“Vice President Joe Biden told POLITICO after a three-day trip to Baghdad that the American people will see President Barack Obama’s Iraq policy as a success when the “combat mission” ends on schedule on Aug. 31. Biden said the administration “will be able to point to it and say, ‘We told you what we’re going to do, and we did it.’” Yes. That is pretty much what we wrote about such things more than two years ago, when it was a little less fashionable.
I like what the VP said. He is right. I think the title of my article two years ago could have had the same title, “We told you what we were going to do, and we did it.”
I also wrote about two years ago, “The proper answer for the erstwhile surge opponents is to say that they were seriously wrong last year, but that they see the error in light of events and will work with conditions to take advantage of the success brought about by policies they opposed. “
Memory is never finally fixed. We are constantly editing our memories in the light of subsequent events. Sometimes meaningless event are explained in the fullness of time. Sometimes those events really were meaningless and they take on meaning only because we have jammed them into our narrative of memory.
That is why oral histories are unreliable and even things that are written down are subject to continual revision.Telling any story is always an act of choosing and even if we are being fair and thoughtful, our choices will always be subject to revision. We probably cannot arrive at THE truth, but we usually can come up with something useful or at least something that makes sense to us.
I have been thinking about these things as I prepare to address a class in public diplomacy at USC. They want to know about strategic communications at a PRT in Iraq. Lucky for me my blog provides a lot of contemporary impressions and pictures. I can see the evolution of my own thinking and my blog entries remind me of lots of things I would have forgotten. It seems like I am reading the experiences of someone else, but I know it was me because I can see the pictures.
My time in Iraq was the most meaningful work I have ever done. I am not saying that it was the most enjoyable or even that it was the best work I have ever done, but my job made a difference and my actions made a difference in a way they had not before. I am convinced that my activity saved lives. My PRT contributed to our success in Iraq and that is a world changing accomplishment. America and the coalition beat back terror and chaos, when many in the world and even in our own country had written us off. The alternative would have been horrible.
I don’t think we have told the story very well. Most people I talk to and read about in the papers have it wrong. They think that our success was based on good luck or that it would have happened anyway. This is very ironic, given the fact that back in 2007 most of these same people were convinced that we were so far down that road to perdition that we could never recover.
There is definitely a political dimension to this. Some people are knee jerk anti-war. They don’t want to believe that anything good can come from something is bad as the Iraq conflict. They dislike words like victory or even success. I don’t think anything can be done to change their minds, short of them experiencing what I did. Forget about them. But the broad American public should understand because there are lessons to be learned. We learned how to counter an insurgency. We beat an Islamist terror group right in the heart of their own region, on a battlefield of their choosing. Their growing power is not inevitable. History is not on their side. The future belongs to us, not them.
Iraq is a success story. I read an interesting headline in the paper the other day. It said that the Iraqi election was too close to call right away. When you have an election like that, it means there are actual alternatives. Saddam always got nearly 100% of the vote.
Colonel Patrick Malay, my friend and colleague from Iraq, is coming to Washington and together we will make a presentation at the Strategic Communication Network (formerly known as Fusion Team) on May 29 about the importance of strategic communication in Iraq and how the Marines and the ePRT worked with the people and leaders of Anbar to help create stability and relative prosperity. Below is more or less what I plan to say.
Every move you make conveys a message and actions often speak louder than words. This is especially important in a disrupted and dangerous place like Anbar province was in 2007-8. But the words and how you express them are also important. You need a combination of talking and doing and that is what we were lucky enough to have in Western Anbar when the Marines, the State Department and other parts of the USG worked productively with the Iraqis to make the place safer and more prosperous.
I thought and wrote a lot about it at the time and I recommend you look at my webpage from the time. The passage of time has strengthened my conviction that we achieved something special. But I don’t think it was something unique and I do believe that the lessons of Western Anbar have meaning in other places and times.
All Necessary; None by itself Sufficient
As with many successes and most failures, it seems easier to see the causes when you look back than it was at the time of the events. We had a fortunate combination of factors. None of them alone would have been sufficient to achieve success, but each of them was necessary.
The most obvious is that the people turned against the insurgents and the Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). The insurgents and AQl, it turned out, really were bad. When their promises were replaced by the reality of murder, mutilation, rape & destruction, the people of Anbar realized that letting them get established had been a mistake. Unfortunately, standing up to the terrorists was dangerous and often fatal, not only for the brave individuals involved, but also for their family and friends. Early opposition ended up headless in roadside ditches. AQI would often even go after anybody who tried to remove the bodies. This was an example of AQI’s strategic communication. A headless body makes one hell of an impression, especially if you think you might be next.
