Monday, February 21, 2005

“Water will win this war.”

RealClearPolitics points out a feature in yesterday’s NYTimes on MG Chiarelli, Commanding General of the First Cavalry Division: “Tears of Pride, and Loss, as General Leaves Iraq.”

I’ve met General Chiarelli on several occasions, and my beautiful wife received a commander’s coin from him in recognition of her work with the Commander’s Emergency Relief Program during the last year in Baghdad. He strikes me a good leader and a caring man, and I think the article portrays him in that light as well.

Chiarelli makes an excellent point about how we will achieve peace in Iraq:

For the general, building infrastructure plays as big a role in the battle for Iraq as any operation. He cites the example of Sadr City, the seething Shiite district of Baghdad where violence boiled last year. The area, where the First Cavalry Division has put enormous efforts into bringing water into homes, is now calm.

To what degree this quiet is due to the arrival of water – “Did I ever think I would be excited to see a woman turn on a tap?” General Chiarelli asks – and to what degree it reflects the political containment of Moktada al-Sadr, the radical cleric influential in the area, is unclear. But the general says he believes water will win this war.

“Take Haifa Street,” he says referring to a main Baghdad thoroughfare. “We are turning people to our side there. We are moving southeast to northwest and we are improving electricity, sewerage and water. And as we go, the bad guys move back, and we find more and more people denouncing them.”

He’s absolutely right that improving the everyday lives of the Iraqi people is what will make the difference for us. If people’s lives are improving, they have no reason to side with the insurgents. The elections were a major factor in improving their lives, but water, electricity, and employment are what will make the turning tide irreversible.