January 14, 2004

KENNETH POLLACK has a roundup of good news and bad news on Iraqi reconstruction, in Foreign Affairs:

There is enough going well in Iraq that there is no reason to believe that the U.S.-led reconstruction effort is doomed to failure. Indeed, quite the opposite. There is so much good in Iraq, even in the face of numerous and crippling American errors, that pessimists need to be cautious in making prognostications of doom. . . .

As important as the positives in Iraq are, they must be contrasted with a range of problems in the reconstruction. None are unsolvable, and so they should be seen as challenges, not pitfalls. In every case, if the United States takes appropriate action, there is no reason these challenges cannot be met. That said, tackling some of these challenges will probably require the Bush Administration to shift or even reverse course on a range of issues it has so far resisted. . . .

There is enough good in Iraq and enough positive developments there that if the United States and its Coalition allies are willing to address the challenges listed above, there is every reason to believe that Iraq could be a stable, prosperous, and pluralist society within a period of 5-15 years. In contrast, there is great danger for the United States in disengaging from Iraq. Without a strong American role, at least behind the scenes, the negative forces in the country would almost certainly produce Lebanon-like chaos and civil war that would quickly spill across Iraq’s borders and destabilize politically and economically fragile neighbors such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, and Syria, and possibly Turkey and Kuwait as well.

The piece is rather long, but interesting.

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