Terrorism indeed created terror that paralyzed opposition. So the second part of the puzzle was needed – the surge.
The surge was more than just an increase in coalition troop numbers. It also coincided with a change in strategy. In Anbar, it meant that Marines protected the people locally and went to live in Iraqi communities among the people they were supposed to protect. They trained police & security forces and held the ground, but their most important strategic communication message was just being there. For civilian populations in war zones, the perception of safety is crucial. The perception of safety creates real safety as more people go onto the streets, interact with each other and begin to get the confidence to stand up to the bad guys or at least help others do so.
The supporting strategic communication message the Marines sent was consistency. The people needed to know that the Marines would be there for a long time. If the population suspects that coalition forces will leave and the bad guys will be able to return to chopping heads, nobody will cooperate. The only way you can create the perception that you are there for a long time is to be there for a long time and have the reputation for keeping your word. Marines stayed and established a reputation for honesty and persistence.
So we have two necessary parts of the puzzle. The people have turned against AQI and the greater numbers of coalition forces are making it to be both openly against the terrorists and alive at the same time. Both these things are necessary and probably in that order. But we still need something more.
Although basic stability always precedes prosperity, stability cannot be long maintained if the people are miserable and have no meaningful economic activity. Stability and prosperity are symbiotic and mutually reinforcing. This is where our ePRT came in. A PRT certainly cannot create prosperity, but we could help create conditions where the Iraqis could build, or rebuild, their own prosperous community.
We did this by emphasizing the structure of a civil society. These are the things that are so ubiquitous in our own society that we rarely even notice them anymore, things like a functioning court system, protections for private property, transportation, clean water, distribution of goods and a reasonable functioning financial system.
Let me say again that we did not, we could not, create this kind of thing. We could, however, help the Iraqis do it for themselves. We could and did make grants of money. We sponsored training. We (and even more the military) physically built things like schools, roads and bridges, but I content that the thing that made all these activities into a successful whole was strategic communications. There is really not much we did for the Iraqis that they could not have done for themselves. But the fact that we were out there encouraged them and paved the way for progress.
It is Better to Light a Single Candle than to Curse the Darkness
Let me give one example. It is not the most important example, but it is the one I like the best. I called it the “String or Emeralds”. You can see more about it at the String of Emeralds Link.
Iraq is an arid country, plagued by dust storms and drought. But the dust storms and drought are not completely natural. Some is caused by humans and livestock destroying the natural vegetation cover by bad farming methods and overgrazing. This has been a problem for 4000 years and our PRT could not solve it. But after 4000 years, we have learned something about soils. Our PRT’s agricultural attaché was an expert on rehabilitating irrigated dry soils damaged by salinization (salts deposit is a big problem in dry Iraq). We also took the lessons from our own dust bowl of the 1930s. Planting trees serves to slow the wind and catch some of the blowing dirt. I looked for opportunities to help and I found some. The Iraqis understood the need for this too, but the effort had been neglected under Saddam Hussein and collapsed utterly during the war.
We went to some of the oases and raised the profile and that encouraged the Iraqis to think more about it too. The strategic communications lesson is that when someone in authority just shows interest, things can happen. There is no real magic to it. It just takes effort. The trees will grow and the future will be better than the past.
When does strategic communication work? The short answer is when it is embedded in other things that are working. All the talking in the world could not have made Western Anbar safe if not for the Marines & our brave Iraqi friends. But communications enhanced and spread the good news. And by spreading it and making it believable the perception of security started to become more real. Telling the right stories creates a reinforcing loop, a virtuous circle or just plain success.
Nobody really cares about Iraq anymore. A couple of colleagues and I did a “brown bag” seminar on our experiences there. The few people who showed up did so mostly out of sympathy for me. It was nice of them and I appreciate the support, but Iraq is the past. Media coverage mostly disappeared last year, just about the time things started to improve. Even I have trouble remembering that it was such a big deal not so long ago.
Iraq is no big deal and that is a big deal. It might be useful to consider how that happened. It did not happen because the problem just went away. It happened because we solved it. In a less timid age, we might have said that we won a victory there.
Only a couple years ago, most experts were predicting defeat and not just a little one. The view was that Iraq would collapse into chaos and civil war and that it would take most of the Middle East with it. In fact, the more “realistic” pundits claimed that had happened already. Their sage advice was to get out as quick as possible and leave the place to its unavoidable violent tendencies.
