Count Ethnic Divisions, Not Bombs, to Tell if a Nation Will Recover From War (AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, 7/20/06, NY Times)
WITH repeated Shiite and Sunni killings in Iraq, the Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israel, Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Gaza, the assaults by the Taliban and counterassaults by American forces in Afghanistan, and a train bombing in India, it has been quite a fortnight for at least two of the horsemen of the apocalypse — war and death.
With little prospect of a quick resolution to most of these conflicts, perhaps it is worth looking at the long-run prospects for these nations once the wars actually end (assuming that they do end, of course).
The good news is that history suggests that the destruction of war has no lasting impact on economic prospects. The bad news is that most of these countries, especially Iraq, are filled with ethnic divisions and civil discord. The evidence shows that these problems, unlike bombs, cause lasting damage to the prospects for a nation’s economy, even if they do not boil over into civil war.
There’s nothing real about these states to begin with–they’re just creations of colonial powers. The quicker they devolve into their constituent and coherent parts the better.