Issues & Overview Iraq - Staying The Course

Monday, March 1, 2004 - 00:00

Robert L. Duncan
Deputy Publisher

Irrespective of how you may have felt about the war that the United States and its coalition partners launched against Saddam Hussain's regime last spring, we trust that there is a general concensus today on the need to help the Iraqis build a civil society. This issue of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel includes articles and interviews from a variety of perspectives that attempt to convey what is necessary for that effort to succeed.

In December of last year the Association of Corporate Counsel Greater New York Chapter sponsored a program on doing business in Iraq. Three of that program's participants, George Wolfe, Richard Greco and the Hon. Donald F. Campbell, have contributed to our publication's section on Iraq this month, and they provide us with a look at the country through the eyes of the Coalition Provisional Authority, which, in different roles, they were assigned by our government to advise. They describe a country that had become, over the past thirty years, one of the poorest on earth; a country with $100 billion in debt and no foreign currency reserves; a country where 70% of the economy was state-owned and the state had ceased to exist. They go on to discuss their work with the Iraqis to help build a platform to support future growth, and the accomplishments are impressive: a new currency which carries a perception of real value; the availability of credit on a fair and transparent basis; provision for foreign direct investment; and an independent judiciary that serves to provide credibility to a newly-functioning judicial system. The picture they present, on the whole, is one of guarded optimism.

Our law firm articles, predictably, have a focus on the security situation and on the correlation between security on the ground and the inflow of investment funding. While there are differences of opinion on a number of issues among our law firm contributors, all agree that Iraq must become a safe place to do business before the private sector is going to invest in a substantial way, and that that has not happened yet. Two of our law firm contributors share an Arab-American perspective on Iraq, and they both applaud the determination, the resilience and the entrepreneurial spirit of the Iraqi people. They also point out that the ultimate resolution of the country's security situation is most probably something that only the Iraqis can accomplish, although the need for support from the United States and its coalition partners continues to be crucial. One of this publication's service provider patrons, Decision Strategies, LLC, is engaged in this effort and has contributed its observations to this issue.

Many of the themes featured in this publication on an ongoing basis are being played out on the Iraqi stage at the present moment, and the stakes are very high. The rule of law is obviously of the first importance, and if Iraq does attain this crucial goal many other things become, in all probability, much easier to accomplish: access to a fair and impartial justice system for everyone, respect for basic human rights, the acknowledgement of property rights and the protection of such rights, transparency in governmental institutions and a government that is elected by the people of Iraq and that is responsive to their needs, most particularly their security needs. All of our contributors agree that the Iraqis need and will continue to need our support if they are to win through to the prosperity and security that they have been denied for so long. That is something that is going to require both patience and resolution on our part. We believe that this effort is important for its own sake and for the sake of our children and grandchildren. A world which includes a free, prosperous and secure Iraq, an Iraq that is a good place and a safe place to do business, is a better world.

We applaud the New York Chapter of ACCA on sponsoring an extremely important discussion on Iraq in December. Over the coming months, we hope to work with ACCA and with our supporting and patron law firms and legal service providers in a continuing discussion of progress on the development of a civil society in Iraq.

In addition, in the months to come we hope to feature interviews with corporate counsel which highlight some of the things that American corporations are doing in Iraq to combat ignorance, disease and poverty and to support the rule of law. In recent years our series on global corporate citizenship has attempted to focus on the things many of our leading corporations are doing to support community welfare and economic growth in developing countries throughout the world. Iraq is now the front line of the battle against terrorism and the things that underlie it - ignorance, disease and poverty. It is timely for corporate counsel to explore with their corporations what they can do in Iraq as part of their global citizenship responsibility.