A reader writes:

My son is an officer in the Army and he is part of the ongoing action over there. Here is what he wrote me some time ago.

"No one ever mentions the fact that we have literally built walls around each neighborhood and along every highway as the reason the violence is down here.  The place looks like an Orwell novel gone wrong. The people cannot shoot each other through walls and the insurgents cannot move around to plant their bombs.  A society cannot function walled off form each other. We pay every bill, manage every facet of governance. The government at every level is a joke. The ministries are controlled by one faction (Shia). They have almost no experience or education. A bunch of guys walk around in suits and look important while they do nothing.

The local governments (to use the term loosely) are  a collection of gangsters and strong men concerned with consolidating power and lining their pockets with cash from kickbacks of U.S. construction projects. The people have no work ethic. (I offered two grubby starving men 20 dollars each to unload some grain bags... they asked for fifty and then refused to work for less. I unloaded it myself) They throw their trash in the street until it piles high enough for the kids to play on it, and get sick. So, in short, I don't see a Capitalistic Democracy sprouting along the Tigris. I see the little boy (The U.S. Army) with his finger in the dike. If we remove our hand, it all goes away."

I later had the opportunity to discuss this with my son and he fleshed out the point about the neighborhoods being walled off. He told me that there are 17 feet high cement barriers at the end of every street separating manageable neighborhoods. There are checkpoints to control ingress and egress to each neighborhood. Citizens are not able to lead ordinary lives. The joke among officers over there is that in order to show further "progress"  the troops will have to circle EVERY house.

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