Iraqi government agencies, political parties, and civil society organizations have gradually expanded their capabilities and activities. They will tell you how much more they could have done had they not been constrained by security threats or - almost as important - the lack of reliable infrastructure, but what they have accomplished already is admirable, as is their unflagging determination in the face of these threats and constraints.
There is a phrase I hear in almost every conversation with Iraqis that captures the mood of this process: hutwa bi hutwa, or "step by step."
I hear it from National Assembly members talking about writing the new constitution, from anticorruption watchdogs trying to monitor the government, and from women's groups planning a campaign to reduce violence in schools.
The lead-up is the same: The conversation turns to the magnitude of a task at hand, and the seemingly insurmountable challenges involved. There is a shrug of the shoulders, a resigned smile, and the words hutwa bi hutwa. "Step by step" is the way Iraqis reconcile their great hopes for the future with recognition of the slow, painful march it will take to get there.