I AM IN LONDON FOR A FEW DAYS, meeting people and sorting out to what degree the American foreign policy debate is the U.K.’s as well. I just spoke to a friend, who will remain unnamed, in circles close to Tony Blair. He likes the blog (!), and I asked if there was some sort of neocon civil war going on over here as well.
His response basically was that they “were having a civil war, but without the neocons.”
I will be writing more these next several days about what an enlightened and compelling foreign policy vision for the U.S. might look like. In fact, I am working on a New America Foundation foreign policy program funding proposal in which pieces of this effort may prominently figure, so I’ll look forward to any thoughtful responses.
In the mean time, I would like to share an email that I received from a distinguished journalist that mirrors a lot of my own thinking about how America’s failure to implement early on a stakeholder scheme for Iraqi citizens has dramatically enhanced the instability rampant there today.
He discusses the insurrection in Sadr city in the context of Douglas MacArthur’s management of the Japan Occupation, something close to a piece I wrote some time ago in the New York Times that suggested that an Alaska Permanent Fund model for managing Iraq’s oil might help tie Iraqi citizens closer to the success of their next government and make them less cynical about American intentions (of course, a lot of our performance deserves such cynicism).
I am watching the development of the Sadr rebellion in Iraq with alarm. This is a classic case of an originally warm reception of American troops gone horribly sour.
No use talking about spilt milk but there should have been a massive aid effort directed at Sadr City right at the beginning. One sometimes forgets that in Japan’s case, while the Japanese did respond to democratization, including radical steps such as stripping landlords of their lands at confiscatory prices, there was a lot of food aid that came in quite early, MacArthur justifying it on the grounds that it would help to prevent uprisings.
And also there was a near-confiscatory redistribution of wealth, not only through land reform but from a one-time tax on capital that hit hard at the traditional wealthy while leaving black-marketeers and others who lived by their wits relatively untouched. Of course there was no armed rebellion in Japan, but neither was the rebellion in Iraq on anywhere near the scale it is today.
Money and jobs would have done a lot, but disbanding the Iraqi army and refusing to employ ex-Baathists meant that most people lost their jobs at the beginning of the occupation. But I am rather despondent that any American, or for that matter, most other governments would have given priority to jobs and food over wiping out the remnants of the Hussein army and apparatus, or even given equal priority to security and economic uplift.
Actually, army units in combat, since they are concerned about their own security and because of the nature of Americans, tend to try to help local communities in order to find friends therein, but this has to receive a powerful push from the center and given top priority from the very start of the occupation, and not be left up to the discretion of individual units. . .
These are hindsight comments that nonetheless seem important to me, particularly if America has any plans to stay in the nation building business, which I think we do.
More from London soon.
— Steve Clemons