Monday, July 21, 2003

Empire on the cheap

Academic superstar and empire expert Niall Ferguson writes, "Back in April, administration officials talked as if the reconstruction of Iraq would somehow be self-financing. That seemed optimistic at the time; today it is simply incredible. What we are witnessing is not so much 'Empire Lite' -- in Michael Ignatieff's catchy phrase -- as 'Cut-Price Colonization.' Americans need to realize now that nations cannot be built the way Wal-Mart sells patio sets: on the cheap.

"Without jobs and wages, many of the young men of Iraq will find the temptations of violent crime and guerrilla warfare impossible to resist. But for economic recovery to take place, three things are urgently needed: first, the effective imposition of law and order; second, the repair and restoration of basic infrastructure (water, electricity, telephones); and third, substantial expenditure on reconstruction to modernize the dilapidated oil fields and stimulate economic activity in other sectors."

That's all well and good. But Paul Street is wondering why such economic investment doesn't start at home.

Update: In a corresponding post, Kevin Moore links the issue of rebuilding Iraq with the question of whether the US should stay or go.