Fortunately, some of us didn’t listen to these hollow men and despite their heckling went on to victory. I feel a little shy about using that term “we,” but I stepped up to do my part too and together we – Coalition forces, brave Iraqis and sometimes even hapless civilians like me – did it.
Many of the same people who called for us to give up a couple of years ago, now feel vindicated that we can withdraw. The logic goes something like this: “Three years ago, we said the U.S. should get out. Now the U.S. is going to get out (mostly). See, we were right.” This is indeed logical – if you ignore the events of the past three years and you forget the effects of time.
Let’s do a historical thought experiment. WWII ended in 1945. Count back three years and you are in 1942. Now imagine a peace activist in 1942 saying that this Hitler guy and the Imperial Japanese Navy are not really very dangerous and we are just making them mad by standing up to them. Three years later he says, “See, I told you so. You didn’t have to waste all that time with D-Day or Iwo Jima.”
I am belaboring this point because I have seen this kind of historical credulity before. The Cold War ended unexpectedly in 1989. No matter how hard you look, you cannot find any expert who unambiguously predicted this outcome even two years in advance. In fact, intellectuals had great fun ridiculing Ronald Reagan for thinking that bringing down the communist empires was possible or even desirable. Many were shocked into humility by the fall of the Berlin Wall, but they quickly recovered their composure. Now it is hard to find anyone who will admit that he did not see it coming. In fact, the new intellectual fashion seems to be that the fall of communism was inevitable and they have gone back to ridiculing Ronald Reagan, calling him a mere bystander at best and perhaps even an impediment. (“We whisper together; are quiet and meaningless as wind in dry grass or rats’ feet over broken glass in our dry cellar.”)
George Santayana said that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. I don’t know if that all that’s true. What is true is that those who don’t remember history are doomed to be tricked again in similar ways.
There are large forces at work in history and everything that happens has multiple causes. Our choices are bounded. Timing is important. The strategy that achieves wonderful success in one situation may be an ignominious failure in another. But the choices we make DO make a different. The choices we make change the shape of the future. We choose. This is the lesson of history we should never forget.
Looking down from the high summit of time, it seems like events are determined. The more comprehensive a change, the more it seems inevitable. But this is an illusion.
We achieved a victory in Iraq. We stared down a radical insurgency in the heart of the Middle East and beat it back. This is something they said could not be done. We did it. Iraq, despite all its flaws, is now the most democratic country in the Arab world. Someday soon – not today, not tomorrow, but soon – historians will see the spring of 2007 as an inflection point in Middle Eastern history. It will be seen as the time when the old barriers to freedom and development were breached and a new freedom was painfully born and began to grow, fitfully at first, but inexorably They will see it as inevitable and our choices that made it possible will be forgotten.
“The moving finger writes; and having writ moves on. Not all your piety nor all your wit can coax it back to cancel half a line, nor all your tears wash away one word of it.”
Elections went well in Iraq. It looks like turnout was high. The Sunnis and Shia voted in large numbers. The day was peaceful. Iraq is the most democratic country in the Arab world today, thanks to the courage of the Iraqi people and the strength & perseverance of America and our allies. We didn’t give up; we outlasted them. Saddam didn’t go quietly into that good night, but he is gone. The terrorists did not give up easily, but they were defeated.
When I volunteered to go to Iraq things were not so good. Most of the experts predicted defeat for us, chaos for Iraq and despair for the people of the Middle East. They were wrong.
How far we have come!
I know the pseudo intellectuals will solemnly ask “what does victory mean?” I am kind of a simple guy, so let me explain it in simple terms I can understand. It seems to me that overthrowing one of the world’s worst tyrants, helping create a democracy where none existed before, defeating an extremist terrorist group in the heart of the Middle East on a battlefield of THEIR choosing, sowing confusion among our enemies and just doing what they (the defeatists around the world and the terrorists themselves) said couldn’t be done – this is victory.
Emerson said that people’s view of the world is a confession of their characters. Some people can never be happy. If their team wins in the Superbowl tomorrow, they will just complain that it may be harder next year. It is their character flaw, their misfortune and none of my own. I pity them, but I cannot persuade them and I don’t need to let them pull me down. Today is a good day for democracy, peace and good people around the world. Despots and dictators are feeling less secure. Al Qaida and their retrograde buddies are crying in their caves. That doesn’t mean that problems have disappeared. That doesn’t mean that we have achieved an ultimate utopia, but let’s celebrate this big step in the right directions; let’s celebrate a victory.
