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November 10, 2003

public work in Iraq

Today is the beginning of CIRCLE's annual Advisory Board meeting, when we present our year's work for review.

Meanwhile, I recommend this long but excellent radio program about neighborhood councils in Baghdad. (Thanks to Archon Fung for spreading the word about it.) At least once a week, I read an article about Americans and/or Iraqis who are improvising public services or creating democratic forums in Iraq. Even though the Army is a hierarchical and bureaucratic organization with a partly violent purpose, many of our soldiers seem to have a great capacity for improvisation and diplomacy and a deep understanding of liberal democratic ideals. There are plenty of stories about poor planning at the highest levels of our government (and in the Iraqi Governing Council), and about the inadequate training of the occupation forces; but these stories don't detract from the work that's being done by at least some of our rank-and-file servicemen and women.

There is a danger that this work will go unappreciated and unstudied. Most experts on democracy are so angry about Bush and the war that they aren't alert to the grassroots public work that is going on over there. And most of the leading proponents of the invasion are hawks who are glad we blew Saddam out of Baghdad, but they don't see the nuances, complexities, and challenges of democratic reconstruction. On Veterans' Day, I think we should celebrate American soldiers as nation-builders, because the skills that matter most in Baghdad today are also needed back home.

November 10, 2003 10:15 AM | category: Iraq and democratic theory | Comments


See this Washington Post article


for another take on the same story, including a profile of one of the people interviewed on the radio show.

November 24, 2003 10:09 AM | Comments (1) | posted by Peter Levine

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