2007 High School Essay Contest Winning Essay
The Role of the Foreign Service in the Reconstruction of Iraq
BY SUMIT MALIK
On March 20, 2003, the United States initiated Operation Iraqi Freedom, seeking "to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people" (Bush). The invasion was successful in dismantling a malevolent regime; however, the aftermath left the United States with the formidable task of uplifting a nation experiencing regional instability, domestic violence, and economic deterioration. The Foreign Service has taken an exemplary stance in the reconstruction process, committing hundreds of personnel to aid in the development of a self-sufficient, prosperous Iraq (Kashkett).
At the time of Saddam Hussein’s deposition, Iraq was beset with a myriad of difficulties. Unemployment rates escalated sharply, approaching an estimated 50 percent. In 2004, the median annual income was a mere $144, partially resulting from the frequency of underemployment, in which over-qualified individuals were forced to settle for low-paying, unskilled occupations (Augustin and Kubena 125). Infrastructure complications impacted numerous sectors of society, including transportation, housing, electricity production, public health systems, sanitary water supply, education, and sewage treatment facilities. Sectarian violence and insufficient municipal security systems effectuated a struggle to maintain order (United States, October 15-18). Furthermore, nearly half of Iraq’s population is currently under the age of 18, emphasizing the necessity of child protection. One in four children below age five experiences chronic malnourishment, and one in eight does not survive beyond five years (“Iraq – Country”). Collectively, alleviating the situation within Iraq has forced itself to the forefront of global concern.
The Foreign Service has spearheaded reconstruction efforts in Iraq through the implementation of multi-faceted procedures addressing the social and financial aspects of the nation’s present circumstances. Within 12 months of the occupation of Iraq, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) poured $3.3 billion into the restoration of schools, provision of electricity, promotion of communal health, and establishment of democratic councils, thereby enacting the most extensive US foreign aid program since the 1947 Marshall Plan in Europe. This development initiative had tremendous societal impacts, repairing upwards of 1,700 breaks in the nation’s water network, renovating 1,500 schools, and circulating 22 million vaccines to children and pregnant women. Moreover, a 62-member Disaster Assistance Response Team, the largest ever created, was instituted for the purpose of administering humanitarian aid, coordinating US assistance within the region, and facilitating the international provision of resources (United States, A Year 2-4). The team promoted the stockpiling of medicine and potable water in addition to amalgamated efforts with the Department of State in providing over 600,000 metric tons of food to impoverished areas (“U.S. Officials Report”). Foreign Service undertakings effectively granted immediate reprieve to necessitous Iraqi communities, issuing crucial support for the sustenance of a stable nation.
To date, USAID has contributed over $5 billion for the maximization of societal welfare within Iraq (United States, Program 3). Proper allocation of these funds has resulted in a number of notable accomplishments, as the implemented procedures have been remarkably efficient in mitigating domestic hardships. USAID-managed programs have stimulated the dramatic enhancement of the domestic health care system. Access to essential medical services has expanded significantly through the training of 2,500 primary health care workers, and over 98 percent of children ages 1-5 have been immunized for common lethal illnesses. Steady progress in the primary education sector has been maintained, as USAID has supplied 8.6 million textbooks, trained 133,000 new primary school teachers, and doubled the number of rehabilitated facilities since 2004, shifting from unsatisfactory education methodology and bedraggled classrooms to modernized, efficacious learning environments. Additionally, infrastructure development has provided clean drinking water and electricity to more than 4 million Iraqis, and 7.2 million urban residents have gained access to adequate, functioning sewage systems, substantially improving sanitation and minimizing outbreaks of disease (“Top Ten USAID”). Refurbished transportation networks, including restored bridges and reconstructed railroads, have eased traffic conditions, extending benefits to 50,000 travelers each day (“Completed Projects: Roads”). With support from the Iraq Telecommunications and Postal Commission, telecommunications potency has nearly quadrupled, as telephone subscriptions have swelled from 1.2 million to 4.6 million land and cell lines (“Completed Projects: Telecommunications”). Furthermore, Foreign Service Officers have played an integral role in Provincial Reconstruction Teams, facilitating the appropriate administration of aid (Kessler).
