Iraq: past and future

July 1st, 2004 – 9:18 am
Tagged as: Uncategorized

With Paul Bremer and the C.P.A. having fled Iraq two days before the scheduled sham handover of power, it’s a good time to both take a look back at some of the reasons things went wrong:

The insurgency took root during the occupation’s first few months, when the Coalition Provisional Authority seemed oddly disengaged from the problems of postwar anarchy. But what was Paul Bremer III, the head of the C.P.A., focused on? According to a Washington Post reporter who shared a flight with him last June, “Bremer discussed the need to privatize government-run factories with such fervor that his voice cut through the din of the cargo hold.”

Plans for privatization were eventually put on hold. But as he prepared to leave Iraq, Mr. Bremer listed reduced tax rates, reduced tariffs and the liberalization of foreign-investment laws as among his major accomplishments. Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time — but we’ve given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics.

and to look ahead to how things are likely to go from here:

The so-called transition to sovereignty for Iraq set for June 30 [actually held on June 28] has been trumpeted as a turning point by the Bush administration. It is hard to see, however, what exactly it changes. A symbolic act like a turnover of sovereignty cannot supply security, which is likely to deteriorate further as insurgents attempt to destabilize the new, weak government. The caretaker government, appointed by outsiders, does not represent the will of the Iraqi people. Some 138,000 U.S. troops remain in the country and the U.S. embassy in Baghdad will be the largest in the world, both of which bode ill for any exercise of genuine sovereignty by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

The caretaker government faces five key issues, any one of which could be destabilizing. It must jumpstart the creation of an Iraqi army that could hope to restore security. It must find a way to hold free and fair elections by next January, a difficult trick to pull off given the daily toll of bombings and assassinations. It must get hospitals, water treatment plants and other essential services back to acceptable levels. It must keep the country’s various factions from fighting one another or from pulling away in a separatist drive. And it must negotiate between religious and secularist political forces.

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