Yon’s “Collective Dreams”

Michael Yon describes a mind-set; sure he’s chauvinistic, but its also the power of an Army of Davids in Baqubah:

When Americans move into Iraqi buildings, the buildings start improving from the first day. And then, the buildings near the buildings start to improve. It’s not about the money, but the mindset. The Greatest Generation called it “the can-do mentality.” It’s a wealth measured not only in dollars, but also in knowledge. The burning curiosity that launched the Hubble, flows from that mentality, and so does the revenue stream of taxpayer dollars that funded it. Iraq is very rich in resources, but philosophically it is impoverished. The truest separation between cultures is in the collective dreams of their people.

The blend of tribalism and individualism, of pride and of history that shapes a people’s imagination is summed up in that connotative description: “the collective dreams of their people.”

8 thoughts on “Yon’s “Collective Dreams””

  1. What does he mean when Americans “move into” buildings in Iraq? How does that work? What happens to the owners and residents?

  2. Oliver,

    If that’s all you got from the article, you got nothing, apparently quite intentionally.

  3. I don’t find it chauvanistic at all, merely american. The iraqis are trying to tell the americans that Iraq is a tournament stretching on and on, a series of marathons run not one after the other but overlapping, with the gun firing to start the next before the first runner has even crossed the finish for the preceding. The americans are in Iraq for one marathon and that makes a huge difference in what the appropriate strategy is.

    So americans are rich. They can lose a marathon, go home and pick up a supplemental appropriation, come back and run another one. Iraqis don’t have the resources to equal that performance even if in one particular situation they have the necessary resources to fix something. The stakes are much higher for them as they are playing in multiple competitions only some of which the americans are a player.

    But looking at things from the perspective of just one of the marathons, the reconstruction of Iraq after the devastation of the Baath and the jackals who are trying to keep Iraq from rising afterwards, Yon is spot on.

    The “marathons” (at least the ones I can discern):
    The physical reconstruction of Iraq
    The political apportionment of power by tribe, sectarian group, and ethnicity
    The religious battle between shia quietism and khomeinism
    The economic spoils of privilege
    The economic battle as to how much of the economy will be apportioned by the old spoils and how much by meritocratic free market means
    The social battle to free women from outdated strictures while keeping the ones that are vital to protect society from libertinism
    The prestige battle of tribes
    The Sunni Shia conflict over the future of Islam

    Yon’s limitation is that his brief from his financial backers and in his own head is to report on the War. No matter where you are coming from, once you limit your observations in a complex situation like Iraq you’ve lost any hope of grasping the entire situation.

  4. Oliver seems to want to think the Iraqis are forced to dig their own graves and shot in the back of the head by the jackbooted thugs of the US Army. But the context of the article makes it sound like Americans are renting or buying these properties. A confirming email to Mr. Yon may be in order.

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