About our successful nation-building in Iraq

Summary:  Wars corrupt everything they touch, including our minds.  In our pundits’ desperate attempt to justify the Iraq disaster they’ll write any sort of nonsense, confident that we’ll believe anything if confidently asserted.  Are they correct?

 Today’s example:  “Nation Building Works“, David Brooks, op-ed in the New York Times, 30 August 2010.

He gives two justifications for Iraq.  Both assume that Iraq would be in worse shape if we had quickly withdrawn in 2003, before the insurgency.  First, Brooks points to Iraq’s economic recovery.  How could the nation with the world’s second-largest oil reserves recover without US financial aid?

 “America has spent $53 billion trying to reconstruct Iraq, the largest development effort since the Marshall Plan.” 

Can any non-western nation collect the trash without US aid and guidance?

“In February 2009, 45% of Iraqis said they had access to trash removal services, which is woeful, though up from 18% the year before.”

Second, Books points with pride to Iraq’s government.

“Politically, the basic structure is sound, and a series of impressive laws have been passed. But these gains are imperiled by the current stalemate at the top.”

Invading Iraq to overthrow a tyrant is commendable, albeit with the side-effect of also overthrowing four centuries of effort to construct an international legal framework limiting the use of force.   But Iraq’s Parliament has played little role in its government.  Worse, the failure to establish a government 6 months after the March 7 election is an ominous sign.  Perhaps our self-congratulation is premature, and should await for a successful transfer of power between leaders.

Underlying this is a great conceit.  Iraq had a great civilization for two thousand years when our celtic ancestors still painted themselves blue and worshiped trees.  Nation-building does not well described our adventures in Iraq, either our goals or actions.  Not now, nor in our support for the 1963 coup that brought the Ba’ath Party to power {Wikipedia}.

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