Saturday, November 05, 2005

an economic boom in Iraq - Ron Nessen Reports

Think Tank Town - Ron Nessen Reports on the Idea Industry

Would you believe – an economic boom in Iraq despite the on-going insurgent attacks?

Well, you might believe it after you read an analysis by Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, who contends that the reason you haven’t heard the economic good news is because opponents of the American involvement in Iraq want you to think there’s only bad news there.

Here’s Rubin’s case: Many Iraqis who couldn’t get jobs under Saddam Hussein because of their ethnicity, sectarian identity, or refusal to join the Baath party, are now working. The private sector economy is booming because Iraqis are investing in it, with some of the money coming from family members abroad. Thriving banks, restaurants, and furniture stores now occupy what were abandoned stores last year.

Further: In August, new business startups in Iraq exceeded 30,000. Individual Iraqis are better off financially than they have been for 20 years. According to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, per capita income has doubled since the United States toppled the Saddam regime. There are more than 3.5 million cellular phone subscribers in Iraq, up from zero when Saddam ruled. Internet cafes are thriving in even small towns,

And so, on and on, according to Rubin, who has actually visited Iraq, unlike some of the harshest critics of the American involvement. His paper was dated yesterday, November 1st.

The think tanker writes that on the political front the situation is also better than it is depicted by critics. He acknowledges that ethnic strife among Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds remains a possibility. He also acknowledges that the Bush administration has been “inept” in making the case for its Iraqi policy.

But, he says, “Iraqis debate. They tolerate dissent. Politicians hash out compromises. The constitution may not be ideal, but it is fair.” He contrasts those hopeful steps with the harsh dictatorships in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Tunisia, and Egypt.

Rubin urges patience and a longer view of what’s going on in Iraq: “Democracy and reconstruction are processes. Progress is slow, but to those who know Iraq, it is there. Iraqis criticize certain Washington decisions and embassy strategy. Few, though, see any merits in abandonment.”

This think tanker’s balanced, thoughtful, first-hand account of what’s really going on in Iraq is like a fresh breeze blowing away the heavy smog of negativity we usually hear.

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