Friday, September 14, 2007

What I Learned About Iraq From Losing a Consultant

Recently, our computer programming project ran out of budget for external consultants. At what I particularly felt was a very inopportune time to let them go, we let them go. Interestingly, however, I learned a great deal about myself in the process. That is, when I don't have someone to fall back on, I have the ability to rise the occasion.

Since the consultants left, I have become a markedly better programmer. I have come to several solutions that at first appeared to be very small needles in very giant haystacks. The key realization I came to just yesterday was that had my subject matter experts (the consultants) not left, I would have been content to float along in my relative mediocrity.

It is a very imperfect comparison, I know, but I'd like to illustrate my situation as a microcosm of Iraq. America is the subject-matter expert for Iraq--their crutch. As the situation drags on, Iraqis will be more likely to "float along in [their] relative mediocrity". At some point, coming soon to a theater near you, Iraq needs to get rid of its consultants. I guess I'm glad that President Bush announced last night that he intends to draw the American forces down over the next few months to pre-surge levels, although I don't think he did a good job of explaining why.

Lanny Davis, former member of the Clinton Administration, appeared on Greg Allen's the Right Balance this morning. He made a good point. The Democrats have a good point, which I have just spent the last couple of paragraphs essentially agreeing with. They are not, however, articulating it very well.

Lanny Davis said that we need to have a phased draw down in fairly short order to let the Iraqis know that it's time to realize that their consultants are leaving. Every Democratic candidate for president believes this. So far I think only Barack Obama has done a good job of articulating it. Only one Republican candidate, Ron Paul, believes that the consultants should take their leave. He has articulated very well, too.

I think the surge is working. I think Iraqis are realizing that the Americans (at least the soldiers, if not the politicians) care for them. I think the Americans know that it is a tenuous relationship, i.e. that the Sunnis in Anbar will turn against the Americans if we overstay our current purpose.

Our current purpose, I think, will soon be at an end. Let's give the Iraqis notice that they will soon be on their own, and let's hope and trust that they will be able to shine without their consultants.


rmwarnick said...

"America is the subject-matter expert for Iraq--their crutch."

I hope you meant that ironically. Out of a thousand or so US embassy personnel in Baghdad, only about ten are even fluent in Arabic. How can they possibly understand Iraqi politics when they can't even read a newspaper?

Urban Koda said...

Couldn't agree with you more... It seems that we want to Iraqi's to have freedom, but don't want to give them the freedom to fail.

I think it is through my failures that I have learned the most.

It may not turn out how the US Government would want it to, but that really isn't the US Government's concern, or at least it shouldn't be.

Frank Staheli said...


I did mean it somewhat ironically, to include that America unfortunately prides itself on being the subject matter expert on war.


I hadn't quite thought about it that deeply, but you make a fantastic point. "it is through [our] failures that [we] learn[] the most." Thanks for enlightening me even further.

Frank Staheli said...


Also, you make a great point (which I share) that we've done a condescendingly terrible job trying to understand the Iraqi culture. If we had done this, we likely would never have invaded, and if we had, we wouldn't keep shooting ourselves in the foot during our occupation of their country.