Academic journal article Military Review

A CAUSE FOR HOPE: Economic Revitalization in Iraq

Academic journal article Military Review

A CAUSE FOR HOPE: Economic Revitalization in Iraq

Article excerpt

I need not tell you that the world situation is very serious. That must be apparent to all intelligent people. I think one difficulty is that the problem is one of such enormous complexity that the very mass of facts presented to the public by press and radio make it exceedingly difficult for the man in the street to reach a clear appraisement of the situation. Furthermore, the people of this country are distant from the troubled areas of the earth and it is hard for them to comprehend the plight and consequent reactions of the long-suffer ing peoples, and the effect of those reactions on their governments in connection with our efforts to promote peace in the world.

-George C. Marshall

THESE WORDS, spoken before the commencement of Harvard graduates in June of 1947, captured the distress of postwar Europe and the challenge of helping the average American comprehend the import of events of the day. Weary of sacrifice after four years of global war and motivated to focus on domestic prosperity, most Americans in 1947 were unmoved by appeals to assist in new international challenges.

George C. Marshall and his fellow statesmen recognized the absolute necessity of restoring economic vitality to stabilize postwar Europe and stop the further spread of Soviet communism. Similarly, the U.S. recognized the need for economic reconstruction and development in Iraq following the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003. That recognition of need, however, is where similarities end between the two eras and their respective reconstruction efforts. The Marshall Plan focused intently on revitalization of industry, restoring factory capacity and associated employment, wealth generation, and intracontinental trade among nations that had recently been at war with one another. It required European leaders to define their own economic and industrial revitalization plans, promising massive amounts of U.S. financial assistance in return for progress in economic restructuring and integration. This approach facilitated the reestablishment of effective government in war-torn, demoralized nations and laid the groundwork for the future economic integration of Europe now embodied in the European Union.

In contrast, Iraqi reconstruction has primarily consisted of U.S.-financed and U.S.-managed construction programs to rebuild damaged basic infrastructure. Financial incentives to encourage political and economic development have not been part of the strategy for reconstruction.

The differences in the effects of these approaches are stark. Iraq today faces ongoing sectarian violence and an insurgency that threatens the elected government. This continuing violence is in no small part a result of economic distress. Our armed forces face an increasingly difficult situation-attempting to secure areas that, four years after the hope and promise of liberation, lack any improvement in economic fortunes. The nonmilitary arm of the U.S. Government has yet to fully support our armed forces with effective economic engagement so that security, once established, can be sustained.

Today in Iraq, we confront challenges and opportunities similar to those faced by Marshall. We have the imperative opportunity to invest additional American effort, creativity, and treasure to uplift the economic fortunes of ordinary Iraqis-not by building things for them, but by re-enabling them to build for themselves. To understand this opportunity, we have to grasp what has already occurred and then confront inaccurate presumptions about Iraq that continue to hinder progress in establishing economic vitality and security.

Reconstruction in Iraq

Following the fall of the Hussein regime, the U.S. Congress appropriated $2.48 billion via the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF 1) followed by an additional $18.2 billion (IRRF 2) to support the reconstruction of Iraq. The planning associated with this investment allocated percentages among six key sectors (Table 1). …

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