Courtesy Reuters

After Saddam: Assessing the Reconstruction of Iraq


The situation in Iraq is extremely complex. In some areas, American and Coalition efforts have helped Iraqis to make real progress toward transforming their economy, polity, and society. What's more, many basic factors in the country augur well for real progress if the pace of reconstruction is maintained. By the same token, there are also numerous negative developments in the country, many the result of mistaken American policies.

The Good News

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. Four "positives" stand out as key elements on which the reconstruction of Iraq should be founded:

* Iraqi public opinion remains largely favorable to reconstruction. This is certainly true of the vast bulk of the Kurdish and Shiite populations, but it is also true of many urban Sunnis (the bulk of that ethno-religious group). Most Iraqis don't particularly care to have so many foreigners in their country, but there is a widespread fear that if the United States were to leave Iraq, the country would slide quickly into chaos and civil war -- a fear amply justified by patterns on the ground. Consequently, most Iraqis do not want the United States to leave; they just want the United States to do a better job rebuilding their country.

* Similarly, most of Iraq's leaders have shown great patience and urged their followers to cooperate with the U.S.-led reconstruction. They appear to recognize that the United States ultimately is striving to build the stable, prosperous, and pluralist nation they hope for. They also seem to realize that all of the alternatives to cooperation with the United States are much worse, and much less likely to produce their ideal outcome; thus they have generally

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