Dr. Khalilzad, the former ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan, spoke at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte on the issues of democratizing countries and how different cultures hold different views about the roles of government in developing a country. He spoke of a green initiative in Iraq in which trees were planted and schoolchildren were taught how to take care of them. The idea of this was to teach school children to play a role in growing their community. This may seem like a great idea to those of us from a Western society, but the citizens of Iraq felt that planting trees was the role of government, and didn’t understand why schoolchildren should do it. Dr. Khalilzad feels that Iraqi people rely heavily on government, while western society sees it as more of an individual responsibility to develop and maintain a community. This may be one reason why community development in Iraq is such a challenge.
Dr. Khalilzad also discussed the structure of Iraq’s government and how that that affects the choices that people make. Iraq, formerly a dictatorship, chose a parliament government, allowing the people to have more representation and choice. Afghanistan, on the other hand, is pushing more toward a strong central leader or group of leaders, allowing for much faster decisions. If you look into American history around the time of its separation from the British Empire, you’ll discover the many problems and benefits that can arise from having a monarch or parliament government, and the importance of a court system to balance the powers. Studying history is a great way to learn, while observing the present broadens our views.