by Tyler Cowen
on October 22, 2006 at 7:29 am
in Political Science |
I’m not claiming the following model is true, but it is worth seeing what the simplest public choice model implies…
To repeat, I am not claiming this model is true.
It’s not clear what you are so carefully caveatting. I don’t think that it’s controversial to say that Iraq is in chaos, or that the US put Iraq in play by invading.
I think the Shiites lack of a credible commitment device to share the oil wealth and use force lawfully must be included as a critical element driving the insurgency.
Perhaps regional powers have a role in solving this commitment problem.
This is your simple model? I would suggest you remember
Einstein’s much-quoted line: make it as simple as possible,
but not too simple. This is too simple.
First of all, Charlie is right. If the military had not
been disbanded, this would have substantially reduced (although
probably not prevented) the Saddamist-Baathist insurgency. Also,
I see no point in having “de-Baathized” and banned the Baath
Party. What was this all about unless one believed the tripe
that they were actually as bad as the Nazis, as some ridiculously
claimed? Heck, most of the former Soviet bloc still has its
Communist Parties, some still carrying that name and some still
pretty unreconstructed. Most of those countries seem to be doing
a lot better than Iraq.
One might say, “oh, they did not have a democratic tradition.”
Really? And did Hungary or Bulgaria or Russia have democratic
traditions? In fact, prior to the anti-monarchist coup of 1958,
there was a functioning parliament in Iraq, established in the
1920s under British rule. Granted, its powers were limited, but
the prime ministers came out of it and it did have some power.
The Hashemite monarchs, who were outsiders imposed by the Brits,
were not absolute monarchs at all. Indeed, when we first set
up a new parliament, the first prime minister (a Sunni, forget
his name at the moment) was an old guy who had not only served
in that pre-1958 parliament, but had held ministerial posts.
Their traditions were not obviously much less democratic than
those in large parts of the former Soviet bloc (there are exceptions,
such as Poland, which have had long and deep democratic traditions).
Finally, what you propose appears to have been more or less
what the DOD and neocons were attempting to pull off. They even
had their Shi’i would be puppet leader ready to roll, that inimitable
Ph.D. in mathematics, the honorable Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi
National Congress. Of course they were supposedly a multi-ethnic
group, but he is a nice secular Shi’i, if a corrupt crook and
horribly unpopular in Iraq, as we came to discover.
Of course, maybe you mean we should have put in place a religiously
based Shi’i autocracy, like the group that is now in power after all
our efforts to set up a democratically voted in constitution and a
democratically elected government. There are at least two problems
with this, both now visible, and one that would have held back the
Bushies up front. The first is that there are all these factions
among that group, which are now battling it out in southern Iraq.
The other is that it would appear to give too much of a victory to
theocratic Iran. That is why our folks favored the secular Chalabi,
even though he has since been shown to have long been in cahoots
with Iran, with some suggesting that they were ultimately behind
his false evidence of WMDs that he peddled so eagerly to such a
gullible audience in Washington.
So, Tyler, you went a bit too simple on this one…
The bloodshed from partition could be greatly reduced if partition was a highly automated affair with a large amount of transportation capacity to move people and mobile homes to move displaced people into.
But to automate partition would require admission that it was necessary. The problem is that many potential policy options require an admission that the situation is so dire that radical changes in strategy are necessary. That requires admission of huge mistakes. That runs very counter to the personality of a person powerful person in the White House.
What useful policy options are available which are commensurate with the size of the problem which do not require at least an implicit admission of huge error? I can’t think of any. So the tragedy must continue to play out at least until late January 2009.
…the gun is not loaded, but each person has a dozen bullets. Who should get the gun to enforce peace among all others? The question of constraints arises — can the gun hold 12 bullets or merely 6? If the latter, than there is the potential to punish a defector who promises to use the gun for peace. If not, a promise can be (deadly) cheap talk…
It is rare for an occupying power to set up a democracy, so historical data are scarce.
Actually it is not “rare” at all. The historical data is quite extensive on this. The British consistently tried to do with their colonies (as did the French to some degree) but the results, especially in Africa, have not been encouraging. Democracies soon gave way to kleptocracies or ethnic/religious slaughter.
Probably the major exception is India. India, however, which has an overwhelming Hindu majority, does not have the same ethnic and religious fragmentation as Iraq. India, like Japan, also has a long history of nationhood which Iraq does not.
I don’t vote for the India option. My preference is for the U.S. to get out asap. I’m just noting that (post partitioni) that Indian is one of the few (relatively speaking) democratic success stories.
As you point out, however, even with India, partition was both necessary for the success of this democracy and extremely bloody. By contrast, even if partition could be accomplished in Iraq, the lack of a sense of nationhood would still be a stumbling block. Stability might be possible in Iraq (or in the bits of pieces thereof) but I doubt that democracy will be, at least for quite some time.
Democracy, assuming we mean liberal democracy that respects individual rights, is not an option for Iraq as a whole or in parts. This has no basis in the culture and little basis in Iraq’s history. Invading was not the problem; nations-building (i.e. social-engineering) is the problem. We’ve replaced dictators with dictators before but engineer a liberal democracy with the freedoms and the rule of law typical in the Anglosphere? Absurd!
