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Transforming Iraq and the world
By Alan Caruba
It is not too soon to look toward the rebuilding of Iraq after the war. "Once Iraqis stabilize and liberate their own capabilities and infrastructure, they will turn outward. Then the modern standard-bearers of the world's oldest civilization will use their extraordinary talents as entrepreneurs and facilitators to shine light on knowledge and information gaps all over the Middle East and beyond."
So says Joseph Braude in his book, The New Iraq: Rebuilding the Country for its People, the Middle East, and the World ($26.00, Basic Books). A senior analyst for Pyramid Research, a Cambridge, MA consulting firm, Braude knows both the history and languages of the Middle East, and he offers an optimistic forecast.
Braude believes that "Iraq can provide a model that strengthens security in the region and reduces bloated military budgets that divert public funds from investment in education, health, and industry." This aspect of the Middle East's economy has largely gone unreported in the American and European press. The entire economic structure of Iraq will have to be rebuilt from the ground up. Generally unreported as well is an essential aspect of understanding Iraq today. It is totally impoverished. It has no real professional middle class because of the widespread criminality of its government. Its money is virtually without any real value, backed only by its capacity to produce oil.
The anti-war protester's cry, "No war for oil" is a lie. The US imports only 8 per cent of its oil from Iraq. More than 50 per cent of the oil imported to the US comes from Canada, Mexico and Venezuela. Another 18 per cent comes from Angola, Britain, Nigeria and Norway. We import 18 per cent of our oil from Saudi Arabia and the lessons of the Iraq war will not be lost on its sheiks, nor its people. The US will bring tremendous pressure on the Saudi royal family to stop funding terrorism. If they continue, a coup could end their reign.
The transformation of Iraq from a society based on fear into one that taps the human and natural resources of the nation will take time, but may well proceed rather swiftly. The surrender of whole Iraqi divisions suggests its people are eager to be rid of Saddam and enjoy the blessings of freedom. We know, too, that this transition was accomplished after WWII with the former Nazi Germany and Japan. Even the former Soviet Union is beginning to build a flourishing capitalist economy. In Red China, there are voices demanding that the concept of private property be instituted. This is the keystone of capitalism.
The liberation of Iraq will generate many positive changes, not only for that nation, but throughout the Middle East. "Baghdad is poised to reclaim its traditional role as a hub of Middle East commerce," says Braude. With the spread of commerce comes the spread of new information and new ideas. The Middle East is in desperate need of both. "A viable Iraqi economy will reinvigorate intellectual activity throughout the Arab world by vastly increasing the demand market for Arabic-language books," says Braude who further notes that Iraqis are considered to be among the region's most voracious readers.
The war on Iraq with its emphasis on removing Saddam Hussein from power has always been about setting in motion changes that will change the politics and economy of the entire region and this will change the world as well. It is not just about oil. It is not just about curtailing terrorism. It is profoundly about spreading freedom, representative government, and ending the death grip of fundamentalist Islam on the lives of millions throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
Will there be problems along the way? Yes, most certainly. Iraq was literally created by British politicians after World War I out of the disparate provinces of the former Ottoman Empire. A big question will be a call for Kurdish independence and it affects not only Iraq, but Iran and Turkey as well. No one knows how this will play out. A Kurdish population that no longer has to fear Saddam's regime, however, may elect to integrate itself into a modern, reformed Iraq.
Iraq is literally the cradle of civilization. The wheel, the invention of writing, the world's great religions all began there. It was also the world's first totalitarian state when the Assyrians ruled and it was a place, under the rule of Cyrus, where there was religious freedom. Its history is the history of the struggle between the worst elements of human nature with its best.
It has fallen to the United States and its allies to liberate Iraq and, in doing so, liberate the Middle East from the ignorance and backwardness of the worst aspects of Islam. The Iraqis have the capacity to join the modern world if given the opportunity. They have the potential of demonstrating to millions throughout the region and the world that freedom is the way of the future.
Alan Caruba is the author of "Warning Signs", published by the Merril Press, a collection of his columns of the same name, posted weekly at www.anxietycenter.com, the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. © Alan Caruba, 2003
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