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June 30, 2007

Comments

Jean-Francois

Of course, Iraq was not a failed state by any measure...

Graeme Pietersz

It may be hard to be positive about interventions in the light of Iraq, but surely the differences in aims,motivations, and circumstances between Iraq and Sierra Leone tell us something about what interventions are likely to succeed?

The cynicism about the US and UK caused by the Iraq fiasco is likely to make it harder for those two countries to intervene anywhere.

David Lynch

You might be interested to read a brief exchange with Ferguson in the NYRB on Iraq:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/20409

Mohamed El Dahshan

Actually, Iraq under Saddam Hussein was the closest thing to a Collier-esque model of desirable hegemony and stability imposed at gunpoint, in the sense that it established a solid reign on an otherwise divided and divisive people; ultimately achieving strong military power and effectively eradicating unalphabetism. The Iran-Iraq war strongly damaged this trend - and the sanctions regime killed off the rest of the patient.
The 2003 invasion, rather than salvaging the country, effectively created a failed state with very week institutions with essentially no control on large parts of their territory (of their capital city, even), a people turning its back on a national identity and reverting to ethnic (Kurds) and religious ones(Sunni, Shiite) and a disastrous economy.

Perhaps someone should now re-occupy Iraq and oust the 'coalition forces'? =)

Tom

I'd be interested in your views of the Collier book, as a development economist. As you say, Ferguson's view is predictable given his political, pro-empire position. Indeed, I'd go further - he is regarded by most historians of empire and Africa (indeed by all serious historians of empire and Africa) as a polemicist, not a serious historian on these issues, and it's a bit depressing that his statements should have the imprimatur of a prestigious academic institution like Harvard. Collier, unfortunately, also seems to have strayed into the crude Fergusonian debate: are colonial empires or African nation states more responsible for Africa's poverty? As somebody who is no expert but has read a bit, this ignores many of the complexities. Yes, it is clear that African regimes have been corrupt and have failed to promote the wellbeing of their populations. But many historians would argue that they inherited a pretty poor legacy from the European empires: a highly dysfunctional state system (see Herbst's book on this), ethnic / tribal divisions encouraged intentionally or unintentionally by empire (see Mamdani), and very low levels of investment by penny-pinching empires. Also, Sierra Leone may have benefitted from military intervention, but as David Keen's book argues, the political instability it had to clear up was partly (largely?) caused by IMF liberalisation policies. Collier's book seems to ignore this context, and has too little historical perspective. I'd be interested in seeing your response to the book.

terence

The RAMSI intervention in Solomon Islands is, I imagine, much closer to what Collier has in mind. Yet, while it has been infinitely more successful than Iraq it is still struggling and it's long-term success is not a certianly. If anyone's interested I've written more here:
http://laanta.blogspot.com/2007/07/foreign-intervention-as-development.html

Greg Sanders

I attended a talk by Collier last week and was sufficiently intrigued to get an autographed copy of his book.

I'd argue that our failure in Iraq isn't directly relevant to his security guarantees recommendation. He's suggesting propping up existing governments rather than replacing them. I'd say problems in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Shah's Iran are much more on point. Also, he suggested building up the African Union which would be less problematic than direct American/European intervention.

I'd also like to second Tom's comment. I'd also be interested in your thoughts, Prof. Rodrik.

sa

the way i see this issue - essentially you need good,local on the groumd information before you can do something like th french did in seirra leone, because it was a former colony and they had a lot of good intel + local resources enmeshed with teh society. this approach is less likely to work today when their aren't amny colonies around.

dave

It's true that it's tough not to keep Iraq in mind, but we also don't want to let one bad example which happens to be close at hand color our judgment. That said, I was disappointed that Collier only provided one example of a successful intervention (Sierra Leone, really).

Rupert

I would offer Liberia as a second example of the intervention Collier advocates. I have just got back from a 2-day trip from the capital Monrovia to Gbarnga, which used to be Charles Taylor's rebel capital. The UN troops stationed along the road (and everywhere else in the country) have brought the country security and repaired the roads. For the first time in 15 years, farmers feel safe enough to live in the countryside and some can even get their goods to market.

Liberia has been occupied by UN troops (mostly African) for the past 4 years and the security they provided has given the new government a crucial window of stability to get the country back on its feet. If they left, I suspect a lot of the returning diaspora Liberians would leave too . . .

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