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

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They were assumed to be unready to rule themselves, so the view was that the occupying power would hold their political development in trust, as if they were children who needed to be brought up self-government. So my view entails much greater obligations of responsiveness and oversight than any other models do.

What We Owe Iraq

And it assumes that in the relatively short-term future, authority will be transferred to the people who are being subjected to occupation, in order for them to divine their own political interests, and govern themselves. Jay Garner wanted to hand over Iraq as quickly as possible to the Iraqis. Do you think this was a mistake to try to avoid nation-building early on in Iraq? He was simply hired by the administration and sent out to be head of Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, because the Bush administration did not believe that it was capable of or desirable to govern Iraq.

Immediately on the fall of Saddam, they said, a new government could emerge. Somewhat by magic. He was just a soldier doing his job, making sure nobody starved—and nobody did—and getting reconstruction projects underway, which he did a little bit of, although probably not as much as even he would have liked to have done, because it turned out that the political disarray was so great and the looting meant that the job of reconstruction was really so much more enormous than anyone had really imagined.

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You emphasize in your book that providing security is the first priority, something the U. As a matter of international law, the occupant has responsibility to preserve order.

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And as a matter of basic ethics, if you have eliminated the government of a place, you have a pretty straightforward ethical duty to provide government. Now he noticed that under these conditions, you need someone to protect you, you need to join some sort of protective association.

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And these were the identities that were there. Can you explain briefly what each side in Iraq the Kurds, the Shia, the Sunnis wants as far as the future of the country is concerned?

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And some Shiites, probably a significant number, also would like to see some expression of their religious identity through the state. More Islamic law, enshrining Islamic family law, that kind of thing.

A final group, the Sunnis, are in a much more uncertain position. Some of them would like to recapture the state, and are participating in the insurgency, but those people are not going to participate in the elections. Other Sunnis simply want to avoid having happen to them what they did to the Shia and the Kurds, which is to say marginalization and sometimes much worse.


What We Owe Iraq: An Interview with Noah Feldman

Because as long as they think they can get even more power through the insurgency, some of them will. Now what seemed like a really crazy view 18 months ago—no one thought the Baathists were ever going to come back into power. But what do kind of understanding do they have of constitutionalism? Do they understand the importance of an independent judiciary? Minority rights?

What We Owe Iraq

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 , 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.

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