A cynic might call Rice's answer six of one, half a dozen of the other. First, it's clear to many at State that State people are reluctant to go to Iraq. Second, it remains the case that even as the surge is moving forward, the civilian positions that are said to be crucial to its success are being temporarily filled by overtaxed U.S. troops. Rice testified that help is on the way, but we've heard that before -- all the way back to 2003, when the Coalition Provisional Authority and the military couldn't iron out a coherent working arrangement:
One morning, during breakfast at the battalion canteen, I asked Nagl about the Coalition Provisional Authority. He has yet to see a C.P.A. official at the base, he said. He pointed to an empty plastic chair at the table and asked: ''Where's the guy from C.P.A.? He should be sitting right there.''
Given the weakness of the C.P.A., Nagl and other soldiers are effectively in charge not only of the military aspects of the counterinsurgency but also of reconstruction work and political development. Trained to kill tanks, the officers at Camp Manhattan spend much of their time meeting local sheiks and apportioning the thin funds at their disposal for rebuilding; the battalion maintains a list of school-improvement projects known as ''the Romper Room list.'' It is not unusual for Nagl and Colonel Swisher to go out in the morning on a ''cordon and search'' raid and return in the afternoon to their tactical operations center for a meeting with the second in command, Maj. David Indermuehle, about dispersing small grants to local health clinics.
Not to worry: it's all in the State Department budget request this time around.