Revisiting the location of significant moments in your life unleashes a flow of memories. At once memories long buried are unearthed. You are disoriented by how different things seem from what you remembered. This is my 23rd time again after I left the US ARMY and again my flight landed at Baghdad International Airport — BIAP, as I known it. I previously spent over three years during a career in the US Army, either flying over its airspace or patrolling its streets and conducting counterinsurgency operations. This trip, however, could not have been more different. This time I join my employees of ATS who are supporting multiple NGO and other agency who are supporting the follow of the displaced people of Iraq.
Iraq continues to face challenges after a tragic 14 years. I was frustrated that all our work building an Iraqi army fell apart in 2014, and that those efforts continue to have mixed results. But I was heartened to witness pockets of common purpose among Iraqis. History shows that in times of crisis and rebuilding, neighbors set aside politics, religious and race identity and work together in service to the larger community. But world should not fool themselves into thinking that all will be well once ISIL is defeated, power restored, and libraries opened.
The challenge is for Iraqis from disparate communities, religions and sects to hold fast to the unity they share during moments of cooperation, and to remember that to do otherwise will have dire consequences. The world must recognize that being an effective partner means not departing rashly. It also means, as a provider, recognizing the limits of your influence and contribution, and exercising that influence effectively and in good faith. As always, we all need to remember the universal truth “united, we stand; divided, we fall.