Friday, April 28, 2006

Thinking About Iraq

...or for that matter, the rest of the non-democratic world...

In a review of The White Man's Burden, Roger Bate excerpts an interesting passage:

Easterly demonstrates that nearly all aid programs fail to reach individually set targets:

"A UN summit in 1990, for example, set a goal for the year 2000 of universal primary-school enrollment. (That is now planned for 2015). A previous summit, in 1977, set 1990 as the deadline for realizing the goal of universal access to water and sanitation. (Under the Millennium Development Goals, that target is now 2015). Nobody was held accountable for these missed goals."

The point is the goals will never be hit, or at least not by the policies enacted to reach them.

"Stop wasting our time with summits and frameworks" he says. And he repeatedly drills home the unnerving conclusion that Planners will always fail:

"The West cannot transform the Rest. It is a fantasy to think that the West can change complex societies with very different histories and cultures into some image of itself. The main hope for the poor is for them to be their own Searchers, borrowing ideas and technology from the West when it suits them to do so....Once the West is willing to aid individuals rather than governments, some conundrums that tie foreign aid up in knots are resolved."

Although the book is written about UN-types (and the US "agency" planners and enablers--AID, ExIm, the State Department...) the above little nugget applies to a lot of situations.

Like, for example, Iraq.

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