Sunday, September 11, 2016

Review of "Peace Through Entrepreneurship: Investing in a Startup Culture for Security and Development," by Steven R. Koltai and Matthew Muspratt

Review of

Peace Through Entrepreneurship: Investing in a Startup Culture for Security and Development, by Steven R. Koltai and Matthew Muspratt ISBN 9780815729235

Five out of five stars

The United States has been militarily engaged in several Middle Eastern countries for over a decade now and all of the objective data indicates that little progress has been made towards subduing the forces of violent extremism. Bombs fall and kill, fighters launch suicide attacks, politicians and their media allies talk tough in public, yet the wars continue with no real end in sight.
 In this book Koltai identifies what the real problem is and puts forward potential solutions that are cheaper and actually have a chance to work. He points out that the countries with the greatest turmoil in the Middle East have very high percentages of young people that have a very high percentage of unemployment. The lack of any significant economic opportunities leads to despair, hopelessness and a desire to fight back.
 Although it has now become a proxy war between Sunni and Shia Muslims, the unrest in Syria that led to the civil war was based on economic conditions. Prolonged drought and lack of government response led people to the point of desperation. The events that came to be called the “Arab Spring” were largely responses to a lack of economic opportunities for young people as well as a spike in the price of food.
 Koltai’s solution is to export the one American feature that everyone in the world admires, the entrepreneurial culture. For only the tiniest fraction of the cost of the military actions, the United States can provide economic opportunities having a local flavor that will “take people off the streets” and into businesses that will lead to opportunities.
 Koltai once worked for the U. S. government in the projects to promote entrepreneurship in other countries and paints a very bleak picture of the effectiveness of the programs. He also expresses a low opinion of USAID programs and how only a small number of companies get the majority of the contracts. Largely due to their skills at navigating the process rather than any talent at actual economic development.
 Despite the bleakness, Koltai does put forward believable arguments for the development of a global entrepreneurship program fueled by the U. S. government. Not only is it a program that has a chance of success, the cost is insignificant compared to the use of military hardware. Unfortunately, the transfer of a military helicopter directly creates American jobs while an entrepreneurship program in Tunisia does not. This book contains long-term thinking at its best, something the American political process does not do very well.

This book was made available for free for review purposes.

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