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What We Owe Iraq

What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building

Noah Feldman
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    What We Owe Iraq
    Book Description:

    What do we owe Iraq?

    America is up to its neck in nation building--but the public debate, focused on getting the troops home, devotes little attention to why we are building a new Iraqi nation, what success would look like, or what principles should guide us.What We Owe Iraqsets out to shift the terms of the debate, acknowledging that we are nation building to protect ourselves while demanding that we put the interests of the people being governed--whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, or elsewhere--ahead of our own when we exercise power over them.

    Noah Feldman argues that to prevent nation building from turning into a paternalistic, colonialist charade, we urgently need a new, humbler approach. Nation builders should focus on providing security, without arrogantly claiming any special expertise in how successful nation-states should be made. Drawing on his personal experiences in Iraq as a constitutional adviser, Feldman offers enduring insights into the power dynamics between the American occupiers and the Iraqis, and tackles issues such as Iraqi elections, the prospect of successful democratization, and the way home.

    Elections do not end the occupier's responsibility. Unless asked to leave, we must resist the temptation of a military pullout before a legitimately elected government can maintain order and govern effectively. But elections that create a legitimate democracy are also the only way a nation builder can put itself out of business and--eventually--send its troops home.

    Feldman's new afterword brings the Iraq story up-to-date since the book's original publication in 2004, and asks whether the United States has acted ethically in pushing the political process in Iraq while failing to control the security situation; it also revisits the question of when, and how, to withdraw.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2622-3
    Subjects: Political Science, History, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    LATE ONE NIGHT IN MAY 2003, I WAS IN A MILITARY transport plane somewhere over the Mediterranean, on my way to a stint as constitutional adviser to the American occupation authorities in Iraq. In the dozen or so rows of seats that had been jerryrigged in the open belly of the aircraft, most of the passengers—all in various aspects of the advising business—were dozing, shivering slightly for the last time before we hit the Baghdad heat. The adrenaline pumping through me, I was rereading the best modern book on the Iraqi Shica¹ and hastily trying to teach myself...

  2. CHAPTER ONE Nation Building: Objectives
    (pp. 7-51)

    TO BEGIN, THEN, LET ME PROPOSE AN ACCOUNT OF WHY the United States has engaged in nation building in Iraq, and how this undertaking differs from earlier American nation-building efforts. From the outset of the Cold War, the American objective in nation building was to create rich, stable, independent, capitaldriven states in order to strengthen the American alliance that was then called “the free world” against the Soviet Union anditssatellites. This approach met with some remarkable successes—South Korea’s rags-to-riches story springs to mind—but its paradigmatic successful cases were Germany and Japan themselves. Nation building in Germany...

  3. CHAPTER TWO Trusteeship, Paternalism, and Self-Interest
    (pp. 52-91)

    IN BAGHDAD DO WE LAY OUR SCENE. SPECIFICALLY, IN the auditorium of the Iraqi Lawyers Association, a pleasant modern meeting room in the Mansur neighborhood built to hold eight hundred, and on this day in mid-May 2003 filled to the brim with closer to a thousand Iraqi lawyers and other hangers-on. For a blessed half hour, the air-conditioning runs, and one is reminded that favored quasi-governmental institutions under the Bacth regime actually fared rather well. The looting that devastated Baghdad and did perhaps $10 billion worth of damage in two weeks has left the Lawyers Association untouched except for a...

  4. CHAPTER THREE The Magic of Elections and the Way Home
    (pp. 92-129)

    DURING HIS YEAR AS CIVIL ADMINISTRATOR IN BAGHDAD, L. Paul Bremer gave regular press conferences in front of a rather amateurish emblem of the Coalition Provisional Authority that hung on the wall of his favored venue, the largest meeting room in a building known as the Iraqi Forum. That spot had a history. When I first entered the Forum, on April 28, 2003, the place subsequently occupied by the large, oval-shaped insignia featured a rectangular discoloration where a large portrait of Saddam Hussein had hung until just days before. Beneath the blank space was a verse from the Qur'an in...

  5. Conclusion
    (pp. 130-132)

    BUT IF WE MUST REMAIN AS NATION BUILDERS IN IRAQ beyond the nominal transfer of sovereignty and until an Iraqi government can actually rule its own citizens and enforce its laws, when can we go? At what point are our obligations to Iraq fulfilled, so that responsibility for the Iraqis’ fate rests in their own hands? It could possibly be argued that the nation builder’s obligation is ongoing, coterminous with the consequences of the nation-building project. If this were the case, then even if Coalition forces left when asked to do so by a legitimate Iraqi government, they could be...