U.S. plans for post-war Iraq

By Staff Writer
April 10, 2003

Cheryl Diaz Myer/Dallas Morning News/KRT

Reconstruction of the post-war Iraqi government, economy and society is currently part of planning efforts being made by international relief and development agencies as Operation Iraqi Freedom continues in the Middle East.

Prospects for both the United States and the Iraqi governments once war has concluded brings about many concerns from those who are knowledgeable of the effects of a post-war era.

“The way aid will be given to a post-Saddam Iraq will depend a large part on how long the war lasts and how different groups respond to the end of the Baath party’s rule over the country,” Dr. Jeremy Rich, professor of history and political science, said.

Rich proposes three questions in relation to the topic of reforming the Iraqi government. “Will Iraqi groups form a relatively functioning government soon after the end of the war? Will urban fighting drag on or not? Will the U.S.-led coalition try to run Iraq themselves, or bring in the United Nations?”

Rich does not see the U.S. easily rebuilding Iraq if the Kurdish or Shiite armed movements refuse to accept the establishment of a centralized government. “It could take years regardless. Of course, the U.S. might eventually pull out well before Iraq’s infrastructure recovers,” he said.

Many of Rich’s notions are supported by others with an understanding of the Iraqi infrastructure. Dr. Susan Sommers, associate professor of history at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., holds the belief that with the lack of precedent for building a democracy in Iraq, the process is going to be one of great difficulty for the U.S.

“Democracy is a Western European invention,” Sommers said. “It takes a tremendous amount of effort and determination to build it in a place where it’s not even part of the vocabulary.”

Sommers explains that the Middle East is still dealing with the affects of the Age of New Imperialism in the 19th century and the mandate that was enforced under the League of Nations. “These countries are still dealing with issues raised by colonialism and its Western interference,” she said. “That is one of the things complicating the situation and driving the antagonism and suspicion between the Islamic world and the West.”

The question about the acceptance of democracy in the Middle East is considered to be the “million-dollar question,” according to Rich. “Iraq has never been under a democratic form of government and has relied on an authoritarian regime to stay together,” he said. “Many Iraqis might welcome a democracy, but not if it is seen as a way of ensuring American control over the region.”

The United States Agency for International Development has sent and is still currently sending relief materials and humanitarian aid overseas to support the citizens of Iraq. According to the USAID website, they “will rely heavily on international and non-governmental relief professionals” to be the deliverers of assistance.

“I suspect the UN and some European countries will be much more willing to provide humanitarian aid once the fighting is over,” Rich said. “Spain, Italy, Poland and a number of other European nations will likely give relief. One big question here is whether or not the U.S. allows Oxfam and other independent international organizations to work freely?”

posted by Alaina Robinson

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