Jewish World Review April 5, 2004 / 14 Nissan, 5764
Iraq needs 'social capital' ... ten minutes with Ray Salvatore Jennings of the United States Institute of Peace
Ray Salvatore Jennings of the United States Institute of Peace is just back from eight weeks in Iraq, where his organization will be spending the next two years training Iraqis how to build and manage their own peaceful civil society after 30 years of dictatorship.
The USIP, which Jennings says "specializes in conflict management," describes itself as "an independent, nonpartisan federal institution created by Congress to promote the prevention, management and peaceful resolution of international conflicts."
Jennings has worked with USIP throughout the Balkans and Sierra Leone. I spoke with Jennings on Wednesday by telephone from his home in Baltimore:
Q: What's the difference between the reality you saw in Iraq and how the U.S. media have been portraying it?
A: I've been in this business for 12 years now, and every time that I'm home and getting most of my information through States-based media, it is I wouldn't say "shocking" but I would say it is "surprising" how different the presentation of facts on the ground is in the media here than it is from the reality we experienced there.
It's different because the way I and my colleagues usually work is rather deep in the communities of the places that are experiencing post-war trauma. My experience in Iraq, for example, is that the glass is five-eighths full.
Q: So you're an optimist?
A: I'm slightly optimistic. I think that the glass is leaking. And I think we have a very real possibility that the security situation will deteriorate. But I don't think it's as bad as is being presented in the press here, which tends to overlook a lot of Iraqi sentiments.
For the most part, I have to say, surprisingly and this is a big difference from what I observed last summer that Iraqis by and large right now are optimistic. They're more optimistic than I am. It's surprising, because last summer almost all of the Iraqis I spoke with were absolutely pessimistic. They could not see beyond the next week and were complaining bitterly about the lack of electricity and the lack of water.
Actually, people don't complain about those things anymore. They have improved, but now people are concerned and complaining about jobs and security. That's an enduring feature of their lives insecurity and that remains a very challenging feature of day-to-day life for Iraqis and will continue to be.
Q: Do all the things that make up a civil society exist in Iraq I'm sure they must and are they in trouble now?
A: Yeah, they do. But just to make sure you don't see that as the only thing we're doing, we're actually doing a lot of training training for national security officials, training for officials in a variety of ministries in the new government, training for new leaders who are being brought into the civil service of the new Iraqi government.
That's in another way building capacity for these individuals to take on responsibilities to govern.
Q: Are we merely keeping the peace or are we building a new nation for the long run?
A: I think what we're doing is "peace-building." The distinction here is that peacekeeping is essentially separating the parties and hoping that in that separation there will be some time for local actors to work out their differences. We've tried peacekeeping earlier in the '90s, and one of the lessons we've learned is that it rarely works simply to do peacekeeping.
What's often required, and what is certainly required in Iraq, is peace-building. And peace-building is like peacekeeping-plus. And that plus is actually working with local actors on the ground to enhance their ability to take care of their own differences, to take care of the challenges they're faced with.
That's the building part. That's building civil society. It's building leadership capacity. It's rebuilding infrastructure on the physical side. It's rebuilding the ability of a new generation of leaders to take charge in the ministries and in the general assembly and the governing council to actually take on the business of governance.
Q: What are we doing especially well there now?
A: Right now, it is physical reconstruction. I think you'll find most Iraqis admitting that in terms of bricks-and-mortar work, we have done a great deal of work that's highly visible and that most Iraqis sense has made a difference in their daily life. That's everything from cleaner water to greater electrical generation. They can now predict, for example, when the electricity is going on and off, which is very different from last summer. Different also from last summer is wastewater disposal, which in Baghdad alone was a tremendous problem. It remains a tremendous problem, but there's been a big improvement.
Q: What's the most important thing we should be worrying about in terms of long-term success there?
A: The counter to what we do well is what we don't do well. What we don't do well is building social capital. Social capital is this idea of building local capacity, building an ethic of participation. It's the soft side of the postwar reconstruction process.
The hard side is hard-wiring the infrastructure of a society. We tend to be able to do that. We can throw engineers at it. But what we don't well is the enhancement of the social capital of society building initiative; building imaginative, creative new leaders; building recognition of what democratic governance is and what the rights and responsibilities are of citizens in such a society.
We're not good at that, and we need to worry about that because that is a very real challenge that we haven't quite nailed anywhere we've tried it since we began to engage in postwar reconstruction in earnest.
Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.
