11.948 | Spring 2005 | Graduate

The Politics of Reconstructing Iraq


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 1.5 hours / session

Colloquium: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session


This course is being offered in conjunction with the colloquium The Politics of Reconstructing Iraq, which is sponsored by MIT’s Center for International Studies and Department of Urban Studies and Planning. Fundamentally, the course focuses on contemporary post-conflict countries (or in-conflict countries) and the role of planning and reconstruction in building nations, mitigating conflicts, reshaping the social, spatial, geopolitical, and political life, and determining the country’s future.

Iraq is an in-conflict country. Its people live under foreign occupation and experience daily confrontations and hostilities. The country is politically unstable, nationally fragmented, and deeply divided along sectarian lines. The involvement of Iraq in several wars since 1979, thirteen years of international sanctions, and its occupation by the U.S. and its allies since April 2003 have left a physically ravaged and socially fragmented country. In this context, Iraq represents in-conflict countries such as Afghanistan, where conflict prevails and determines the social, political, and economic life of the country and its people.

Since its occupation of Iraq, the U.S. has been promoting a grand project and supposedly a comprehensive plan aiming to rebuild “a new Iraq” through restructuring its infrastructure, economy, society, and politics. The Congress approved $18.44 billion for the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund. The project is managed by the U.S. Army and Department of Defense. Additionally, many American corporations are involved in the reconstruction mission.

Besides the U.S. reconstruction project in Iraq, different global organizations have proposed social and economic plans for rebuilding the country, such as the United Nations Development Group (UNDG), and international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In addition many countries support the reconstruction mission, such as the Group of Seven industrialized countries (G7) and fifty other donor countries.

Aims of the Course

The main objectives of the course are as follows:

  • To offer students theoretical and practical tools and skills to understand the politics behind grand projects of post-conflict and in-conflict countries reconstructing and nation-building.
  • To illuminate the role of social, economic, physical, and spatial planning in the reconstruction of these countries.
  • To present and discuss in depth diverse perspectives on the reconstruction of Iraq through a variety of lenses, and to illuminate Iraq’s spatial, economic, social, and political complexities.

Themes of the Course

The course is composed of eleven sessions parallel to the seminar on Iraq. Each session presents and discusses specific aspects of a reconstruction theme. In brief, the course presents the following themes: planning theories and the concepts of nation-building and post-conflict reconstruction; lessons from the reconstruction of Germany and Japan after the Second World War, the reconstruction of Bosnia, and the reconstruction of Afghanistan; U.S. planning for post-war Iraq; the current U.S. reconstruction project in Iraq; the constructing of “a new Iraq” and “a new Middle East”; planning for liberal economy, democracy, and civil society in Iraq; the role of international organizations in reconstructing post-conflict countries; and planning for stability amidst insurgency and political conflict.

Course Requirements

Students are expected to read and critically assess the course readings, participate in the Institute-wide seminar (Participation: 20%), and present a paper/chapter/report that is related to the reconstruction of Iraq (Presentation: 80%). The students are not asked to write a paper. Themes for presentations- examples:

  • Economic restructuring
  • The role of international organizations in reconstruction
  • The profile of the contractors
  • Strategies and plans for reconstruction!
  • Implementation of projects
  • Civil society and reconstruction
  • Gender issues in reconstruction
  • Political reconstruction and building a new democracy
  • The social reconstruction
  • Reconstruction and the status of the capital: Baghdad in the case of Iraq
  • Critical reading (social, cultural, economic, …) for the reconstruction project

Activities gradings
Participation 20%
Presentation 80%

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2005