Graeme Wood is reporting from Fallujah, Iraq:
The Marines here are done shooting people, mostly. Instead, they have prioritized protecting small groups of US government employees -- embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams, or ePRTs -- who undertake quixotic projects aimed at fixing Iraq's infrastructure....The ePRTs deployed to Iraq in 2005, and their work is still novel enough to be of uncertain value. On one hand, they do unambiguous good: they build schools and hospitals, they fix water treatment plants, they suggest improvements to Iraqis about how they can grow more crops with less effort. Most of all, they put a non-military face on the American mission. To go anywhere, they need a massive, noisy escort of Marines in mine-resistant vehicles and full body armor. But when the ePRT members dismount their steel steeds and walk into a city council meeting, they leave body armor behind and work as closely with Iraqi civilians as anyone else in the country.
On the other hand, their efforts present the same quandaries as all aid. Showering cash on Iraqis encourages malaise. And having this shadow reconstruction agency, working parallel to (and barely uncoordinated with) the government in Baghdad, pisses off the Iraqi government something fierce. Nouri al-Maliki received a briefing on the ePRTs' work and quite understandably huffed about being undermined by the very US government was trying to prop him up. If money is to shower down on Fallujah, let it be from a single spout.