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NYT: Nation Building Works

Author: David Brooks
August 30, 2010

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David Brooks writes that progress on Iraq's economic growth, basic security, and political and legal institutions shows U.S. nation building efforts in Iraq have worked.

The U.S. venture into Iraq was a war, but it was also a nation-building exercise. America has spent $53 billion trying to reconstruct Iraq, the largest development effort since the Marshall Plan.

So how's it working out?

On the economic front, there are signs of progress. It's hard to know what role the scattershot American development projects have played, but this year Iraq will have the 12th-fastest-growing economy in the world, and it is expected to grow at a 7 percent annual clip for the next several years.

“Iraq has made substantial progress since 2003,” the International Monetary Fund reports. Inflation is reasonably stable. A budget surplus is expected by 2012. Unemployment, though still 15 percent, is down from stratospheric levels.

Oil production is back around prewar levels, and there are some who say Iraq may be able to rival Saudi production. That's probably unrealistic, but Iraq will have a healthy oil economy, for better and for worse.

Living standards are also improving. According to the Brookings Institution's Iraq Index, the authoritative compendium of data on this subject, 833,000 Iraqis had phones before the invasion. Now more than 1.3 million have landlines and some 20 million have cellphones. Before the invasion, 4,500 Iraqis had Internet service. Now, more than 1.7 million do.

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