Sunday, December 03, 2006

Suggestions for Iraq

Glenn Reynolds asks for suggestions for things we could do to make the Iraq situation better. Here's mine: Do something selfless. Here's what I mean. Deserved or not, the U.S. has a really bad image in the Middle East in general, and among many Iraqis in particular. This is part of the reason for the violence there. I think we can improve our image by doing something that cannot be written off by skeptics as self-serving.

One proposal in this vein is a global mini-Marshall plan, to give lots of money for infrastructure improvements like building hospitals and schools, for training doctors, nurses and teachers, etc. Ah, some might say, we are already doing that, and they still hate us. The problem is, the way we are currently doing it is often through contracts with U.S. companies. That might be the most efficient way of doing things in terms of getting results, but it allows the critics to argue that the point of the war was to help companies like Halliburton make a profit. So instead, I propose that the U.S. government, together with other governments, offer some fairly large amounts of money to fund projects to be carried out by Iraqi companies. (If it's too hard to find Iraqi companies that can do it, then we can allow them to partner with other companies in neighboring countries.) Now, the projects can't be things these companies are unqualified to do. Obviously, we don't want to just throw money down the drain. Rather, I want to find actual useful projects that they are capable of taking on. The key, though, is to keep all the benefits going to Iraqis (or, on occasion, other companies in the region, if necessary).

I hope for two results from all of this. First, an improvement in the U.S. image in the Middle East. And second, an economic boost for the Iraqi economy, which could help change some people's minds about the U.S. efforts there.

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