Saturday, September 8, 2007

A Most Noble Adventure

As I mentioned in an earlier post a new book, The Most Noble Adventure: The Marshall Plan and the Time When America Helped Save Europe by Greg Behrman discussed the feasibility of a Marshall Plan for Iraq.

What is at question then, is the path taken then to rebuild Europe a path that should be followed today to bring a sense of order to Iraq? Are the circumstances the same, will the same thing work now as it did then? I am by no means an expert on Europe, Iraq or on anything at all for that matter but I think not and will attempt to explain why.

I’m not going to ramble on about the state of Europe after WWII, it was in bad shape as described in the quote from Life Magazine contributor John Dos Passos in the January 7, 1946 issue:

"The ruin this war has left in Europe can hardly be exaggerated. I can remember the years after the last war. (WWI) Then, as soon as you got away from the military, all the little strands and pulleys that form the fabric of a society were still knitted together. Farmers took their crops to market. Money was a valid medium of exchange. Now the entire fabric of a million little routines has broken down. No on can think beyond food for today. Money is worthless. Cigarettes are used as a kind of lunatic travesty on a currency. If a man goes out to work he shops around to find the business that serves the best hot meal. The final pay-off is the situation reported from the Ruhr where the miners are fed at the pits so that they will not be able to take the food home to their families."

The difference, as they say, is in the details. First of all, in Europe, the "war" had ended. Even though there was still a presence of a military occupation, the day to day fighting had stopped and sights were set on normalcy. This obviously is not the case in Iraq, we are engaged in a war on a daily basis while pretending to attempt to bring the country to a self-sustaining level. I don’t believe that war and reconstruction, on any level, can mutually co-exist.

Next, Europe was economically and politically damaged by war. Iraq has been damaged not only by war but also by years of a direct neglect of its infrastructure by the Hussein regime. Not only was his government oppressive, it ignored the need to maintain and improve necessary physical resources. There were power outages and shortages of water before the invasion. This got worse not better after the war started and is still a significant issue today. Thus, a majority of the people of Iraq continues to suffer the consequences. In Europe, as reconstruction proceeded, the life of the people of the countries, including Germany, most directly impacted improved. The plan helped to restore an order that previously existed. For any plan to be a success in Iraq, it will have to create order that did not exist under the prior regime.

Also, for any plan to work you have to understand the nature of the problem. If he had a plan for reconstruction, and it certainly did not look like it, Bush could not have recognized the magnitude of the impact the removal of Saddam would have on the country (OK, that is a statement of the obvious). This leads to my concluding point.

Though not the final reason by any means, my last point is that the divisiveness that exists between sects in Iraq did not exist in post war Europe. In order for Marshall’s plan to work, the Europeans had to take ownership and they did. In Iraq, the differences between the Sunni, Shiites and Kurds are a significant barrier to the type of plan put together by Marshall. Even though we unleashed the beast with the removal of Saddam, only the people of Iraq can resolve the problem, no matter how much money we throw at it (and that will be covered in part 2 of my story).


sybil law said...

Definitely Bush had no clue. He had zero foresight into any of it.
As far as the Iraqis themselves taking any responsibility - good luck. Everyone there is scared of someone. What a waste of time, but what a coup if by some miracle something did/ does happen.

CamiKaos said...

No one in this day and age is willing to take any responsibility for anything.