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The Marshall Plan, Again

March 18, 2011

My wife hopes something will really come of talk about a Marshall Plan for the Middle East

For a couple of years my wife has complained that instead of trying to impose democracy through war peacekeeping missions, we should revive the Marshall Plan. Imagine what Afghanistan would have looked like if after defeating the Soviet Union with the billion dollars a year we gave the Mujahideen, we’d continued to pour that billion a year for another five years to build schools, rebuild infrastructure and support a shift to democratic modes of government. While it’s impossible to say how it would have changed Afghanistan, it’s a cinch Al-Qaida and the Taliban would never have gotten enterenched in the ways they did. No 9/11.

So it was interesting to read an AP story claiming that many Europeans are now calling for a Marshall Plan for the Middle East to support the transition to democracy and decrease the chances the societies will descend into chaos:

[s]ome European officials on Monday proposed a Marshall Plan for the Middle East, drawing an explicit parallel to the continent’s U.S.-funded reconstruction after World War II that testifies to the magnitude of the drama unfolding across the Mediterranean.

Of course, the hitch is the expense:

European Investment Bank President Philippe Maystadt estimated Tuesday that to support a transition to democracy in Tunisia, Egypt and other countries in the region it would need to lend euro6 billion ($8.2 billion) over the next three years.

The call for an ambitious reconstruction program, however, comes at a time when EU countries are already smarting from having to bail out both Greece and Ireland from the verge of bankruptcy. Protracted wrangling over those rescues shows how difficult it will be to achieve any meaningful plan for the Middle East.

Maybe the Saudis would pay for it if we promised not to include them as one of the beneficiaries?

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