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So …WaddaIdo?

I have been talking a lot about events w/o ever addressing the existential question, such as why am I here?  What am I supposed to do in Iraq?  Let me give my quick explanation.

First I suggest you look at the new publication AID put out re PRTs.  If  you look at the map, my PRT is called West Anbar. 

They tell me that the PRT concept originated in Afghanistan, where we realized that just chasing away the bad guys would not ensure success if we did not leave behind a viable civil structure that would allow for peaceful development.   It seems to me the concept is a lot older than that.  Everything from a Roman aqueduct in Spain to a WPA shelter or the pine trees planted by the CCC in one of our National Forests are monuments by “provincial reconstruction teams.” 

Prosperity cannot come before security.  This is a step you cannot skip no matter how enthusiastically you sing the song of peace.  And security must be established by force and violence.   Coalition forces have established reasonable security in Anbar.  This is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for progress.  Now it is the time for us of the softer hands to do our part.

It just makes sense that if you address a problem but leave in place the conditions that created it, you have not addressed the problem.  I have no delusions of grandeur that my small team can solve the problems of Iraq, Anbar or even one of the provincial cities, but I figure if we all do our small parts, eventually – through mere accretion if nothing else – something big may result.

The heartbreak of Iraq is not that it is poor and disorganized.  The real tragedy is that it does not have to be that way. Everybody knows it has oil, but it is also rich in terms of water, agricultural potential and people.   Saddam mismanaged and misappropriated Iraq’s wealth for more than 25 years and leadership was not all that good before either.  Iraq’s misfortune results from more than mismanagement and it cannot be addressed by replacing bad guys with good ones (if that were even possible).   The problem was/is systemic.  Iraq was run as a centralized state.  Decisions and resources came from Baghdad with virtually no consideration for or from the people affected.  This was exacerbated by the “curse of oil”.   The government floated on oil.  It did not need to get the consent of the governed to raise revenue.  Instead it could make all Iraqis dependent on the oil financed “largess” of the central authority.  That, coupled with the real danger of taking any action that might anger the central power and what they tell me is an ancient Mesopotamian pessimism, made the population very passive. 

So maybe our PRTs are peeing the ocean and waiting for the flood, but it seems to me that the recent events in Iraq have created conditions for radical change.  The coalition military has bought the opportunity.  It is the direction of the change that is in flux.  If left on its own, the tyranny pattern of the past will reassert itself.   At this time of maximum leverage, maybe our little pushes will help make the future different from the past.

My team, and the others like mine, is working with the local people: tribes, municipal government, private sector initiatives and other to overcome the over centralization of the past.   I am personally excited about the new push in agriculture.   I just (yesterday) got a new staff member, a guy from Department of Agriculture who has experience rebuilding soils that have been ruined by the salinization that comes with too much irrigation for too long.  I think we can do some good here.  It certainly is worth the trouble of trying.


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Comments

John,

Thanks for your service and thanks for sharing your experiences. Civil/military coopertation is absolutely necessary for the "build" phase of the clear-hold-build strategy to succeed.

On the origin of PRTs, I agree that the history of civil/military operations goes way back; however, there is a close link between the PRT concept that is in use in Afghanistan and Iraq and the CORDS (Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development) that was implemented in Vietnam in 1967.

From the book, "America in Vietnam" by Guenter Lewy (p. 124):

"In many ways, CORDS represented a unique experiment in unified civil/military organization. All parts of the pacification program were now made an integral part of the military command-MACV-but personnel for CORDS were drawn not only from the military services but also from AID, the State Department, CIA, USIA, and the White House. Thus at all levels civilians came to serve under soldiers and vice versa. CORDS was headed by Robert W. Komer, who assumed the title of Deputy to COMUSMACV for CORDS and who held ambassadorial rank-a civilian serving as an operational deputy to a field theater commander." ...

"But soon it became apparent that the marriage of civilian with military personnel and resources was indeed the managerial key to a radically improved program. CORDS established for all the 44 provinces and 250 districts unified civilian-military advisory teams which served with each of the South Vietnamese ministries involved in pacification matters-at the hamlet, village, district, province and corps level as well as at the top of the ministry. At its peak strength in 1969, CORDS had about 6,500 military and 1,100 civilians assigned to it, and these men worked at coordinating the U.S. and GVN efforts in the field. They also provided both the U.S. and GVN with periodic reports on the progress of the various programs and on the impact of military operations on pacification."

Unfortunately, the February 1968 Tet Offensive, combined with domestic pressures, unhinged US resolve and gains made by CORDS did not have a chance to "turn the tide" before the US strategy turned to disengagement.

Today, I believe that the change in our military tactics, Al Qaeda's barbarism and the "Awakening" have created the conditions for civil/military operations to help Iraqis build a better tomorrow.

It's a long road and hard work, but thanks to folks like you who are willing to roll up your sleeves, its getting done!

Charlie

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