Economics and Iraq

Cuba doesn’t work. Period, end of story. Similarly, the old USSR. Why? Well, the economic system is untenable. Motivations and constraints produce predictable human behavior (even if many people refuse to predict that behavior and prefer to assume that the outcomes will be different from what common sense would dictate). But the opposite is also true – a system with no controls doesn’t work either. We’ve had a few examples of libertarian gun toting paradise – most recently Somalia – and things just don’t work there either.

And within the narrow range of experience of American politics, its clear that one party is better at producing sustainable growth in income for individuals than the other.

Which leads to a post by Atrios who links to this story by Reuters:

Years of economic policy mistakes after the fall of Saddam Hussein left unemployed young Iraqis easy targets for recruitment by al Qaeda and other insurgents, a U.S. Defense Department official said on Sunday.

Paul Brinkley, deputy under-secretary of defense for business transformation in Iraq, said Iraq’s shattered industrial base had to be revitalised to bring down unemployment levels of about 60 percent and help reconciliation.

He said political, social and economic stability would be much easier if factories, many left idle since the 2003 invasion to topple Saddam, could win even a small fraction of the trade the United States conducts every year with economies like China, India, Indonesia and Thailand.

“If we could just get some of that factored into Iraq we’d uplift the lives of every Iraqi and al Qaeda wouldn’t have any people to recruit,” Brinkley told Reuters in an interview.

Brinkley said early economic planners had made the understandable mistake of assuming that a free market would rapidly emerge to replace what he described as Saddam’s “kleptocracy”, and create full employment.

This mistaken assumption led to a series of decisions which “sowed the seeds of economic malaise and fuelled insurgent sympathies” after industrial production collapsed and imports flooded in to replace locally made goods.

The Coalition Provisional Authority, headed by American Paul Bremer, was set up by the western allies after the fall of Saddam and largely ran Iraq until June 2004 when an interim Iraqi government took over.

Brinkley said unemployment and under-employment of the proportions in Iraq would create unrest in any country. In a recent Military Review article he said Iraq’s unrelenting violence “is in no small part a result of economic distress”.

Some of us have been saying for a while… the pie in the sky economic plans of this administration have contributed to the current mess in Iraq. I think back to the first time I posted about Iraq… it wasn’t long ago – November – but here is what I wrote at the time.