Another Long War?

Today’s headlines are: LONG ROAD AHEAD Top French Official: Intervention Could Last ’Awhile’.. Gaddafi Vows ’Long War’

Two days ago I posted the following blog: reproduced below:

“So the next war has started. At least we are not acting alone, though we seemed to have followed more than lead. Try to remember the emotions that led us into it. Natural sympathy for the rebels/insurgents/freedom fighters—for the under dogs is one of the reasons. And disgust for the mad man Gaddafi is another. And of courage there is the American testosterone charged swagger that we can squash the villain so why not.  Hold those thoughts, as it seems to you now looking forward with only a few bombs dropped so far. Try to remember it six months from now, two years from now, five years from now (We have been fighting in Afghanistan for over nine years and have been in Iraq for seven).

“Looking back it will seem very different. We will know by then who the new guys are and whether they are better or worse than Gaddafi. We will not know whether we were right to side with the Sunnis or the Shias (which ever it turns out to be). Some of us will say that it was not wise to take sides in this great intra Muslim struggle. We will have poured more billions into someone else’s economy at a time when we MUST cut back our government’s spending of money it doesn’t have thus forcing us to cut domestic spending even more than otherwise.

“I have no idea how this will go (which is one of the compelling reasons why we are being very fooling to undertake it), but I do know that it will all look very different looking back.”

It is instructive to compare events in Egypt with those in Libya. Egypt has a significant middle class and a significant and deepening civil society. The prospects for Egyptian democracy are hopeful following its homegrown protests that started less than two months ago and resulted in the ouster of long ruling President Mubarak. Yet these events took decades to mature and even in Egypt the final outcome remains uncertain. Egyptian protesters where united in their demands for Mubarak’s ouster. But then what? Many different visions of his replacement and of the future regime are in conflict with each other. The Economist printed an excellent brief on the struggles between different interests now under way in Egypt. “The Arab Uprisings: Democracy’s Hard Spring” March 10, 2011. But Egypt has a foundation from which to build and the outcome is hopeful. Libya will look more like Afghanistan and Iraq. It only took us a few months to forget the hard lessons of Iraq.

Two weeks ago I feared that we might do this. You can review my earlier warnings at my blog: “Libya and the drums of war” March 10; “More on Libya” March 12; and “Libya: Let’s not make it our war” March 13, 2011.

Author: Warren Coats

I specialize in advising central banks on monetary policy and the development of the capacity to formulate and implement monetary policy.  I joined the International Monetary Fund in 1975 from which I retired in 2003 as Assistant Director of the Monetary and Financial Systems Department. While at the IMF I led or participated in missions to the central banks of over twenty countries (including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgystan, Moldova, Serbia, Turkey, West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Zimbabwe) and was seconded as a visiting economist to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (1979-80), and to the World Bank's World Development Report team in 1989.  After retirement from the IMF I was a member of the Board of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority from 2003-10 and of the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review from 2010-2017.  Prior to joining the IMF I was Assistant Prof of Economics at UVa from 1970-75.  I am currently a fellow of Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise.  In March 2019 Central Banking Journal awarded me for my “Outstanding Contribution for Capacity Building.”  My recent books are One Currency for Bosnia: Creating the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina; My Travels in the Former Soviet Union; My Travels to Afghanistan; My Travels to Jerusalem; and My Travels to Baghdad. I have a BA in Economics from the UC Berkeley and a PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago. My dissertation committee was chaired by Milton Friedman and included Robert J. Gordon.

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