It’s sad that few critics could point out the deficiencies in Iraq’s culture but instead focus on the administration’s errors as if it is all in our control. It’s an American-centric approach that fails to take into account the ultimate problem: an impoverish culture and barbaric society. Any knowledge of the region would have limited intervention if not outright prevented it. They are not just like us.
I’m aware of Iraq the parliament. Obviously the moderating effect of colonialism has faded and the Islamic Revival is sweeping the Muslim world. Turkey, of course, had a tyrant who pounded Islam out of his people as much as he could. Besides the idiosyncratic example of Turkey, the idea that a scalable sustainable liberal democracy can be planted in such a hostile cultural soil given a reactionary revival of a 7th century imperialist religious ideology is †¦ absurd.
By the way, you keep referring to democracy while I was careful to qualify my usage of that term with modifiers to restrict the notion in important ways. I’ll read some of your past posts. Sorry for jumping in the middle of an ongoing discussion.
“The critical mistake was creating a government that had no real unity and no real chance of having power on the ground.”
The critical mistake was not having enough troops to impose order in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Baghdad.
The Hussein case is the logical extension of “winner take all” as it drifted into a nepotistic dictatorship. Some of that slide was due to tribalism being so rampant. All of the highest ranks in the military and government were relatives of Saddam. Extreme brutality was the result of lots of feedback , some of which was aggrivated by sanctions and allied support for (failed) coups after the last gulf war.
There were a lot of failures from this invasion. I agree that disbanding the army was a mistake. It would have been far easier to just throw money at the out-of-work than fund years of fighting insurgency: here’s $500/month, sit on your porch and do *nothing*. But one of the missions was to turn Iraq into some neo-con utopia where the state would own nothing, tariffs would vanish, open borders for trade, and no ownership restrictions. Much of the reason for the delay in elections in Iraq was to secure time to sell off state-owned oil to US interests. With the administration unwilling to admit failure, there is no possible chance of correcting the failures, just to delay the inevitable departure until some one else gets elected president and figure a way to blame it on the democrats.
We could have made this invasion work, except philosophical issues driven by “my way or the highway” drove it to failure. Most of the Iraqi economy was state owned. By privatizing the state-owned industries with a stroke of the pen, that put vast numbers of disenchanted, angry people out onto the street. Combine that with a failure to secure the Iraqi armories for the first two weeks of the invasion and that let 250,000 tons of munitions out onto the streets. While much has been cut up for scrap and melted down: 250,000 tons of munitions equals about 200 years of insurgency/guerilla warfare at the 2005 levels of activity.
Funding and training the “volcano brigades” (aka death squads) set up feedback loops we can’t get out of other than to abandon the place, or commit genocide. Rumsfeld called that the “salvador option” in honor of the civil war in El Salvador that killed tens of thousands of people. We started them, and others sprung up to counter-act the ones we created, so even if we removed ours, the others will continue.
>Where the family or clan prevails, you do not hire the best man
>(to say nothing of the best woman) for the job, you hire Cousin Luis.
>You do not vote for the best man, you vote for Uncle Ali.
>And you do not consider cease-fire deals or shareholder interests
>to be matters of serious obligation.
A partition of Iraq might be the stablest for the US, or at least the easiest to manipulate, it would not stop the warfare/unrest in the region. A separate Kurdish region would threaten the stability of Turkey and Iran, leading to both those countries invading. To keep “kurdistan” independant would require US military presence. I shudder to think at the US engaging in open combat with another NATO ally. That defeats the entire purpose of NATO and would utterly destroy it along with any potential military alliance we could make. We almost ended up shooting at Turkey this year as they took our support for Israel’s invasion to be a legitimate reason to start going after PKK forces in Northern Iraq. We’ve been funding PKK to cause grief in Iran, but Turkey is a bigger and softer target, so they’ve been blowing stuff up there. It took some high level shouting matches where the US told Turkey to get to the back of the bus. And Mr Peter’s latest essay about “the melted map” going around NATO has caused some outrage and disturbances with Turkey.
The borders that created Iraq were the result of meddling in the middle east at the end of WW1 and carving the Ottoman Empire up as punishment for their siding with Germany & Austria-Hungary. So much grief in the 20th century has come from the punative treaties at the end of “the last war to end all wars” that you can lay much of the bloodshed in the world from then on at their feet. WW2, the cold war and our troubles in the middle east spring from the ashes of that war.
If we want to impose a democratic regime in Iraq, it will take several decades of occupation. My estimate is 30-100+ years more occupation.
Comments on this entry are closed.
Previous post: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
Next post: Claims about my friends
Email Tyler Cowen
Follow Tyler on Twitter
Email Alex Tabarrok
Follow Alex on Twitter
Subscribe in a reader
Follow Us on Twitter
Marginal Revolution on Twitter Counter.com
Get smart with the Thesis WordPress Theme from DIYthemes.