In late 2003, Stanford University professor and democracy expert Larry Diamond was personally asked by his former colleague Condoleezza Rice to serve as an advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, a position he accepted with equal parts "hesitation and conviction." He opposed the initial invasion of Iraq, but "supported building the peace," and felt the U.S. had a moral imperative to reconstruct Iraq as a democratic and prosperous nation. Before going to Iraq he had serious doubts about whether the U.S. could actually do this--an opinion that was solidified after spending three months working with the CPA. Squandered Victory is his insider's examination of what went wrong in Iraq after the initial invasion. Diamond details a long list of preventable blunders and missed opportunities, from President Bush's decision to give the Pentagon the lead responsibility for the management of postwar Iraq to the CPA's inability to work with Iraqi leaders such as Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Diamond expresses admiration for CPA Administrator L. Paul Bremer, whom he believes was sincere about wanting to bring democracy to Iraq, yet points out that he was wholly unprepared and unrealistic about the task, resulting in "one of the major overseas blunders in U.S. history." In his descriptions of confrontations with Bremer, Diamond shows him as unwilling to diverge from paths that were obviously failing.
As an academic with an expertise in democracy building, Diamond sometimes seems more comfortable with theories than practical solutions, but he did experience the process in Iraq from the inside and provides a useful background on the various ethnic and religious groups vying for power there. He claims that he remains hopeful, but his optimism lies more with the abilities of the Iraqi people than with the U.S. government, since the difficult process of democratization will likely take much more time and effort than the U.S. can afford to spend. --Shawn Carkonen
From Publishers Weekly
When Diamond got a call from his former Stanford colleague Condoleezza Rice asking if he would go to Baghdad to advise Iraqi authorities on drafting and implementing a democratic constitution, the political scientist, who had "opposed going to war but supported building the peace," was able to overcome his concerns about the region's instability. What he saw in Iraq during the first four months of 2004, however, left him extremely pessimistic about the prospects of success (although he admits all is not necessarily lost). Diamond sees a refusal to deal honestly with deteriorating conditions, particularly the rise of violent insurgency, and characterizes it as one of America's worst blunders ever; indeed, he calls that refusal "criminal negligence." Diamond's mounting personal frustration becomes apparent especially in direct confrontations with then Ambassador Paul Bremer. Though much of the story is given over to wonkish details of power brokering among Iraq's various political, ethnic and religious factions, there are also vibrant particulars of life inside the American compound, where even going out for pizza could be a life-threatening event. Such eye-witness experience bolsters this vivid critique of the current administration's foreign policy cornerstone.
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