The other kind of surge

CGD’s Dennis de Tray blogs about his recent trip to Iraq:

I was privileged to see more of Iraq than all but a handful of visitors have been able to see. I was part of a team brought together by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker to take a fresh look at Iraq’s development efforts, most especially to see what more could be done that would support recent security gains by creating jobs and improving services.

He suggests we need another kind of surge: a development one.

I’ve much to absorb and digest from this trip, but even now I am struck by a couple of key take-aways:

  • Security gains will not stick without visible gains in what people care about, jobs and services.

  • While Iraqi capacity is weak and will remain so for the foreseeable future, Iraqis must see their government, not the Coalition Forces as delivering for them. This is what state building is really all about.

  • The great challenge to the world, not just the U.S., is to bring a sense of future to the Iraqi people. Provinces are the right place to push Iraqi development at least in the immediate term and the PRTs are the right vehicle for external technical assistance.

  • But, to play this new role, PRTs must change from Coalition Provincial Reconstruction Teams to international Iraq Development Assistance Teams. They should transition from “doing development because local governments could not” to supporting local governments in their efforts to do development. This is already happening but needs support.

  • All this notwithstanding, we have to start getting real about the pace of institutional reform and development in Iraq. Almost since day one, expectations about how quickly the Iraqi government could move from iron-fisted, top-down control to a decentralized, quasi-democratic system have been absurdly optimistic.

It’s well worth reading the full post.

My favorite photo comes from an e-mail to CGD fellows. Somehow he manages to look elegant even wearing a flak jacket.