Mudville notes a run-of-the-mill business exposition, except, well, except its very ordinariness hints at the extraordinary:
The weeklong “Rebuild Iraq 2006” drew some 20,000 businesspeople and more than 1,000 exhibitors from 50 countries – all in search of ways to enter the Iraqi market or increase their business there.
It is easy to satirize what can seem forced or even manic good cheer at Chamber of Commerce gatherings, but such a convention is a sign of health & indicates a practical sense that a strong (& therefore peaceful) economy lies in the future.
Iraqis are using their freedom to improve their personal lives and, in the process, to build their country. One of the most infuriating aspects of the Western media’s presentation of Iraq is that Iraqis themselves are reduced to being the bleeding, mourning victims of terror; they are bit players in a narrative that is about Bush wrecking the country. The material in the Brookings report not only credits Iraqis with initiative, it restores to them the dignity that the Western media’s one-dimensional presentation denies them.
We, in our institutions and our guts value (for all its sometimes wrongheadedness) the self-reliance of Emerson; we see each individual as well as each community as well as each country capable of taking responsibiity for itself. We see ourselves as defined by ourselves, our nation as defined by itself. That is how we became a people defined by creed. This differs from those who see others as defined by their neediness and patronized by their betters. (Indeed, who believe in a fatalism we sometimes associate with the Naturalists.)
Instead, in Iraq, in the humdrum world of commerce, personal responsibility can grow; indeed, “[e]ven the governor of the restive Sunni Anbar province was in attendance, along with 100 entrepreneurs from Fallujah.” Next to the strong & transparent rule of law and the open marketplace of ideas, surely little is more encouraging about Iraq’s future than open commerce. U.S. officials note “a new initiative by the US State and Defense Departments” encourages “private sector development in Iraq’s provinces.”
It would be harsh, unrealistic and wrong to suggest that such an approach would solve the problems now in Darfur. It is not, however, unrealistic to argue that such an approach could be usefully applied in other war-torn & dismal areas under the protection of other authorities. This optimism & belief in the future by American Jews led them to pay for the hothouses of Jews retreating from Gaza. Those potential bases for a productive & independent future were immediately looted & destroyed by those rigidly fixed on a past, with its never-to-be-assuaged grievances.
And, if Babbitt reminds us business isn’t exactly a saintly calling, we might remember that generally it is a useful and productive one. Sinclair Lewis was pitiless as was Arthur Miller in the next generation. That there was some truth to their observations all of us may acknowledge; that there was a greater truth to them, I’m less sure.