This Curve Spells Trouble for Iraq: In a graph tracking a society’s stability and openness, the combined data form a “J”-curve. No one wants to be in the dip, where Iraq is now (Ian Bremmer, 11/07/06, Business Week)

Imagine a graph on which the vertical axis measures a state’s stability and the horizontal axis measures its openness. Each nation appears as a data point on the graph. Taken together, these data points produce a pattern very much like the letter J. Nations higher on the graph are more stable; those lower are less stable. Nations to the right of the dip in the J are more open. Those to the left are less open.

For a country on the closed left side of the curve to move to the open right side, it must pass through the dip in the J—a period of dangerous instability. In the early 1990s, South Africa, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia each descended into this dip. South Africa re-emerged on the right side of the J curve as an open post-apartheid state. The Soviet Union and Yugoslavia came apart and ceased to exist. […]

In the spring of 2003, the U.S. pushed Iraq into the dip in the J curve. The shape of the curve expresses why the country’s future is now so uncertain. One state can drive another into the dip, but it cannot drag it up the right side of the curve. The U.S. can try to guarantee Iraq’s security as it begins the ascent, but Iraq must make the climb for itself. U.S. officials essentially wrote the postwar Japanese constitution, but it was the Japanese people who breathed life into the institutions that created a new and more open society. […]

Simply said, no one wants to be in the dip in the curve, and the path up the left side offers a quicker way out. It’s a lot easier to quickly restore order by declaring martial law (moving the country up the left side of the curve) than by making the institutions of government more transparent (moving the country to the right).

Building a stability that is based on openness requires a long-term commitment of financing, political capital, faith, and confidence—in Iraq’s case, from America. But the Bush Administration did not adequately prepare the American people to make such an enormous commitment. It’s a little late for the President to ask the U.S. public for an open-ended commitment now. The Administration’s long list of rosy projections—Americans will be greeted as liberators, the insurgency is in its last throes—have undermined public confidence.
Uncomfortable Position

Iraq’s Shia, Sunnis, and Kurds can only make the slow climb up the right side of the J curve with a long-term commitment of considerable political, economic, diplomatic, and military resources from the U.S. The American people will not support such a commitment.

Of course, artificial entities come apart precisely because no one wants to risk such openness in a multicultural state. Once Iraq devolves into three states, as Russia devolved into many, each should be able to open.

4 Responses to CALL US DR. J:

  1. PapayaSF says:

    How is partition any guarantee of peace? It didn’t seem to help much regarding India/Pakistan, Israel/everybody, East/West Germany, North/South Korea, etc.

  2. Orrin says:

    India and Pakistan are at peace. Israel’s at peace with everyone who got a state of their own. Korea is one state trying to reunite as the Germanies did.

  3. Sandy P says:

    Could have fooled me Korea’s trying to reunite.

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