Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Millions in the Long Run

Professor Cole offers 10 myths the American public believes about the war in Iraq. Most of his analysis is sound, but I would take issue with number nine. He contends that the massive amounts of money spent in the restive governorates has done little to win the support of the people.

It's true that there is strident opposition to the American presence in the three main Sunni province. But its worth considering how much worse the situation might look like if not for American aid. There was speculation that after the last assault on Falluja that there would be a massive humanitarian crisis. Though the number of deaths is unknown, its safe to say that aid, despite its shortcomings, did mitigate the effects.

Of course, it could be pointed out that American involvement caused the crisis in the first place and that the net effect on support for the US was negative. But in the case of Falluja aid, the support was in the form of food, medical supplies, shelters and provisions for other immediate needs. The bulk of aid into the Sunni provinces is in the form of traditional development assistance, such as job creation programs, trainings, and infrastructure repair.

While its easy to assess the initial cost of this aid, the real value takes years to appear. A training program that equips Iraqis with the skills to participate in a local council will not yield dividends for a long time. But the possible contribution to the long-term stability of a democratic society is invaluable. If the insurgency is fueled by the economic calculus that Cole suggests, these programs increase the costs that the insurgency must pay to achieve its aims.

Its also a mistake to confuse the support for American presence in Iraq and support for American aims in Iraq. Even if the majority of the population of Anbar does encourage IED attacks on American troops, this should not be taken to mean that they oppose a stable, democratic Iraq. As Cole notes, their aims are nationalistic, which is different from anti-democratic, Islamist, or authoritarian. The aid will not quell nationalist aspirations, which will only be satiated by American military withdrawal. But the millions spent in the Sunni governorates now will encourage the development of a stable, democratic Iraq and bolster its supporters long after the American troops have left and aid levels have declined.

And now for something completely different: When one of my Iraqi coworkers took a break from working toward Iraq's long-term stability, I was forwarded this fun game. I scored a 670.


Blogger J. Otto Pohl said...

Mahaba: I got your comment on my blog. Are there any plans to build an American University in Iraq along the lines of AUB or AUC?

December 29, 2005 11:40 AM  

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