03/31/04: Congress must come to terms ... ten minutes with Rep. Dick Armey
03/22/04: How to win the terror war ... 10 minutes with terrorism expert Steven Emerson
03/16/04: Religion, spiritual freedom & Ronald Reagan … 10 minutes with author Paul Kengor
03/10/04: America's materialism keeps world in tune
02/24/04: Our new epoch in history ... 10 minutes with philosopher/political thinker/novelist Lee Harris
02/20/04: Vanity Fair, SI sink lower than ever
02/13/04: A rare libertarian among Big Media liberals up close and personal with John Stossel
02/10/04: Young innovators changing the rules
02/03/04: Now, the election fun begins … 10 minutes with Charlie Cook
01/30/04: Dem Dems
01/16/04: Caucuses bore you? You're not alone
01/14/04: Paradise lost? Ten minutes with … Victor Davis Hanson
01/09/04: Howard Dean week?
12/26/03: How is the magazine sector doing?
12/17/03: 10 minutes with Thomas Sowell
12/15/03: Journalism 'watchdog' displays bad reporting
12/09/03: Book lovers are losing a good read
12/05/03: 'South Park' has unlikely audience tuning in
12/03/03: An odd lot of 35 'heroes'
11/24/03: 'We'll learn the truth someday' … 10 minutes with JFK expert Cyril Wecht
11/18/03: Exposer of the idiocy of bureaucracy and the threat to individual freedom posed by government … Ten minutes with author James Bovard
11/14/03: Two stories examine Wal-Mart's domination
11/07/03: The real Rumsfeld … 10 minutes with author Midge Decter
11/05/03: Lights! Camera! Fudge!?
10/31/03: The straight dope on hate, drugs, Jon Stewart
10/24/03: See what federal $$$ does?
10/21/03: Esquire recalls its glory days
10/14/03: A 784-page biography hatchet job that only Clinton-haters will love published by Random House? Ten minutes with Nigel Hamilton
10/10/03: Bush adviser girds for a tough fight ... 10 minutes with Mary Matalin
10/07/03: Forbes gives advice on making rich list
09/30/03: A 20th Century American tour
09/26/03: Reagan's life in letters
09/24/03: Bin Laden and Boy Bill
09/22/03: Dennis Miller makes funny business of politics
09/16/03: Famous 'bad girls' clear the air
09/12/03: Ben Stein gets serious: Davis is a 'thug in a gray flannel suit'
09/09/03: Smart(-Alecky) mag's very different 'swimsuit issue'; Murdoch might not be as bad as we thought
09/02/03: Ex-teacher lambastes our schools
08/25/03: Vanity Fair strives to be more than glamorous
07/22/03: Title IX's original intent … Ten minutes with Eric Pearson
07/11/03: Vanity Fair dishes it out on JFK Jr., N.Y. Times
07/09/03: Why Ben Franklin should be the "Father of Our Country" ... 10 minutes with Walter Isaacson
07/07/03: Honoring nation's first celebrity superstar
06/27/03: Reader's Digest can't help but act its age
06/24/03: Dick Morris, consultant for hire, reveals the inside story
06/20/03: Move over, Hillary. Here comes a better work of fiction
06/10/03: Publications take us away from Middle East
06/03/03: Dear graduates: Work for freedom … 10 minutes with Penn Jillette
05/30/03: National Geographic goes to the top of the world
05/23/03: Editors dabble in history, fiction
05/16/03: The Old Grim Lady gets covered
05/09/03: Political parties fighting over Iraq's wreckage
05/07/03: 10 minutes with a big-city Dem mayor who loathes budget deficits, the federal highway program, taxpayer-funded sports stadiums and the meddling (and aid money) of Washington
05/02/03: Are you sufficiently terrified?
04/29/03: Finally, a president defending American principles in the Middle East ... 10 minutes with Alexander Haig
04/25/03: Newsweeklies starting to lose interest in Iraq war
04/21/03: There's bias, and then there's bias
04/11/03: Planning future of Iraq, world
04/04/03: Newsweeklies come back with graphic look at war
03/28/03: Newsweeklies try to keep up with TV war coverage
03/26/03: Wen Ho Lee whistle-blower says beware of China
03/21/03: America's ready for war ... and peace
03/18/03: Baseball limping, not dead … 10 minutes with author Andrew Zimbalist
03/14/03: Vanity Fair gets us ready for month's big event
03/11/03: A road map for Iraq's liberation devised by James Madison? … 10 minutes with James S. Robbins
03/06/03: Iraq war will come and go before we know it
02/28/03: America takes time out for swimsuits
02/26/03: 'We shall be seen as liberators' .... 10 minutes with noted Brit commentator David Pryce-Jones
02/21/03: Terrorism one of many losing battles
02/14/03: Editors planning for the day after Gulf War II
02/12/03: The 'religiosity' of Ronald Reagan … 10 minutes with author Paul Kengor
02/10/03: Should the shuttle crash be the end of NASA?
