American Nation-State Building and Iraq
NOV 10, 2009
4:30 PM - 5:30 PM
U.S. policy perceptions of Iraq have migrated from confidence that a post-invasion Iraq could be quickly revived, to convictions that Iraqis were ungovernable, and now to beliefs that “the surge worked.” Along the way, one heard that if only Washington had better political commitment to Iraq or smarter management in Baghdad, the situation would improve. Throughout this debate, the economic and political reality of Iraq made little appearance. This project examines changes in Iraq’s political economy before and after 2003. Since 2003, Iraq’s economy has matured into what can be termed a war economy. This means party-connected militias and various sub-state actors, not central political authorities, control whole sectors of the domestic economy, including oil smuggling and import supply chains. Similar to other cases of civil conflict, combatants use violence to enforce monopolistic control over economic assets, while monopoly profits support the means of violence. Criticisms of political commitment or occupation management miss the point that conditions of economic fragmentation, corruption, and general underdevelopment were well established before the invasion. In many ways, the American occupation of Iraq has come to accommodate the very conditions that it was advertized to reform.
The case of Iraq is representative of a larger set of American efforts at nation-state building. Beginning with the reconstruction period after the Civil War, the U.S. has attempted state and nation building in a number of settings. Yet while advocates of American intervention hail the success of Japan and Germany after WWII, they ignore the far larger number of failures. The problem of American intervention and occupation in cases like Iraq is not the failure of follow through or getting the right counterinsurgency tactics, but the assumption that foreign occupation can trump patterns of local authority.
Pete W. Moore
Associate professor of Political Science
Case Western Reserve University
Pete Moore serves on the editorial board of Middle East Report. Previously, he taught at the University of Miami, Concordia, Dartmouth, and McGill. Prof. Moore’s research explores issue of political economy of the Middle East, specifically business-state relations, oil politics, trade, and civil war. He has conducted research and/or lived in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Kuwait, Yemen, and Palestine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fulbright Fellow at Zayed University in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He is widely published in print and on the web. He earned his Ph.D. at McGill University in Montreal.
Open to the public at no cost. Reception follows, featuring Middle Eastern foods. Please note - Recording in any form is prohibited.
NOTE: Not a CLE event.