Sunday, September 14, 2003

Controlling the peace

The Marshall Plan is coming up a lot lately. Several have pointed out that the Marshall Plan, in today’s dollars, was roughly equivalent to what we’re spending in Iraq. In other words, Iraq wasn’t all that expensive by comparison, and what we’re doing has significant historical precedent.

Not so much.

I have a little (emphasis on “little”) experience when it comes to the Marshall Plan. I wrote a thesis as an undergrad in 1993 that focused on US foreign policy and the Marshall Plan. I spent a little time this morning brushing up on the Marshall Plan to make sure I wasn’t too rusty. The best online resource I could find came from the Marshall Foundation. And I even re-read my thesis. (If you allow for the fact that I was just 20 years old when it was written, and overlook the incredible reliance on just a couple sources (who is van der Beugel anyway?) it’s not entirely without merit.)

In any event, here are some figures:

  • The Marshall Plan cost $13.3b over four years. Adjusted for inflation, that number equals about $100b in 2002 (the latest year for which inflation figures are available).

  • The preparation for our Iraq invasion, aid to allies, and invasion itself cost $80b. And President Bush just asked for another $87b for the next fiscal year.

  • Vice President Cheney today admitted on Meet the Press that the administration will ask for more money and our occupation will not end in the next fiscal year.

  • To date, just $2.5b of the money spent on the war and occupation has gone towards reconstruction. And nearly 80% of the money requested by President Bush will go towards the U.S. military.

To sum up: by the end of next fiscal year, we will have spent at least $167 billion. And if current estimates hold, we’ll be spending $4b per month (which is actually half of what President Bush asked for in the next fiscal year). Let’s be optimistic and assume that the reconstruction will end by 2006 (optimistic, I know. But let’s be conservative in our cost estimates). So that means we’ll end up spending a total of $267b over four years. And if President Bush’s estimates hold over the final two years, we will have spent $350b.

In other words, when the four year tallies are in, our Iraq reconstruction will be more than double — and perhaps nearly quadruple — the Marshall Plan. (And if you subtract out what we’re spending on our own military, then the amount actually spent on the reconstruction pales in comparison to what we spent in Europe.)

But let’s look at what really made the Marshall Plan successful. Money was critical. But money alone doesn’t solve the problem. What made the plan successful was that we put the Europeans in charge. From my thesis:

The sheer amount of money that the U.S. pledged to Europe would lead one to believe that the U.S. would want to control the process as much as possible.

This was not the case. While the Marshall Plan was an American plan, the methods for implementation were European, the goals were European, and the success was largely thanks to the incredible planning required by the Europeans. This is not to say that the United States maintained a hands-off treatment of the policy — it is simply to say that the Europeans had more to do with the details of the plan than has been commonly credited.

In fact, check out the “suggestions” we made to the Europeans in advance of nailing down the aid package that would accompany the Marshall Plan:

1. Europe should prove that after four years she would be self-sufficient.
2. The balance of payments deficit of member countries to the dollar area should be eradicated by 1951.
3. Specific promises should be given by participating countries with respect to
industrial production programs.
4. Long-term capital investments should be excluded from U.S. aid.
5. Participating countries should take effective steps to create internal monetary and financial stability.
6. Steps should be taken to diminish trade barriers, with the eventual goal of complete conformity with the International Trade Organization.
7. A permanent organization should be created for the management of the recovery plan.

Question: have we heard about any such conditions placed on the Iraqis in exchange for the massive dollars we’re pouring into Iraq?

It seems to me the mistake that we’ve made so far in establishing the peace is that we’ve made it an American-imposed peace. Where is the Iraqi Jean Monnet? And that, ultimately, is the rub. In 1991, one of the reasons Bush 41 didn’t try harder to topple Saddam was the fear of a vaccuum in Iraq. The fact that there is no Jean Monnet, Winston Churchill, Konrad Adenauer or anyone else taking a leadership role in Iraq means that we have created that very vaccuum twelve years later. (What about Ahmad Chalabi, you ask? I’ll let Josh Marshall tackle that one.)

In other words, comparing our policy in Iraq to the Marshall Plan isn’t an apples to apples comparison. It’s not even an apples to golf clubs comparison. The Marshall Plan worked because, well, it was a plan. Beyond that, it worked because we gave up control. We had defined objectives. We ensured others had accountability to the process. And we set a timetable. (And the money spent was directly linked to those objectives.)

So where do we go from here? The Dean campaign has put together a page that pulls all of Governor Dean’s positions on Iraq. The first step is to get others involved. President Bush asked for U.N. involvement, yet maintains that we remain in control. For me, that’s the ultimate difference between the Bush Administration and the Dean campaign.

The Dean campaign model is decentralized. Its success to this point is due in part to its ability to sacrifice control in order to create momentum and energy. That energy has produced real results thus far — and there’s no reason to think that the approach wouldn’t carry over to how President Dean would run his administration.

In other words, give up some control. Success in Iraq may depend on it, just like success in Europe did.


  1. "And if President Bush’s estimates hold over the final two years, we will have spent $350b."

    That pails in comparison to the Education Bill we passed or the Prescription Drug program that congressman want passed. Both of which are or were supported highly between both political parties.

    Military Spending still remains around 15-20% of the total cost of spending. Around 75-90% is Domestic Spending. Since the federal government even under President George Bush has increased federal spending on a yearly basis on the Domestic Agenda.

    We have a situation where the American people must sacrifice. They must sacrifice in the pursuit of protecting Americans here and aborad.

  2. Rick,
    You cited Jean Monnet.
    I will read your site daily from now on.

  3. Ok, first of all, it "pales" not "pails" by comparison.

    Second, if I am going to sacrifice, let it be for my parents and grandparents who can't afford their prescriptions, and the kids here who go to bed hungry, or don't have textbooks in their schools. Don't think about asking me to pony up $87 billion for rebuiding Iraq when we can't or won't take care of our own.

  4. I love it when people can only critique my spelling instead of my analysis. As for not caring one single bit about the Iraqi people, I'll just stick your comments into the ole Selfish bin of liberal selfishness.

  5. Assuming, of course, that I am a liberal, which you don't know, I am not sure how wanting to take care of one's own people first before addressing the problems of other nations makes me selfish.