The Brookings Institution, a centrist to liberal think tank - and one of DC's oldest, has published the Iraq Index since shortly after the U.S. invasion in 2003.
I've read abstracts of the Index on and off over the last few years. Since events in Iraq had been comparatively out of the news the last couple months, besides local elections and US withdrawal plans, I decided to check out what progress, or lack thereof, was occurring in the country since Saddam was removed from power. I examined the most recent Iraq Index edition, released on January 30, 2009.
The GDP measures are the most surprising:
2002 Pre-war GDP: $20.5 billion
2008 GDP: $60.9 billion
Along with telephone subscribers:
Pre-war estimate: 833,000 cellular/landline
October 2008: 13,000,000 cellular + 1,300,000 landlines
and Internet subscribers:
Pre-war estimate: 4,500
January 2009: 688,410
However, the brain-drain numbers are painful:
Iraqi Physicians Registered Before the 2003 Invasion: 34,000
Number of Physicians in Iraq (December 2008): 16,000
In The New York Times, on February 26, 2009, Brookings released their own summary of conditions in Iraq: Iraq’s Year of Living Dangerously. Key items from the authors Michael E. O'Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack include:
Iraq is holding its second round of real elections this year. It just concluded extremely successful provincial votes, and national parliamentary elections are to follow. Iraq’s calendar this year is also jam-packed with other important political events. If the United States can help the Iraqis secure even modestly positive outcomes for these events, we will have gone a long way toward realizing our goals of sustainable stability in Iraq and bringing most of our troops home next year.
Iraq has several important challenges that could strain its political system over the next year. They include the return of up to four million displaced people to their homes; the release of thousands of people detained by coalition forces, some of them surely dangerous; the continued search for permanent jobs for the largely Sunni Sons of Iraq, whose actions against the insurgents in Anbar Province were a key to the success of the “surge”; falling oil prices that will hamper the government’s ability to pay its workers; and the more general tasks of increasing oil exports, employment and the quality of life for Iraqis.
President Obama acknowledges this, to a degree, when he praised a gathering of U.S. Marines at Camp Lejeune on February 27.
"We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein's regime -- and you got the job done. We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government -- and you got the job done. And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life -- that is your achievement; that is the prospect that you have made possible."
How refreshing to have the posturing and vitriol of the 2008 campaign behind us.