Last month you sent me some very thoughtful and informed comments on my Nuvo piece. It was a delight reading it, and quite amusing to read a "response" that was so much longer, detailed and insightful than the piece you were responding to!
I agree with almost everything you say. Our one point of difference, I think, is not so much about the necessity of multilateral action as opposed to unilateral. While I think the unilateral action by the US was a mistake, I think the bigger mistake was the military action itself,
which I believe in the long run will prove counterproductive. You expressed skepticism about the willingness of the US to see through a successful rebuilding of Iraq, and I share your skepticism. Even more, though, I am skeptical of the possibility of creating a democratic, secular Iraq, even if we DID commit ourselves thoroughly to that effort. In my mind, a "democratic" Iraq is not going to be secular, and an Islamic Iraq is likely to be more destabilizing and more threatening to Israel
than Saddam's secular state was.
I hope, though, that I am wrong!
Thanks again for your impressive and thought-provoking letter.
Had I been writing for publication in NUVO, my piece would have been shorter.
I just want to clarify one of the points I tried to make in case, as is likely, I did not express myself well.
In my view, whether, and the extent to which, Iraq will be a destabilizing influence in the region will depend more on how successful we are in creating a First World economy there than on the form of government. This is why I am so concerned about the level of our commitment to rebuilding.
I've now forgotten whether I made this point in what I sent to you, but an economy based on natural resource exploitation is likely to prove inadequate. It just does not take that many people to run a petroleum production business. So, the result will be vast wealth disparity and a high level of government corruption (because the government will primarily be reliant on a single source of revenue controlled by a very small number of people). And, the level of corruption will not be affected by the form of government.
I think that a comparison with Japan is instructive. Like Iraq, Japan was a theocracy (of sorts) with no experience with the rule of law. It's destabilizing influence that led to WW II was the consequence of macroeconomic factors, primarily lack of access to reliable sources of natural resources in a mercantilist economy. Our effort to restructure the Japanese government and economy after the war was spectacularly successful and spectacularly expensive, It would be a miracle if we could be half as successful in Iraq, but I think we need to try.
Anyway, I'm not sure it is appropriate for us to impose our concept of representative government on Iraq. Maybe I'm wrong, but if we instead limit ourselves to helping them build a diversified, First World economy (run by Iraqis, not foreigners) I think we'll see an Iraqi government that may or may not be secular, and may or may not be democratic, but that will provide the Iraqi people with a reasonable level of freedom and a reasonable level of protection for human rights.
And, if we were to be successful in helping Iraq create a diversified, First World economy (again, to be clear, something that I am by no means confident that we can do, and that is likely to be far more expensive than we currently imagine), I would hope that other nations in the region would use Iraq as a model.