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Winning the peace, if not the hearts and minds

Fred Barnes, in the Weekly Standard, reports on the bumpy transformation of Iraq into a peaceful, free market democracy. Barnes finds the attitude of Iraqis to be perhaps the biggest bump. “Like the French,” he says, “they may never forgive America for having liberated them.” And “having been cowed by Saddam, many Iraqis seem to be making up for it by distrusting their American occupiers and hectoring them whenever the occasion arises.”
None of this, however, seems to have diverted Paul Bremer from his relentless nation-building. Barnes finds the American intervention “so powerful and all-encompassing that it overshadows everything else.” And, perhaps most importantly, Iraq is in the midst of an economic boom that is likely to accelerate this summer as reconstruction money pours into an economy that now is “among the freest in the world [with] no tariffs or duties, a flat tax rate of 15 percent, no restrictions on capital investment, [and] few regulations that are being enforced.” According to Barnes, “A hot economy could have a significant social and political impact. For one thing, it might ease Iraq’s religious and ethnic tensions.” Therein lies the key. For, as Barnes concludes, “should national unity prevail, Iraq’s chances of becoming a stable democracy will improve dramatically.”

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