While much of Iraq is still a mess 2 years on… the fact remains that it can be fixed. The insurgency is not insurmountable, the situation is not hopeless.
There are ways out of this mess, but it requires a change in tactic by the US and Iraqi government. This fact is not only being pointed out endlessly by academics in the US and elsewhere but also by American officers on the ground in Iraq.
Take these two quotes from the Academic and the Officer respectively:
Basic services are the core political goods of the modern state. A failure to deliver these services will delegitimize any state that does not quickly correct the problem. Allawi’s interim government and the US occupation lost its legitimacy in large part due to this process.
We are about to see another victim. The new government in Iraq….
The UPI’s Baghdad correspondent, Beth Potter, picks up on this trend:
Iraqi voters aren’t happy. They don’t care that some of the biggest political changes ever to happen in their lifetime are going on in their country. All they know is that the electricity still is off for hours every day, the water doesn’t always flow out of the faucets, there are still long gas queues at the stations, and the situation still seems pretty lawless in the streets.
From the Officer:
- A soldier’s natural inclination is to finish the fight first, provide security, and then work on development. This won’t work in Iraq. The Army needs to work on security and development in parallel.
- Poor services is one of the man things encouraging support to the insurgency. Most attacks occur in parts of the city where services are the worst. Large unemployment also contributes to dissatisfaction and resistance (it’s better than before the war, but still very high).
- Most insurgents fight out of general dissatisfaction, simple nationalism, need for money, etc….
- Sanitation was the problem he spent most of his time on. Streets with several inches of raw sewage running down them are common in Baghdad, particularly in Sadr City. The sewers that exist get clogged up with trash because garbage collection is poor, it piles up in the street, and it gets washed into the drains. Americans tend to want to build new schools, which are great, but not the primary need. Even fancy new sewage treatment plants are not the primary need—one is running at less than 1/3 capacity because the piping doesn’t exist to get the sewage to it. Step one is getting the sewage off the streets and into the Tigris, nasty as that sounds. Then we can worry about treating it on the way.
So we see that the US Army officer and the Academic are actually talking the same language…
John Robb points to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which states that in order for a person to be self-actualized (and basically happy with his/her situation) there is a simple hierarchy or priority list to reach a level of happiness. First comes basic survival… food, water, electricity. Then comes shelter, security and employment. Then belonging, respect and affection. Then opportunity for advancement…
What John Robb points out and what the US Army commander is noting on the ground, is that the current US policy has attempted to rebuild Iraqi society in a backwards fashion. While so much emphasis was put on bringing about elections and interim governments and building new schools, basic services were never secured and provided reliably… and still aren’t today. This is the foundation of Maslow’s Hierarchy… and the failure of that has effectively cut the legs out from under the US and Iraqi ability to manage Iraq, the security situation, and the fledgling government.
So, what do we do to change this?
Well, I think it’s time the US get some *real* help.
The US needs to ask the world to help it restore basic services and functionality to Iraq. Yes, I think it should be coordinated by the UN, only because the UN is the only agency that can coordinate the international effort that this should be.
The UN needs to be tasked to go in, with military support where needed, and repair the basic infrastructure in Iraq. If that means having patrols along every Iraqi oil pipeline for a few months, then so be it. The US and Iraqi government needs to have the balls to truly ask for help and the International community needs to respond swiftly and completely.
Baghdad must be cleaned up and its’ sewer system repaired.
The electricity grid must be repaired and secured.
The water system was must be repaired and upgraded.
The oil/gas delivery system must be repaired and secured.
As the saying goes… many hands make light work.
It’s time for the US to bite the bullet and the UN (including Canada) to step up.