30 July 2016

Policy for the Middle East

Philippe Sands discusses the recently released Chilcot report into the UK's role in the Iraq conflict:
There’s nothing really new, since the material emerged when the hearings took place, but these 169 pages of tightly woven narrative and assessment nonetheless offer a unique insight into the place of legal advice within government: how law is made to fit around policy, rather than the other way round. ....  [T]he decision to remove Saddam Hussein and wage war in Iraq was taken early, and ...  intelligence and law were then fixed to facilitate the desired outcome.  A grand and disastrous deceit, Philippe Sands, 'London Review of Books', 28 July. (My emphasis.)
The Iraq debacle is a tragic story of how policy is made without regard not only for the law, or the truth, but also for the well-being of people in Iraq. It's a typical conceit of those in power. Here's a problem: Saddam's regime is nasty. And here's our solution: remove Saddam and wage war in Iraq.

I can't offer a better solution. But what I can offer is a way of generating better solutions. The first step is to be clear about our goals. I'd say our over-arching goal should have been to improve the well-being of all the Iraqi people. A second goals would be to remove any threats to non-Iraqis arising from weapons of mass destruction. For each of these two goals we need reliable indicators that we could then target by issuing Social Policy Bonds. A quantifiable indicator of well-being could target for improvement a combination of such measures as the human development index, the numbers of political prisoners, the numbers killed in sectarian violence, numbers of emigrants and refugees, and some measures of media incitement to hatred and violence. Importantly, such Iraq Peace Bonds would not assume that, for instance, Saddam must be removed and his regime dismantled. It would be up to bondholders, motivated by financial incentives, to calculate how best to achieve peace in Iraq. Financial incentives - not emotion - would dictate their decisions.

What about the second goal: the elimination of the threat arising from real or imagined weapons of mass destruction? This goal could have been targeted by a second bond issue, which would reward bondholders for achieving the non-use of such weapons over a sustained period of, say, several decades.

In both bond issues, bondholders would have incentives to generate diverse, adaptive approaches to meeting their goals. This means that they would not impose top-down solutions on the basis of how they feel at one point in time, and that they would have a continued strong interest in the long-term success of their approaches. I've written about bonds targeting peace in the Middle East here, and about bonds targeting sustained nuclear peace here.

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