The Mayor of Ar Rutbah

Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Every once in a while I click on over to Arts and Letters Daily. They often point to interesting stuff around the web. I did so just a few moments ago and found The Mayor of Ar Rutbah, by James A. Gavrilis, in the Nov/Dec issue of Foreign Policy.

Amid the chaos in Iraq, one company of U.S. Special Forces achieved what others have not: a functioning democracy. How? By relying on common sense, the trust of Iraqis, and recollections from Political Science 101.
It is a story that begins in April, 2003. If you are so inclined, read the whole thing.


vnjagvet said...


Either something is wrong with the links in the post, or blogspot is on the blink.

When I hit the links they take me to the blogspot post editor.

Rick Ballard said...

The link works for me now. Maj. Gavrilis' piece is one of the more interesting that I have read concerning that period. I thought at the time and continue to think that more would have and could have been accomplished had field grade officers been funded and authorized to act precisely as he did.

The problem still goes to the conscious decision made by Congress a long time ago to push DoD to move the Civil Affairs function to Reserve or Guard units. It was a stupid decision then and I don't know if it has been rectified yet.

Anonymous said...

I had a recollection in the back of my mind of having seen this some time ago but not in such detail. It is really interesting reading. C

Knucklehead said...

Sorry about the botched links. Not sure how they happened. I fixed them but got some sort of funky error and neglected to note that I fixed them.

Buddy Larsen said...

I'm halfway thru the piece. I keep thinking, what a great, great soldier the author is. The combat end of the job being just his means to a greater end. Kinda scary, that he had so few protocols going in--a bad guy in his place could really screw things up. But, then, would the US have a bad actor IN his place? Not by the evidence I've seen. The professionalism on display over there is wonderful to behold.

Rick Ballard said...


Civil Affairs has always been a cornerstone of SF training. I don't think you can get the beret without demonstrating that you can build as efficiently as you kill.

He takes a little shot at the regulars that followed his team concerning that aspect. I also noted this sentence: "Our company warrant officer wrote the pledge, I reviewed it, he translated it, and the interim mayor approved it." That's a rather handy skill set to be carrying around with you. Impressive people.

Buddy Larsen said...

Rick, I believe that was the sentence that set off my post. The very idea that the doc wasn't ginned up back in ledgerdemain-land, is--well--thank goodness for the SF!