Are Iraqi hearts and minds being bought?

How has the US government been spending your $29 billion?

In a new paper, Eli Berman, Jake Shapiro and Joseph Felter pull together spatial data on insurgent violence, reconstruction spending, and community characteristics in Iraq, and find that money can buy you love:

counterinsurgents are most generous with government services in locations where they expect violence; improved service provision has reduced insurgent violence since the summer of 2007; and the violence-reducing effect of service provision varies predictably across communities.

…every dollar per capita of CERP spending predicted 1.9 less violent incidents per 100,000 population

The analysis is based on the $2.6 billion spent by the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP), where graft, inefficiency, and incompetence have been minimal. So who is to say what the other $27 billion accomplished? But I’m comforted that smart reconstruction spending does seem to have the desired result.