From those associated with big government and centralized cultures we get top-down solutions. Richard May makes a number of salient points and raises issues that have not been discussed enough at the policymaking levels, but he offers centralized and Keynesian economic solutions that have been discredited by little or no success over the past 80 years [“Opportunity missed,” June]. Just as there are those who incorrectly argue that Arab culture is anathema to democracy, it is often premised that Arabs cannot succeed economically without government direction and the vast commodity wealth of oil.
May argues that our logistics strategy should use more indigenous businesses and labor in Iraq to encourage stability and economic growth, and build mutual bonds of trust and respect. Military infrastructures do provide incentives to create service-related support businesses. However, these businesses seldom provide the higher-margin products and services that sustain and encourage creative, profound and long-term economic advance.
Increasing dependence on Iraqi support companies and labor may not be in our long-term strategic plan and interests. A greater dependence on local vendors by U.S. logistical operations may create pressures on the nascent Iraqi government that compel its leaders to encourage a long-term and large U.S. presence in order to support employment, taxes and economic stability in a fragile Iraq. At present, U.S. civilian leaders, regardless of party affiliation, are speaking publicly of reducing our presence in Iraq.
May’s premise implies that Iraqi culture will quickly respond to traditional Western free market capitalism and immediately create independent vendors ready to exploit service opportunities. Iraqi culture specifically, and Arab culture in general, has traditionally not encouraged individual entrepreneurship but rather group economic activities, often only after group or clan consensus. This is not to imply that Iraq will not attain economic success, but we cannot expect that it will happen in a speedy fashion in accordance with our own national concept and experience with the “invisible hand” of the market.
The lack of economic opportunities may contribute to recruitment by our enemies, but the young men who are motivated to bear arms against us are first driven by radical ideology and fanaticism. We should certainly hope that all Iraqis have the opportunities to pursue their economic happiness, but given the present security concerns, granting more young Iraqis (or foreigners masquerading as Iraqis) access to U.S. military installations as service labor may cause more logistical problems than it solves.
Cmdr. Dana Bienvenu, Navy Reserve
Palm Bay, Fla.