Thursday, August 9, 2007

Iraqi People Prove Liberals are Misguided

Liberals, God bless'em, are looking in the wrong direction for political progress in Iraq. Remember, all liberals believe that good things only come when government is in charge of the political process. Look no further than our own candidates for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. Every single one of them advocates some sort of Government-controlled, taxpayer-funded, "universal" healthcare system.

While grudgingly acknowledging that the surge of troops in Iraq is making military progress (they're kinda late to the game, but welcome aboard anyway), liberals and their MSM supporters bemoan the fact that little progress has been made by the Government of Iraq to pass oil sharing legislation, allow for provincial elections and permit some members of the former Ba'athist Party to return to government posts. Without this political process coming from the top down, the long term chances for success in Iraq appear doubtful.

Lo and behold, the Iraqis are proving them wrong. In this week's blogger roundtable with General Kevin Bergner in Baghdad, the General discusses some of the developments he's seen on the ground in in Iraq.

GEN. BERGNER: Well, we have seen steady developments at the local level. And if you just went back over the last four weeks and kind of walked around west and northern areas of Baghdad, you would find that in Ramadi, they completed the Ramadi Covenant, which was a tribal-led but government-of-Iraq-involved and coalition -- or security-force-involved commitment to stop the violence and to work together. In Taji, about three weeks ago the sheikhs of Taji got together. They all signed a map, put their name next to the town that they represent. In Khalis, northwest of Baghdad, a similar commitment, I think by some 16 sheikhs representing 70-some others. And then in Baqubah, we've talked before about the tribal sheikhs and the provincial government and their security forces having reached some agreements on how they're going to work together and stop the violence.

So I could take you through Baghdad, as well. We've seen similar -- similar arrangements being grouped together in Amiriyah. We see similar ones in Ghazalia. The Ghazalia volunteers are now part of this local security force that's working with Iraqi and coalition forces. And then if I took you to south of Baghdad, in General Rick Lynch's area of operations in MND-Center, I could show you different groupings of 100 here, 400 there, where different individuals from the community have stepped forward and said, we want to stop help the violence, we want to work toward some sort of accommodation.

So there is a steady development at the local level as security improves and people feel like they can step forward and take that on. So we are encouraged by that. And you know overall in Anbar what that -- how that has profoundly changed. We've talked about that several times. And that's probably the most striking example of a place which just eight or 10 months ago nobody could have foreseen the change there. So, lots of momentum.

Much of it is enabled by the tactical momentum that the surge of operations is providing. But again, much work still to do. Still some very difficult ways ahead.

GRIM: I'd like to ask a quick follow-up about that. Under Saddam and, you know, for what amounts to living memory in Iraq, Iraq has been kind of a top-down society where the central government set the tone. What you're talking about is a lot of local efforts that are going to be kind of brought to bear -- I don't want to say against central government, but on the central government. Do you think that the nature of Iraqi society is changing in this regard, that it's becoming more of a bottom-up society, a locally driven society?

GEN. BERGNER: You know, that's a very good question, it's an interesting one, because on one level, it has been a centrally governed country, without question, but in this country the tribe, the family have always been the most powerful bond that the Iraqi people have felt. And so you have kind of a duality of centrally directed but, if you ask the people who they trust and who they want to work with, it's at the family, tribal and community level. So both of those exist and both of them are very real parts of the nature of Iraqi society.

What I hope you got a sense of in my initial comments was both of those are working, and if you looked at Baqubah as a pretty vivid example, that's a place where the local tribes and security forces are coming to these kinds of arrangements. And once they've gotten to that point, the Iraqi government, the central government, is coming in to connect and figure out so how do we provide this public distribution support that you need, because, as you said, that is a centrally directed food distribution program; how do we help improve the availability of fuel, because, as you said, that is a centrally controlled fuel distribution system still. So both of those are at work here, and that's really why it's so important to get them connected because you really need -- you need that confidence at the local level being reinforced and supported. They need to know their central government is going to actually do something for them.

In this post, I relate a story from MNF-Iraq that describes a meeting in Tikrit between 18 tribal sheikhs, representing 14 of the largest tribes in Diyala Province. A similar, larger such meeting was held in Khalis. Yet another was held in Taji, which included leaders of both Shiite and Sunni groups. At each meeting, the tribal and family leaders pledged to work together. They unite against the common foe Al Qaeda and to work with the embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams. Slowly but surely, political reconciliation is coming. But like I have explained in this space many times, it is coming from the bottom up!

These are grassroots level developments. Individually, they may not mean much. But since a major thrust of Petraeus' counterinsurgency strategy is getting local leadership on board, these kinds of developments are taking place in virtually every major town and village in the country. We are the facilitators, but the people making the commitments and making the differences are the Iraqis. Over time, these developments will generate bases of support for national leaders. The national leadership, working on the knowledge that they and their counterparts are all working with the support of a growing, grassroots coalition, will try to work out those pesky oil sharing and reform issues.

No wonder liberals don't see any political progress being made. They're looking in the wrong direction.