As the aftermath of the Iraq war continues to be chaotic, there is a tendency to hope that this is just a passing phase and that time and action, such as the surge, will lead to better outcomes in the future. This article by David Stafford  in the Washington Post, looks at the parallels between post-war Iraq and post-World War II Germany. In both cases, there was looting, anarchy, and disappointment at the pace of progress. There was also a political struggle over how to deal with those who had been involved in an evil government before the war.
But as Chris Coyne points out in this week’s EconTalk  (and as Stafford mentions briefly in his article), there are crucial differences between Germany and Iraq. And between Iraq and Japan, the other successful result of US attempts to export democracy after war. Coyne also examines numerous other failures of US efforts to export democracy–Cuba, Somalia, and Haiti, just to name three, that failed miserably because the basic institutional infrastructure for democracy could not be created from scratch.
Coyne argues that most interventions hoping to create democracy don’t just fail, they make things worse. He argues for non-intervention and free trade as the best hope of helping people living under miserable conditions.