The Iraqi people have stuck their purple fingers in the eyes of the terrorists. They are riding down to road to democracy with all its joys and challenges. Hurray for free Iraq. I congratulate all the brave Iraqis I met during my time. You did good guys and it was a privilege to be among you.
On the left are USMC shirts on sale in Iraqi shops. The US Marines were popular in Anbar by the summer of 2008 because they protected the people. I saw these in the marketplace in Hit. You would not have seen this picture in the mainstream media. Of course, with only a couple of exceptions, they were not with us walking around in the markets so they didn’t see this stuff.
As the introduction says, I am a career Foreign Service Officer who recently returned from a year in Iraq leading a provincial reconstruction team (PRT) embedded with the Marine Regimental Combat Team in Western Iraq.
PRTs are an old idea made new. My assignment was to help rebuild Western Iraq, a task much bigger than me. I had a team of seventeen (17) experts to help. I also had the cooperation of the Marines and other U.S. military stationed in Iraq and most importantly I could ride on the energy, talent and hard work of the Iraqi people in Anbar. I think we were successful. I feel a little like the rooster taking credit for the sunrise, however. I arrived in Anbar at the inflection point when the war-fighting stage was largely over and the rebuilding was beginning. The people of Anbar, with the help of the Marines and my team members, made great strides during that year and I was privileged and proud to work among them.
Let me tell you a little about how I would like to handle this talk. I propose to lay out general principles and then fill in some examples. This won’t take very long. After that, I would like to address your specific questions and concerns. A disclaimer. I am not an engineer. Leading a team called a provincial reconstruction team implies building and engineering. This is not the case. I cannot talk re specifications, materials or building methods.
What I can tell you is what I saw in Iraq with my own eyes. What I have seen may indeed make more sense to you when I describe it than it does to me. Your training gives you insights I don’t have. My eyes and your expertise may create synergy.
Our PRT was tasked with helping rebuild – or in many case just build – infrastructure in Iraq. Infrastructure is broader than roads and buildings. You know that. Infrastructure includes all those things that make a prosperous modern society possible.
Roads, Bridges etc.
We start with the obvious things like roads, bridges and railroads. W/o these things prosperity is not possible. Then we move to factories mines and office buildings. In Iraq, they had significant agricultural infrastructure in the form of irrigation and water projects. All these things are clearly classified as infrastructure and can be built almost anywhere. But there is more.
One of the hardest tasks in any developing country is the infrastructure of institutions. We Americans often forget this because we have had a functioning country with rule of law, more or less predictable political system and functioning government bureaucracies for hundreds of years. Iraq was lacking all those things. W/o institutions, you can build all the physical infrastructure you want and still not create a modern prosperous society.
Which comes first, a strong civil society or civil society institutions? I don’t think you can really determine cause and effect. They strengthen and support each other or pull each other down. A key ingredient is trust. Most of our transitions are based on trust, even those we think of as determined by law. A prosaic example is when you go into a restaurant. Your waiter trusts you pay for your meal and leave an appropriate tip. You trust him not to tack on unreasonable charges and supply decent service and food. Imagine if each transaction required you to check references and proactively defend your interests. Trust in Iraq had been sorely tested and ripped apart by Saddam Hussein, his capriciousness and his wars. The level of trust is still low and a society with a low level of trust is a weak society. You cannot build a strong society directly. It takes time.
Below – Iraq geography is like the moon with more gravity.
We often take environmental services for granted. It is like good health. You don’t miss it until it is gone. In the U.S. we suffered through the dust bowl years when we abused our environment beyond its capacity. There are other examples, but the dust bowl is appropriate because that is what Iraq suffers. Dust storms are part of the natural arid environment, but the fantastic dust storms I saw are the result of long term human degradation. We started to help rebuild this infrastructure.
The most important part of infrastructure is human capital. These are the technical skills, work habits, managerial capacity, entrepreneurial dexterity and even the good health of the people themselves.
Human capital is harder to build and more important than physical capital. My father was in the Army Air Corps during World War II. They bombed German cities to rubble. When I went to Germany as a student, he asked me if they had rebuilt. It seemed to me like a silly question, but it wasn’t. Many countries that were underdeveloped twenty years ago are still underdeveloped today. Germany was completely devastated in 1945, yet ten years later the western half at least was among the world’s most prosperous countries. People build and run things. That simple fact is often overlooked by those who think they can just buy or give prosperity.
