Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Changing Iraq From The Bottom Up, Not Top Down

As a nation, we are increasingly dependent upon the federal government instead of ourselves, or at best our local government, to provide our daily needs and to assist in times of greater need.

Let’s face it: whether it’s the resolution of a social issue, relief and rescue from a natural disaster, or job creation, many in our nation immediately turn to the federal government, often times clear to the top, the President himself, for the answers, assistance, and blame.

When did our nation become filled with so many people seemingly incapable of doing for themselves, who first seek the hand of the highest possible level of government for support instead of addressing the issue by their own strengths?

At what point did we forget that this nation was built upon the hard work, entrepreneurship, ingenuity, and self-reliance of individuals and local organizations, not as a result of the federal government’s intervention?

When did the role of the federal government change from serving us in a very limited way, and was even then viewed as an obstruction to progress, into service as the primary driver of people’s lives?

Those questions can be addressed in another column, but are presented here as an illustration of the attitude, the mentality that the highest levels of government are the only reservoir to tap for answers to our woes.

This mind set not only minimizes our own citizenship, but also prevents some from seeing the reality that it’s the people who solve problems, not the government. And that’s what’s happening in Iraq.

But this type of tunnel vision, where the national government is believed to be the answer to all of our problems, prevents people from seeing the “bottom up” progress being made in Iraq.

Right now Iraq is moving forward from the bottom up, not the top down, achieving the political reconciliation so many believe is lacking.

But those here who believe in the federal government as the solution can’t see the success because they don’t see success at the highest levels of the Iraqi government. If the Iraqi national government isn’t becoming the answer for the lives of the Iraqi people (the way they view our government as the answer to our lives) then Iraq must be failing, right?

Wrong. The new way forward is achieving the progress Iraq needs but is accomplishing success in a way not anticipated.

The surge in troops and improved security is bringing about political reconciliation, but not at the highest levels. It’s taking place at the local level.

The tribes in the Anbar province which have come together over the course of the last 8 months or so to fight Al Qaeda may all be Sunni Muslims, but that doesn’t mean they would normally ally with one another. In fact, fighting amongst the tribes would tend to be the norm. Long running, decades or more, rivalries and blood feuds would normally prevent such cooperation. But those differences have been reconciled during the course of the surge such that political and security alliances could be created.

Similar cooperation is taking place among Sunni and Shia tribes in the area around Taji, north of Baghdad, as described in a July 23rd Washington Times article. Several tribes from both religious groups entered into an agreement to fight together against Sunni Al Qaeda terrorists and Shia Mahdi Army insurgents. Again, differences have been reconciled for the betterment of all.

On the 4th of August, Multi-National Forces Iraq reported on the accord reached by 14 of the major tribes in the Diyala province, including 11 Sunni, 3 Shiite, and 60 sub-tribes. The sheiks representing these tribes swore on the Quran to ally together for security in Diyala province, end inter-tribal fighting, and cooperate with the Iraqi Security Forces, as well as several other conditions of a peace treaty.

At the local level Iraqi’s are coming together. They are reconciling political differences. They are reconciling long standing feuds amongst each other. They are crossing tribal lines to cooperate with one another. They are crossing religious lines to build a better future.

Across Iraq, the progress sought by so many politicians here, the political reconciliation on which so many believe Iraq fails or succeeds, is taking place. But it’s occurring at the bottom first and building higher, which makes it difficult for “top down” centric people to grasp.

Here at home we need to open our eyes to the realities of this change and the potential driving power it has for the future of Iraq. After all, the power of the people far outweighs the power of any government.

The impetus for change occurs among the governed, not the government, whether here or abroad. At home, those among the elected and the electorate who’ve forgotten this need to remind themselves from where power is derived and who serves who.

To do so will remind them to look to the Iraqi people and what’s happening in the villages and neighborhoods to see that success is being achieved throughout Iraq, even if they can’t see it in the Green Zone. Just as we see success in our small towns and neighborhoods every day, even while our own Congress ineptly flails away, worthy of their mid-teens approval rating.

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