Simultaneously, a sound foundation for long-term economic growth, advocated particularly by the Foreign Commercial Service, has materialized through continual promotion of the private sector, fostering sustainable job generation (Green). USAID’s assistance in the initiation of the Iraq Investment Promotion Agency has established ties to the global market, permitting the inflow of financial capital at both a domestic and an international basis (“Iraqi Economy”). In concordance with the Ministry of Finance, new dinar currency was introduced to Iraq, in addition to the inception of a redesigned monetary policy to alleviate poverty levels (United States, Our Commitment 5). Microfinance loans administered through the Foreign Service provide economically underprivileged individuals with increased opportunity to enhance their condition (Besheer). Essential reconstruction programs in combination with the training of Iraqi security, military, and law enforcement personnel have enabled the Iraqi society to progress enormously (“Fact Sheet”).
The Foreign Service has extended benefits beyond basic reconditioning procedures. It has taken a diplomatic stance in promoting governmental reform and democratic ideology. The Department of State has reaffirmed its commitment to “the establishment of a stable, united, prosperous, democratic, and pluralistic Iraq” (“Background Note”), shouldering Foreign Service projects including the delivery of essential services on a localized basis by means of representative provincial entities and substantiating over 670 community activist groups engaged in advocacy of women’s rights, civic education, and elimination of corruption (United States, Our Commitment 5).
The amelioration of the situation in Iraq has emerged as a principal international endeavor, and Foreign Service efforts have been critical to furthering this cause. Not only have struggling individuals been provided the opportunity for personal advancement, but society in its entirety has progressed through the adoption of a democratic outlook. While reconstruction within Iraq is not yet complete, the Foreign Service has truly established the framework for a bright and promising future.
Augustin, Byron, and Jake Kubena. Iraq. Enchantment of the World 2. New York: Children’s, 2006.
“Background Note: Iraq.” United States Department of State. Oct. 2006. 2 Jan. 2007.
Besheer, Margaret. “Small Loans Help Pave Way for Better Lives in Iraq.” Voice of America News 8 Dec. 2006. 2 Jan. 2007.
Bush, George Walker. “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” White House. 22 Mar. 2003. White House Radio Address Archives 22 Mar. 2003. 1 Jan. 2007.
“Completed Projects: Roads and Bridges.” USAID: From the American People. 21 June 2006. United States Agency for International Development. 2 Jan. 2007.
“Completed Projects: Telecommunications.” USAID: From the American People. 21 June 2006. United States Agency for International Development. 2 Jan. 2007.
“Fact Sheet: Training Iraqi Security Forces.” The White House. 30 Nov. 2005. 2 Jan. 2007.
Green, Stephen L. “Iraq eRocket #6 Entry Strategies: As the Iraqi Market Evolves, Business Paths Multiply.” U.S. Commercial Service. May 2006. United States of America Department of Commerce. 2 Jan. 2007.
“Iraq - Country in Crisis.” UNICEF. 11 May 2006. 1 Jan. 2007.
“Iraqi Economy: Iraq Investment Promotion Agency Begins Encouraging Investment.” Portal Iraq. 20 Mar. 2006. 2 Jan. 2007.
Kashkett, Steve. “Iraq: Question-and-Answer Time.” AFSA News Mar. 2006. 1 Jan. 2007.
“Top Ten USAID Strategic Accomplishments in Iraq.” USAID: From the American People. 7 Dec. 2005. United States Agency for International Development. 2 Jan. 2007.
United States. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. October 2006 Quarterly Report to Congress. 30 Oct. 2006. 1 Jan. 2007.
- - -. United States Agency for International Development. Our Commitment to Iraq. Nov. 2005. 2 Jan. 2007.
- - -. - - -. Program Financial Summary. 1 Nov. 2006. 2 Jan. 2007.