I want to discuss a few trends that have been downplayed by bothsides that might diffuse the ideological talk.
On the Conservative Side: This weekend, I talked about Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally. The rally focused on getting back to God instead of government, which I pointed too as evidence that the Religious Republican movement is back. Before the GOP moves in that direction, it would be good to note that more government does not mean less character in a nation. Recently, when people Gallup asked “Is Religion important in your daily life?” the answer was this, correlated with income level:
You will actually notice that many of these nations that seem to not involve religion in their daily lives are actually very well established economic systems, some are even up and coming growing economies. In much poorer countries such as Niger and Somalia, the rate is about 99% (I could not get the graph that shows those trends to upload for some reason). In other studies such as the one published in the Journal of Religion and Society, happiness rates (determined by crime rates, morality rates, etc.) were actually much higher than those of the U.S. This is not to say that religion does not play an important role in society, but just because it is not part of the central tenant of government does not really hurt the society at large. Usually in countries that have more socialistic types of economies they have a stronger social safety net, taking away some securities that religion provides to other people.
On the liberal Side: Liberals must admit that nation building in Iraq did work to some extent. The surge worked and the economy of Iraq is growing. New York Times columnist David Brooks put it this way today:
On the economic front, there are signs of progress. It’s hard to know what role the scattershot American development projects have played, but this year Iraq will have the 12th-fastest-growing economy in the world, and it is expected to grow at a 7 percent annual clip for the next several years.
Living standards are also improving. According to the Brookings Institution’s Iraq Index, the authoritative compendium of data on this subject, 833,000 Iraqis had phones before the invasion. Now more than 1.3 million have landlines and some 20 million have cellphones. Before the invasion, 4,500 Iraqis had Internet service. Now, more than 1.7 million do.
In the most recent Gallup poll, 69 percent of Iraqis rated their personal finances positively, up from 36 percent in March 2007. Baghdad residents say the markets are vibrant again, with new electronics, clothing and even liquor stores.
Basic services are better, but still bad. Electricity production is up by 40 percent over pre-invasion levels, but because there are so many more air-conditioners and other appliances, widespread power failures still occur.
In February 2009, 45 percent of Iraqis said they had access to trash removal services, which is woeful, though up from 18 percent the year before. Forty-two percent were served by a fire department, up from 23 percent.
About half the U.S. money has been spent building up Iraqi security forces, and here, too, the trends are positive. Violence is down 90 percent from pre-surge days. There are now more than 400,000 Iraqi police officers and 200,000 Iraqi soldiers, with operational performance improving gradually. According to an ABC News/BBC poll last year, nearly three-quarters of Iraqis had a positive view of the army and the police, including, for the first time, a majority of Sunnis.
Iraq ranks fourth in the Middle East on the Index of Political Freedom from The Economist’s Intelligence Unit — behind Israel, Lebanon and Morocco, but ahead of Jordan, Egypt, Qatar and Tunisia. Nearly two-thirds of Iraqis say they want a democracy, while only 19 percent want an Islamic state.
I think that the major reasons liberals hate to admit that nation building worked is because it was Bush’s idea. Republicans often do the same thing to President Obama, as is the way of partisan politics. We must compliment each other on our successes, otherwise the partisan gridlock will never surpass us.
In summary, Republicans must admit that a society does have to be a religious one to be successful and Democrats must admit that nation building in Iraq worked, for the most part.
Journal of Religion and Society
David Brook’s Column