Throw Out Your American Experience part 3
Commentary: It took me a bit to wrap my head around the points that General Cardon was making about Iraq.
Iraq was governed by a criminal dictatorship for thirty years. The people of Iraq learned to rely upon the functionaries in Baghdad for every decision. The penalty for making an error could be prison or death.
In the four years since the Liberation, Iraqis have made enormous strides. The expectations still exist, however, that Baghdad will be the decision maker. Some of that is fostered by the folks in Baghdad. Some of that is the natural reluctance of people outside of Baghdad to take a risk.
Relationships are all important. You can make judgments about a person’s character, skills and personality once you have met them. In a country where rigid rules about decisions once held sway, finding ways to grease the process, to bypass roadblocks, is essential. The skills that worked to accomplish tasks in spite of the criminals around Saddam are still useful and work well.
To an American eye, who you know comes dangerously close to corruption. When reporters discover that they are dealing with people with no official title to accomplish things, they can’t wait to write about the pervasive culture of corruption in Iraq. They fail to understand that the culture contains men of stature in their communities who do not have a title, but are seen as respected and who are able to use their relationships as a method to get things done.
In the future, these men may be elected by free Iraqis to posts in government, or selected to serve in appointed positions. We do it in the United States. No President would dare to nominate a person for Secretary of the Treasury who did not have connections to Wall Street. For now, in Iraq, it is the connections that matter and not the title.
When we look at Iraq and its people, we must keep in mind the last generation, and how it has molded the thinking of those people. Four years cannot change a lifetime of thought process overnight. The ways that things get done have changed since 2003 but in very many ways they have stayed the same.
In order to accomplish the tasks that we need to accomplish, we cannot wait for the generation plus that it will take for Iraqis to recover from the past. We work with what we have and with the ways that our Iraqi allies are comfortable with. We build relationships, all the while training our friends in the methods and tools necessary to go beyond that level. We fight corruption while recognizing that we do not have the only definition of corruption and that the Iraqis have a different perspective. Eating a good meal and drinking tea will take us towards our goals just as a stack of papers may.
The government at all levels needs continued training in the bureaucracy of a modern state. Budgets and contracts and all the paperwork require freedom from fear, freedom from the notion that someone at the top will order your death on a whim or for some imagined slight. Decision making is learned in Iraq and until the memories of Saddam fade, we will be working with both relationships and the tools of a western nation.
Table of contents for Cardon interview
This entry was posted on Thursday, January 31st, 2008 at 9:38 am and is filed under Original writing, Commentary, War on Terror, Iraq, Original writing, War on Terror, Iraq, Rebuilding, War on Terror. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.