Friday, July 06, 2007

The work of the al Ameriki tribe

Michael Yon's latest report from Baqubah has a lot in it, including some marvellous photos of beaming kids. However, one of the captions reads

These kids crack me up. But you do have to be careful: every once in a while they throw a hand grenade or detonate an IED. The enemy uses them like fodder.

There's also this.

... during one of the impromptu stops, an Iraqi man who might have been 30-years-old came up and said that he’d been beaten up by soldiers from the 5th Iraqi Army. He had the marks on his face to lend initial credence. But most striking was that he hadn’t gone to the Iraqi leaders, nor did he come to the man with the camera and note pad. He did what I see Iraqis increasingly doing: he went to the local sheik of “al Ameriki tribe.” In this case, the sheik was LTC Fred Johnson...More and more Iraqis put their trust in Americans as arbiters of justice.

Many will scoff at this. I don't. It's not 'being nice to make them like you'; it's an essential part of the strategy outlined by David Kilkullen in his interview with Austin Bay and in this article. The US army will establish the peace and protect the society from the intimidators. It will give that society a stronger 'narrative' to act by, but to do this it must walk the walk and be seen doing so. And it must stick round to make sure that when it leaves, it does not leave a vacuum for al-Queda to fill. That means the Iraqis must be able to take over. So, yes, I think it's perfectly understandable that people should react like this, and worrying, as well, that they have no faith in their own. To build Iraqi faith in Iraqis may be, in the end, the greatest task of all.

Read it all. It is, as usual, very good and you won't find stuff like this anywhere else.

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