Or think of the more pop example. In the old television show MacGyver, the lead character would go into a situation with almost no tools. He would make what he needed out of simple kitchen ingredients or thing he found lying around. This is the power of human intelligence in real (Germany) and fictional examples.
Iraq suffered mightily from the destruction of its human capital. Millions of its best and brightest citizens fled the country during the decades of Saddam’s tyranny. Many more never acquired the skills of a modern society because of the mismanagement and underinvestment in the education system and lack of opportunities. Iraq during the dictatorship went from being one of the most skilled and literate countries in the region to being one of the worst. Finally, the recent war and unstable conditions made refugees of millions, many have still not returned. This is the longest term and most difficult problem that must be addressed. Money can buy the beginning of a solution, but only time can bring it to fruition.
Let me give you some specific examples of each of the categories. I want this part to be conversational. Please feel free to ask questions as I talk.
This blog entry goes with my talk this week re building Iraqi infrastructure, what we did on the ePRT, and how civil-military cooperation worked in my experience. I have included relevant links to other places on the blog that I believe illustrate various aspects of the work. If you are reading this before the talk, I look forward to your questions. If you are reading this after the talk, I hope this fills in some of the blank spaces and/or questions raised. In either case, please feel free to post questions of comments.
It is always like this when I come back from an overseas post. One day you are in the midst of a place, its events, culture and environment. It seems like the whole world. Then you are not. Iraq is like that, only more so, because being in Iraq is so unusual and so intense. You work long hours every day of the week, and you are immersed in it always. It gives you a special feeling of uniqueness, insulation and security. When I think back on the experience, it almost seems like I am remembering the events and details of somebody else’s life. But I know it was me, because I still have Iraqi dust on my boots.
For a year I was surrounded by Marines and team members who knew me or at least knew about me. We were all members of one team, working together to accomplish a worthy goal. We thought about HOW to overcome obstacles and achieve our purposes. It never occurred to anybody to ask if we COULD do it. I miss the sense of purpose and the honor of being part of something big. Back home people all have their own different problems. Iraq has dropped off most of their radar screens.
I never expected people to pay attention to all my stories. I understand that I can talk longer than most people can listen. But I am surprised at the general lack of interest in Iraq, which used to be and still is a big deal. At first most people approach me sympathetically. They thank me for my service and commiserate about the hardship of my ordeal. They are a little disappointed when I explain that it was less exciting and not as bad as they heard. And some seem almost offended when I tell them about the transformation that has taken place and the success we have achieved. They really don’t want to hear about it. I don’t think they believe me.
Many Americans formed their impressions of Iraq based on the dicey and hard conditions on the ground in late 2006. Rethinking their opinions in light of the vastly improved situation in Iraq hurts their brains. They just want Iraq to go away and the possibility of success smacks of continued effort. I am an intrusion into a comfortably settled belief pattern, as unwelcome as the skunk at a barbeque.
It will take a while before the significance of our success in Iraq sinks in and even longer for us to identify and explore all the options it opens and the challenges it creates. Iraq will difficult and dangerous for a long time to come. Changing long established conditions is hard and it takes time, but the trends are definitely positive. Real change creeps up on little cats’ feet and we are often surprised to look around and see that things are not what we thought.
This blog records my experiences as a Provincial Reconstruction Team Leader in Al Al Asad, Al Anbar Province, Iraq 2007-8. My comments may be delayed several days. I invite your questions & comments. If you are reading for the first time, please refer to the first entry – John Matel Goes to Iraq – for background.
Above is the original intro to this blog. Below is my flight out of Iraq. The planes are big inside.
This blog had more than 20,000 visitors in September. I know that some are repeat customers, but it still shows some interest. It is a record I will probably never again reach. Being in Iraq was exotic; I am now going prosaic.
I tried to give an accurate picture of what was happening in Iraq. It was not as scary or dangerous as I expected and certainly not as bad as we read in the media. I was lucky to arrive at an inflection point, when violence was down and when we really started to win.
The Marines and our military in general are very impressive. I ambcertain that there has never been a better military force in the history of the world. They are fantastically disciplined. For example, our military personnel are not allowed to drink alcohol while deployed in Iraq and as far as I saw they didn’t.
How amazing is that? Our purpose was to respect Muslim customs. I saw our Marines do that repeatedly in many ways. They risked their own lives rather than risk the lives of Iraqis. This is something special in the annals of war. When I tell people about this, I know some don’t believe me. It is hard to believe.
