The lesson should be obvious: Foreign military occupations of Muslim lands from the Crusades to the present are disruptive of indigenous cultures, destructive, and sooner or later, hated.
In the months ahead, whichever faction – including the Shiite militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr – nurtures the Iraqi passion for education, family, and community is likely to win Iraqi public support.
An unfortunate truth is that Washington's plan for nation building has been hamstrung because the insurgents have been targeting contractors and construction workers. This lethal violence maneuvered the US into a "security first, reconstruction later" mode, reminding us that on every battlefield, the enemy always has a vote.
True, the United States has poured billions into rebuilding Iraq. But the standing joke among Iraqis is that a US company will be awarded a $10 billion contract. The work is then subcontracted to a construction company in Kuwait, which in turn subcontracts to an Iraqi firm, which in turn hires four kids to paint a school. Iraqis then laugh and say, "You can be sure none of those kids ever sees the $10 billion." This cynicism, along with the legacy of massive corruption under former dictator Saddam Hussein, has hobbled US reconstruction efforts.