When President Obama speaks to the country on Iraq, he’ll be able to point to a large national project that has contributed to measurable, positive results.

Of course, to be honest, he’ll also have to say how fragile and incomplete this success is. Iraqi material conditions are better, but the Iraqi mind has not caught up with the Iraqi opportunity.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsIraq WarPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistanMiddle EastIraq

5 Comments
Posted August 31, 2010 at 8:51 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:

Look at the entire region for democracies in one form or another:

Turkey, Israel, Iran (it’s not a democracy, but the people have repeatedly demonstrated a longing for democracy going back to 1953), India, and Pakistan (a struggling democracy).

Not one of those is an Arab nation. They are also the most powerful nations across the region. “Arab” is obviously a big problem, not only with democracy, but power and success.

As a side note, there are also more books translated into Spanish in any given year than have been translated into Arabic in the last 1000 years. It is a failed culture, and having shared a lab with three Iraqis for two years (late ‘70s) I would also add that the problem is far worse with southern Arabs—Egyptians, Libyans, Saudis, Sudanese, Yemenis, etc—than with northern Arabs or the western Arabs (Tunisia, Morocco, etc.)

In that regard alone, Bush’s incredibly bold attempt to establish a functioning democracy in the Arab world was remarkably fore-sighted, and he chose the best possible place. Success is not assured, but he was well-advised and made the correct decision when it counted.

Ask me in 50 years whether it worked.

August 31, 1:49 pm | [comment link]
2. Mike L wrote:

Too bad we nearly bankrupted our own country to make Iraq a “paradise”.

August 31, 5:40 pm | [comment link]
3. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:

Mike—total cost of the Iraq endeavour was less than the February ‘09 “stimulus” ... which accomplished exactly what?

August 31, 6:31 pm | [comment link]
4. Mike L wrote:

According to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report published in October 2007, the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost taxpayers a total of $2.4 trillion dollars by 2017 when counting the huge interest costs because combat is being financed with borrowed money. The CBO estimated that of the $2.4 trillion long-term price tag for the war, about $1.9 trillion of that would be spent on Iraq, or $6,300 per U.S. citizen.
vs
The economic stimulus bill’s price tag has risen to $862 billion, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday (Jan of ‘10) — a $75 billion jump that’s a result in part to the fact that, despite the spending, joblessness has risen and the government is paying out more than expected on unemployment benefits.

But I can understand how some would approve dropping that amount of cash on someone else and not this country’s own people.

August 31, 7:58 pm | [comment link]
5. Mitchell wrote:

Yes, Mike thats right.  Building schools, roads, and hospitals; feeding the hungry; and caring for the sick and injured in Iraq is nation building.  Building schools, roads, and hospitals; feeding the hungry, and caring for the sick and injured in the US is socialism.

September 1, 6:30 pm | [comment link]
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