Iraqis Ask: Why Didn’t USAID Do That?

The Bush administration’s decision to oust Saddam Hussein involved not one choice, but rather four:

  • First, the decision to use military force against Iraq
  • Second, the decision to occupy Iraq rather than to oust Saddam and leave as many Iraqis had advised.
  • Third, the decision to aim for democracy rather than install a general as a new dictator;
  • And, fourth, the decision to reconstruct and develop Iraq.

The first and third choices George W. Bush made were wise; the second and fourth were not. The occupation of Iraq—pushed at the policy level by those who believed the U.S. would have more influence to shape governance with boots on the ground rather than by working to form a coherent coalition prior to the invasion—was disastrous. Once the Americans established themselves in Baghdad, mission creep cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives. Few USAID and Coalition Provisional Authority projects had any discernible impact; to this day, Iraqis identify conversion to a new currency as the only truly successful American project beyond ousting Saddam.

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Iraqis Ask: Why Didn’t USAID Do That?

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