Marshall Plan-like Considerations

The original Marshall Plan, conceived at the end of the 2nd World War, was was an attempt to learn from history.  The peace treaty resulting from World War I was a humiliation and economic burden for Germany.  This bred resentment and hardship, seeds which Hitler readily capitalized on, a few years later.  To avoid the same mistake, US General George Marshall envisioned a plan that would help to rebuild the ravaged countries of the former enemies, thereby ending the enmity.  It worked.

There are vast differences in context between September 11, 2001, and post-World War II Europe.  Thus one can't transplant such ideas directly.  Nonetheless thinking along Marshall Plan-like lines is in keeping with the notion of lasting peace and true justice. The following are mere initial sketches, simply trying to direct discourse in a certain direction.  It may seem naive, but it is nothing that several billion dollars, the brighest minds and thousands of workers can't remedy.  And besides it is no more naive than thinking that a true lasting peace can ever occur through either war, coercion or manipulation - these might achieve calm on the surface for awhile, but just below will always lie the simmering coals that will eventually either re-ignite or somehow make obvious a diminshed sense of humanity.

And to be clear, this is not meant as a replacement for the campaign to stop terrorists. Immediate acts must be stopped and prevented. But in complementary fashion if this plan is successful, it removes the fertile ground for terrorism. As well, at its best if the Balkans might serve as an illustration (the tide turning against Milosevic), the people may come to recognize how such people, whether as terrorists or despots, almost destroyed their country and culture and may hand such people over themselves.



1.    It is a massive infusion of resources to help the local people rebuild their ravaged country. It must make use of the best current insights.  As such the chief gauge should be  Well-being ; and it should abide by the best current development principles and strategies ( Development principles ).

a.    It is not a hand-out but a hand-up. Initially due to the threat of starvation, pure aid will need to be continued. But the real focus is on capacity-building – the ability of the people to determine their own future, implying that basic food, shelter, economic, ecosystem and governance structures are in place to support that.

b.    It must be done via dialogue as equals. This engenders healthy long-term relations and avoids a paternalistic “we know best” syndrome. They know what they need in general although the solutions should be considered in light of the best insights of the international development community. It must not be an automatic transplanting of our culture.

c.    The more directly the contact and actions are local, the less likely the chances of corruption, etc. There are arenas that need government-to-government action, such as infrastructure. But programs like micro-credit, sustainable agriculture, etc are best handled in an NGO-like fashion, connecting straight with the local people.

2.    It must have prior communication channels with the local people. Interpretation of any effort is crucial and is prone to being twisted by those who have already warped the solid tenets of Islam.

3.    It needs the support of the government. This is biggest difference from the context of the original Marshall Plan. Pre-Sept 11 Afghan leadership was quite entrenched. Any act of genuine concern would be viewed with suspicion and likely hostility. But in post-Sept 11 light, they may nonetheless consider it more desirable than other looming possibilities. Of course such coercion (looming big stick) leads to resentment, and normal intense diplomacy should be tried first to try to induce reasonableness into the picture.

Positive aspects:

1.    It is the right thing to do: if you want a more caring, respectful world, then be that way. This doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to terrorists. It means a two-level strategy. Immediate violent situations must be stopped – here terrorists- and also attention must be taken to address the root causes.

2.    From a purely strategic viewpoint:  it doesn’t follow the terrorist script. The attack in New York is only one step in the terrorist plan. They intend that we will retaliate, and will do so in a manner which inflames ordinary people on their side of the world, thereby strengthening their power. Through interviews, bin Laden has indicated a couple of separate goals, of which one is nothing short of an eventual grand United States – Islamic global confrontation, in which the US will finally fall.

To be clear I must state that we should never see this as anything other than a dangerous person/group using warped views of Islam (basic genuine Islam being one of the fine world religions).  But the point is that if this goal is correct, and if he is truly a demented genius, then he will already have in place mechanisms to inflame the people upon innocent casualties, and who knows what else farther down the line.  One has to blindside him with something so disconnected from his script and with something that usurps his logic and rhetoric.

  1. But it only works once the enemy is defeated: Again it must be a two-tiered approach, whereby reasonable anti-terrorist actions take place here and all international actions are pursued that will not involve killing or diminishing (such as fleeing to refugee camps, which then fester) innocent people. As well, the enemy isn’t Afghanistan or its people; if we are to use the word ‘enemy’, it is the shadowy international terrorist network.
  1. But it will only strengthen the structures of the enemy: Yes, great care must be taken to ensure appropriate supplies get to the right people, as noted above. 

For a recent WorldWatch commentary on Marshall Plan ideas see:
 Another View on Marshall Plan 

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This is being done in the few tiny gaps of time that I have available - I will respond as soon as possible.  Thank you for your interest and patience.