Friday, April 11, 2008

Iraq: Surge, Costs, and Likely Results

Below are two articles from Foreign Policy on the current and evolving situation in Iraq:

First is a brief interview with Nobel Prize-winning Columbia economist Joseph Stiglitz who tends to be worth listening to, particularly for the well-balanced liberal perspective. According to his modeling, the real costs of the war could be in excess of $3 trillion. He also gives brief comments on Bear Stearns and the limits of monetary policy in stabilizing the US economy.

Second is an analysis of the likely effects of the vaunted surge - or lack thereof. The general argument - that a "positive" scenario for Iraq's medium-term future looks like Nigeria, and a "negative" scenario looks like Somalia or Sudan (admittedly, with more oil) - is a well-taken recognition of fundamental economic, political, and social realities as they relate to Iraq's level of development. Indeed, General Petraeus deserves some credit for holding the situation together as well as he has, though no military tactics can really change these realities. I should say that the one thing that may have helped would have been the proper management of development projects (e.g. the electricity grids in Baghdad, etc) - a task that the administration has seriously bungled. Of course, even that may only have had minimal impact, who knows?