History's End

History will end only when Man does

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  • Tuesday, October 26, 2004

    A Microscopic Application of Burnett's Core/Gap Thesis in Iraq-Part 3

    Sorry about the massive delay in writing this, somehow I forgot that I only wrote part 2 and then stopped. Here is the finale in this series.

    In part 1 I explained the concepts behind the Core and the Gap. In part 2 I explained how Iraq played a role in the United States' effort to reduce the Gap. In part three I will explain how you can apply the Core/Gap thesis inside Iraq in order to bring Iraq into the 21st Century.

    Iraq, as a whole, is part of the Gap. That I have already touched upon. But to apply this thesis to Iraq as a microcosm requires some re-working of the terms involved. The terms Core and Gap are somewhat misleading, in that they direct the reader to assume a nation is either one or the other. This is not the case, being part of the Core or Gap isn't discrete, rather, a nation is part of a spectrum with absolute Gap on the one end and absolute Core on the other. As one way of helping make these concepts easier to understand I propose creating a new parameters, breaking up the Gap into three seperate components. They are:

    Phase 1: This nation is completely in the Gap. It lacks stability, infrastructure and connectivity. There is little or no order, and because of this the infrastructure is suffering. The lack of infrastructure hinders connectivity. Phase 1 nations can be found in Africa, in failed states like are experiencing civil wars for example. Somalia is one nation that would qualify as phase 1.

    Phase 2: This nation is mostly in the gap. It has stability, provided by a government. This government might be democratic in nature, but is more often despotic, often harshly so. Infrastructure is lacking, and little or no connectivity to the rest of the world exists. Such states can be found in Africa, Asia and Central/South America. North Korea is the poster child of Phase 2 stats. It has an oppressive government which maintains a large military, ensuring order, but there is essentially no infrastructure in the country outside of the capital.

    Phase 3: This nation type possess both stability and (at the very least) infrastracture. Its government, sometimes democratic, sometimes despotic, ensures that there is sufficient stability for basic infrastructure (water, some electricity, medical services) to be built and maintained. However, connectivity is limited, meaning there is relatively little internet access, phone access, TV access to the rest of the world. Also, travel to and from other nations is relatively limited. Oftentimes the media, if existent, is a branch of the government, and used for propoganda, and not supporting the free flow of information. China is a good example of a Phase 3 states, although parts of the outlying provinces might be closer to phase 2.

    Phase 4: Phase 4 states are Core states, that is, states with stability, infrastructure and the free flow of ideas. They are almost always democratic( possible exception of Singapore, but that is a city-state). South Korea is a good example of a Phase 4 state.

    Essentially, there is a pattern here leading from phase 1 to phase 4. You need one thing to get to the next. Stability is the first step on becoming a member of the Core. Without it you can never build the infrastructure that makes connectivity possible. Once you have that, a state needs infrastracture to get closer to becoming a Core state. Infrastucture is necessary for connectivity to exist. And as Barnett has explained, connectivity is the key factor in a nation being part of the Core. The free and common flow of information is necessary for a society to build up a resistance to the temptations of terrorists. I believe, as does Thomas Barnett, that these distinctions between states can be applied to the intra-national level as well. To provinces, cities, even neighborhoods.

    Iraq right now is fluctuating between a phase 1 and phase 2 status. The US is trying its hardest to bring the stability needed to really start up on infrastructure. As attacks on oil pipelines and contractors has shown, without stability you can't work on infrastructure. However, such attacks don't occur everywhere in Iraq. Wretchard at the Belmont Club has done at excellent job of analyzing attacks in Iraq and correlating them to geographic regions. As he has pointed out, certain regions are more dangerous than others. These parts of Iraq, like the Sunni Triangle, can be considered Phase 1 provinces. They lack stability, and thus the key goal for the US right now is to bring stability there. The provinces where there are few, if any attacks, can be considered phase 2 provinces.

    Baghdad is an interesting place. The Green zone can probably be considered phase 3, as it is both generally stable and has basic infrastracture. Parts of Baghdad are also phase 3, although most will be more along the lines of phase 2. There is an exception, Sadr City, a Shia inner city type slum which is currently at phase 1. The US efforts in that neighborhood have been an attempt to bring it to phase 2 status. So one can see that the key right now in Iraq is security and stability. Where there is stability infrastructure is being built and re-built. Under Saddam Iraq Iraq was mostly a lower phase 3 state, with certain loyal regions at a higher phase 3 status. However, under his leadership what infrastucture there was deteriorated, and he had essentially been running the country under the ground. Given enough time Iraq would have eventually become a full phase 2 state, and then eventually, when there was a leadership crisis (Saddam's death, or perhaps a fued later if one of his sons took power) that would have caused Iraq to revert to phase 1 status. What this would have done to the region can only be described as catastophic.

    The US, in order to succeed in Iraq, needs to identify the status of each part of the country, down to the city level. Phase 1 regions need to be pacified, and order established. Then, start working on infrastructure there. Places that were already secured need to have infrastructure get worked on right away. This is currently being done. However, the important thing is what happens when areas start to really become phase 3 status. Once there the US and its allies need to do their best to build up connectivity. This should include supporting internet cafes and helping establish lots of internet hubs. Help fund start up ISPs, help support indepedent, non-state owned media in the country. Local radio and TV stations. Then national stations that help connect Iraqis to each other and build up a common civic culture. Eventually, in order to influence the region as a whole, help establish networks and stations that cater to the region as a whole, helping spread connectivity to other parts of the Middle East. This will help create a national mood, a sense of unity in Iraq that transcends religous, ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

    Fund universities, building up campuses and faculty. Baghdad once used to be the most cultured and educated city in the region. Help make it so again. Make Baghdad University the envy of the region. Create conditions so that every Middle Eastern professor and academic worth his or her salt wants to land a job there. Help establish a center of academic free thought, a place where intellectuals can freely discuss ideas, ideas that will help transform the region. Help fight Islamit propoganda and create an alternative to the Wahhabis. Help establish Iraq as the cultural and academic center of the Middle East. Eventually, with enough support, help it become a major center for education in the world, not just the region.

    The list goes on and on. The key is to not apply a single solution for Iraq. Rather, to identify the proper solution for each part of Iraq, and to apply new methods once each region progresses up the ranks. A free and prosperous Iraq is the goal, and it can be achieved, as long as we keep at it and realize that Iraq is a nation composed of many small problems that create a single large one. Fix the small problems individually and the larger ones will be taken care of.

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