Saturday, March 1, 2008

American preconceptions

So, I was thinking about the "oil spot" strategy that is one of the keystones of our current strategy here, and I think that it might be doomed to failure. I hate to say that, because it makes so much sense, but taking a step back, I realize that it only makes sense from our Western, capitalist viewpoint. The theory is that you go to one neighborhood, secure it, get essential services up, etc, and then move to the next. Ideally, other areas will see the benefits of working with Americans and start to help clean up their own neighborhoods so that they can get all those cool things like running water and electricity. Problem is, that is based on our idea that we need rich people to inspire poor people to work harder. I think that that actually works to some degree in the States, although it gets out of hand at times (the rich make WAY too much money compared to what they do, even figuring in the symbolic value). And Iraqis don't have years of capitalist culture to base their decisions on.

This probably combined with my thoughts while reading Denhardt's In the Shadow of Organization, which is predominantly about how organization as a concept forms so much of our lives in America that we can't even think about breaking out of it, because EVERYTHING is organization. The concept itself permeates everything about society. Well, that doesn't really exist here. There are some elements of bureaucracy and organization in Iraq, but much more of the society is based on the person to person interactions and kinship relations. This, I think, is one of the roots of why we can't plant democracy in Iraq. It's not (just) because of the corruption left over from Saddam, or the history of the area (because, frankly, they had representative government before Saddam), but because democracy in our style requires the predisposition to organization, the belief that there is nothing but organization, and they haven't been inculcated in that. Give it forty years, maybe (two generations - this one to get used to it, the next one to grow up in it), but not now.

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