02/06/03: Dear Joan ...
01/31/03: Newsweek, Nation ponder pros, cons of Gulf War II
01/24/03: 'Original' ideas follow New Deal philosophy
01/22/03: When handicapping 2004, watch the economy: Ten minutes with … Charlie Cook
01/17/03: New Republic fans hatred for SUVs
01/14/03: 10 minutes with Santorum on ... taxes, steel and Lott
01/10/03: Newsweeklies move on to latest menace
01/07/03: The best of the Q&As
12/30/02: Rosie's demise tops list of 2002 highlights
12/23/02: GOP must stick to its principles: 10 questions for ... Bill Kristol
12/20/02: Lott fiasco uncovers bigger problem
12/18/02: Free markets king in Sweden, at least for a day: Ten minutes with …. Donald Boudreaux
12/13/02: Corruption of Indian casinos no surprise
12/06/02: Giving credit to young philanthropists
12/02/02: Ten minutes with …. Chris Matthews
11/26/02: It's critical to memorialize communism's victims: 10 minutes with … Lee Edwards
11/22/02: JFK's secret health woes are revealed
11/19/02: It's best to contain Saddam: Ten minutes with … Col. David Hackworth
11/15/02: Brushing up on the affairs of a wild world
11/12/02: Make Dems filibuster … 10 minutes with … Robert L. Bartley
11/08/02: National Geographic: Urban overpopulation is good
11/05/02: The bloody consequences of a broken INS: Ten minutes with … Michelle Malkin
11/01/02: Going to pot; thank heaven for media overkill
10/29/02: It's all about federalism: Ten minutes with … Jonah Goldberg
10/25/02: Frank Sinatra, Kurt Cobain, Mad Magazine will never die
10/22/02: Here's why Orwell matters: Ten minutes with … Christopher Hitchens
10/18/02: The sniper knocks Iraq off the covers
10/15/02: Iraq, oil and war: 10 minutes with ... economist/historian Daniel Yergin
10/11/02: England's gun-control experiment has backfired
10/04/02: Buchanan the media baron?
09/27/02: Analyzing Esquire, GQ is not for the squeamish
09/20/02: CEOs: The rise and fall of American heroes
09/13/02: Skeptics remind U.S. to calm down
09/10/02: 'A failure to recognize a failure': 15 minutes with ... Bill Gertz
09/06/02: Rating the 9-11 mags
08/30/02: Bad trains, bad planes, and bad automobiles
08/28/02: Baseball, broken, can be fixed: 15 minutes with George Will
08/16/02: 9-11 overload has already begun
08/13/02: Tell us what you really think, Ann Coulter
08/09/02: A funny take on a new kind of suburb
08/02/02: It's not the humidity, it's the (media) heat wave; the death of American cities
07/12/02: Colombia's drug lords are all business
07/09/02: If capitalism is 'soulless' then show me something better: 10 minutes with … Alan Reynolds
06/25/02: Origins of a scandal: 10 minutes with … Michael Rose
06/21/02: 9/11 report unearths good, bad and ugly
06/18/02: The FBI is rebounding … 10 Minutes with Ronald Kessler
06/14/02: U.S. News opens closet of Secret Service
06/11/02: 10 minutes with … William Lind: Can America survive in this 'fourth-generation' world?
06/07/02: America, warts and all
05/30/02: FBI saga gets more depressing
05/13/02: The magazine industry's annual exercise in self-puffery
04/30/02: 10 Minutes with ... The New York Sun's Seth Lipsky
04/26/02: Will the American Taliban go free?
04/23/02: 10 minutes with ... Dinesh D'Souza
04/19/02: Saddam starting to show his age
04/12/02: Newsweek puts suicide bombing in perspective
04/09/02: How polls distort the news, change the outcome of elections and encourage legislation that undermines the foundations of the republic
04/05/02: Looking into the state of American greatness
03/25/02: The American President and the Peruvian Shoeshine Boys
03/22/02: Troublemaking intellectual puts Churchill in spotlight
03/20/02: 10 minutes with ... Bill Bennett
03/18/02: Suddenly, it's cool again to be a man
03/12/02: 10 minutes with … Ken Adelman
03/08/02: TIME asks the nation a scary question
03/05/02: 10 minutes with ... Rich Lowry
02/26/02: 10 minutes with ... Tony Snow
02/12/02: Has Soldier of Fortune gone soft?
© 2002, Bill Steigerwald