Monday, February 26, 2007

Economic Surge

"The United States needs to find fresh approaches that won't feed the sectarian dynamic and will address the needs of ordinary Iraqis...The surge we should be pushing is a political one, and even more critically, an economic one."

EPIC has been saying this for months. We’re glad to find that someone has been listening.

Fareed Zakaria's recent op-ed calls for a new course in Iraq: An economic surge, not a military one. He argues that it would help to undo the damage caused by the CPA's attempt at economic liberalization and free-market reorientation of the Iraqi economy (for more on this, check out Imperial Life in the Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran). Reopening state-run enterprises that the CPA previously shut down would provide income to poverty-stricken Iraqis:
"One of the less-remarked-upon blunders of the Coalition Provisional Authority was that—consumed by free-market ideology—it shut down all of Iraq's state-owned enterprises. This crippled the bulk of Iraq's non-oil economy, threw hundreds of thousands of workers into the streets and further alienated the Sunnis, who were the managerial class of the country."
It would also take able-bodied members of the currently disenfranchised Iraqi labor force off the streets and out of the very militias and insurgent groups the U.S. is battling.

If it sounds like a simple solution, that's because it is. All Congress has to do, writes Zakaria, is appropriate $100 million to get Iraqi state-run companies back in operation:

"It would cost $100 million to restart all of [the state run enterprises] and employ more than 150,000 Iraqis—$100 million. That's as much money as the American military will spend in Iraq in the next 12 hours."

Zakaria's lucid and parsimonious recommendation deserves everyone's attention. Despite the terrible headlines about violence in Iraq, it is important to remember that alternative solutions are being put on the table, and successful humanitarian efforts are already underway throughout the country. This is not a lost cause, and we owe it to the Iraqis and ourselves to not treat it as such. Keep checking back here for more discussion and analysis of non-military solutions for the Iraq crisis.

Go here for the article in full.

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