Snark aside, it is true that many of these fighters took up arms against the Jihadi interlopers not only out of disgust and rage at the horrifying behavior of AQI toward their families and themselves, but out of a genuine lack of options and need for the paycheck. For a land as ravaged by war and tyranny as Iraq has been, however, I must question the judgment of someone for whom the absolute purity of intentions is required of all allies. Part of what makes a well-conceived COIN strategy work is the willingness to adapt to the realities on the ground, such that one is in a better position to influence their unfolding in a desired direction.
In the case of the Sons Of Iraq, the concern has been that these individuals --many of whom are illiterate teens-- will constitute a destabilizing force, a group of armed and combat trained youths with no options and no place in peaceful society. This is a legitimate concern, which is being addressed in just about the best way I can imagine. A sizable proportion of them are being readied for transition to the official security forces (Army and Police) of the Iraqi state. But Anbar Province, for example, is already looking to have a surplus of security forces as an unaccustomed calm settles more deeply into the daily life of its residents. This is a situation which --all other things being equal-- appears to be poised to pertain to larger and larger swathes of the Iraqi landscape. For them, there is this:
The fierce pride which is woven into the Arab consciousness has been bruised raw by generations of strife and civilizational underachievement. If the reconstruction of Iraq were to be solely the business of foreigners --however well-intentioned-- that pride would hardly be assuaged. Much of what we are trying to accomplish in OIF and other fronts of this Conflict is to foster the creation of a new and more sustainable set of anchors for that pride, to direct it away from the impotent rage which for so long has been its only outlet. The more rapidly we can create the conditions for Iraqis to claim a larger stake of ownership for the prosperity of their society, the more progress we will have made in providing a definitive answer to the nihilistic fury which is what the Jihadis have had to offer the Arab and larger Muslim world.
[The Arab Jabour village of] Hawr Rajab is unique in that it is home to a trial program that will train and transition Sons of Iraq from a security force into skilled laborers. If the program is judged to be successful, it will become a model for other areas across Iraq.
As the first step of the transition program, US Air Force construction engineers of the 557th Expeditionary “Red Horse”built a $13 million facility next to Patrol Base Stone, the small US outpost in Hawr Rajab. The complex will house the squadron and a large team of interpreters while they train former Sons of Iraq. There will also be classrooms for teaching and a dining facility.
The “Village of Hope,” as the school is now called, will graduate a class of 50 men every three months, after training them in a variety of disciplines. Instructors cover basic skills in masonry, concrete, general construction, plumbing, and electricity. Trainees are graded on a pass or fail basis, and receive a certificate of completion and hiring preference on projects in the village once they graduate.
You can give a man a fish, teach a man to fish...and then you can train him in the skills to build and market a better fishing rod.