American Nation-State Building and Iraq (2009)
From Case Western Reserve University, School of Law
Pete W. Moore, Associate professor of Political Science, Case Western Reserve University
Nov 10, 2009 at Case Western Reserve University, School of Law
U.S. policy perceptions of Iraq have migrated from confidence that a post-invasion Iraq could be quickly revived, to convictions that Iraqis were ungovernable, and now to beliefs that “the surge worked.” Along the way, one heard that if only Washington had better political commitment to Iraq or smarter management in Baghdad, the situation would improve. Throughout this debate, the economic and political reality of Iraq made little appearance. This project examines changes in Iraq’s political economy before and after 2003. Since 2003, Iraq’s economy has matured into what can be termed a war economy. This means party-connected militias and various sub-state actors, not central political authorities, control whole sectors of the domestic economy, including oil smuggling and import supply chains. Similar to other cases of civil conflict, combatants use violence to enforce monopolistic control over economic assets, while monopoly profits support the means of violence. Criticisms of political commitment or occupation management miss the point that conditions of economic fragmentation, corruption, and general underdevelopment were well established before the invasion. In many ways, the American occupation of Iraq has come to accommodate the very conditions that it was advertized to reform.
The case of Iraq is representative of a larger set of American efforts at nation-state building. Beginning with the reconstruction period after the Civil War, the U.S. has attempted state and nation building in a number of settings. Yet while advocates of American intervention hail the success of Japan and Germany after WWII, they ignore the far larger number of failures. The problem of American intervention and occupation in cases like Iraq is not the failure of follow through or getting the right counterinsurgency tactics, but the assumption that foreign occupation can trump patterns of local authority.
Source: http://uc.princeton.edu (UChannel)