Courtesy Reuters

Expeditionary Economics

Spurring Growth After Conflicts and Disasters

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The United States' experience with rebuilding economies in the aftermath of conflicts and natural disasters has evidenced serious shortcomings. After seven years of a U.S. presence in Iraq and over nine years in Afghanistan, the economies of those countries continue to falter and underperform. Meanwhile, the damage caused by the earthquake in Haiti early this year revealed deep economic problems, ones that had confronted earlier U.S. efforts to boost Haiti's economy, and they will plague reconstruction efforts there for a long while. Economic growth is critical to establishing social stability, which is the ultimate objective of these counterinsurgency campaigns and disaster-relief efforts. Various obstacles, such as insurgencies and inadequacies in infrastructure, have made economic development difficult in these countries, of course, but these difficulties cannot be blamed exclusively on such obstacles. A central element in the failure to establish robust economies in war-torn or disaster-stricken countries is the prevailing doctrine of international development, according to which strong economies cannot emerge in poor countries.

Yet there is a proven model for just such economic growth right in front of U.S. policymakers' eyes: the entrepreneurial model practiced in the United States and elsewhere. This model rests to a huge extent on the dynamism of new firms, which constantly introduce innovations into the economy. Washington's recent engagements have made it appreciate that postconflict economic reconstruction must become a core competence of the U.S. military. But this appreciation has not yet been followed by sufficient enabling actions. The U.S.

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