Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Learning curves

Max Hastings on Commentisfree pushes Paul Collier's The Bottom Billion and the need for humanitarian intervention.

"On balance I think that my children, and everybody else's, will be safer if we respond to the problem of failing states by restoring order, rather than by relying on the myriad of defensive measures that we need if we don't do it."

Hastings reckons that Iraq has poisoned the well, and the will to do it again. That will certainly be true if it stops here. But Petraeus is showing that the US can learn from its mistakes and that it can work, even under the worst conditions. All this can, of course, be forgotten, and will be if America goes into isolationist mode with bitter memories of Iraq. However, it might also be that they will learn to do it better. God knows, no-one else is able.

Hastings also includes this quote from Collier's book. (BTW, he had this article in last month's Prospect on some of the same themes.)

"Citizens of the rich world are not to blame for most of the problems of the bottom billion; poverty is simply the default option when economies malfunction. The development lobbies themselves, notably the big western NGO charities, often just don't understand trade."

The comments are of the usual standard.

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