Sometimes people are just mistaking our military for their own prejudiced stereotypes. Many Americans these days have no direct contact with the military, so they get their impressions from old TV shows like “M*A*S*H* or from the likes of Oliver Stone or Michael Moore. Just say no to these things. They are fictional accounts not designed to be fair or accurate.
I cannot blame the average guy. Before I went to Iraq, I believed a lot of things that were not true. In fairness, much of the bad news was true before the surge. As I try to explain, the bad news is not wrong, it is just old and outdated.
I learned a lot in Iraq about the military, the Iraqis, war, peace, leadership and myself. It was a great experience. I am very glad that I volunteered and also glad to be finished, but it is finished. I will continue to write the blog. It helps me understand when I write. This will be the last “Matel-in-Iraq” entry. And this entry serves as the official ending marker. I will put a link to it in the intro to the new blog page.
If you are looking for “Matel-in-Iraq” just do back from this page. If you are looking for “World-Wide-Matel” go forward.
CNN ran a report highlighting the failures in Iraq. It is not hard to find troubles and even easier to imagine various things that COULD go wrong. I suppose that is the job of journalists, but that is one reason why people are always anxious. Most of the bad things predicted don’t happen, but by then the journalists are on to the next big potential disaster.
Below is an Iraq village from the air. Same scene as Hamurabi could have seen (if he could fly). Notice the electrical lines are not down. There never were any. Some things take time.
I am getting sick of hearing about electrical shortages in Iraq. Let me give you the ground truth that evidently escapes our intrepid CNN colleagues.
Iraq will NEVER be able to supply electricity 24/7 until it does something fundamental – charge money for it. Journalists never mention – maybe they don’t know or care – that electricity from the government grid is usually essentially free. Even when it is not free, there is rarely a variable price. No surprise then that electrical demand has skyrocketed. Saddam didn’t worry about demand. It was nearly impossible for people to buy new appliances or luxuries. Since the fall of Saddam, the Iraqi people have installed thousands of air conditioners. You see big screen TVs in the markets. People have computers with internet. All these things drain electricity.
The grid supplies a little more electricity than it did before the war and it will supply more soon when we and the Iraqis finish fixing all the maintenance problems Saddam left. It is like buying an old car that is ready to fall apart and then getting blamed for the breakdowns. But in addition to the grid, there has also been an proliferation of small generation. Our ePRT helped pay for some of them. With all these things, Iraq generates more electrical power than ever before. But demand bumps up 12% a year – one of the highest growth rates in the world. Much of that electricity is free and people feel free to waste it.
What do you think would happen in the U.S. if you paid $2 a month and there was no additional charge no matter how much you used? Would anybody turn down their air conditioning or flick off the lights when they left a room? Do you limit yourself to the least expensive items at the all-you-can-eat buffet?
When Iraqis and our intrepid CNN journalists (who I did not see during the entire year I spent in Western Anbar) talk about electricity, they usually mean the free stuff. If you drive through villages at night, you notice that Iraqis have electricity. Some if free or comes at a low flat-rate from the grid, but some of it they pay for – just like you and I do. This is what happens: a town might get six hours of grid electricity. Everybody plugs in everything he owns in anticipation of this happy time. Why not? It is free. When the free electricity is finished and they pay for it people are more careful with the electricity.
It is really the worst possible system. What do you expect when something is provided free for a limited time? Everybody uses as much as they possible can.
You cannot blame the Iraqis. We all would behave like this. If you don’t waste it somebody else will. If any individual saves power, he just gets less.
Only one place I know of – Anah – meters and charges for electricity the way we do in the U.S. and most of the world. Anah has no significant shortages. The leaders of nearby towns dislike Anah. It makes them look bad. It also proves the point.
So next time you hear about electricity shortages in Iraq, keep in mind that this is nearly completely an artificial problem caused by what started off as well-meaning and generous government policy. Well, maybe not that well meaning. Saddam used free electricity to bribe the people, knowing that the lack of electrical appliances would limit demand. No reasonable amount of investment will solve this problem because in its current form the problem is not solvable. It is easy to demand more of something you get free.
The electricity problem is a classic “hot potato”. We made the mistake of defining it as OUR problems and took the blame for a stupid system we inherited from the bad old days. We cannot solve the problem. Nobody can in its current form. We have to toss that hot potato back to those who can address the problem in the ways that will work. And somebody should explain this to CNN. I suspect somebody has tried. Not everybody is teachable. They prefer to look earnestly at the camera and list the failures rather than explain the solution is simple, although not easy.