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132 of 143 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Study in State Department ann Military Buraucracy, September 27, 2011
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This review is from: We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People (American Empire Project) (Hardcover)
This book could serve as a text for courses in Foreign Policy, government organization, or military operations. It is a withering look at how some State Department bureaucrats and military officers play a game in order to advance their careers, without much care as to the effect their projects and policies have on flesh and blood people. Van Buren's book is humorous, and easy reading. Underneath, there is a level of tragedy and sadness, as clearly the author was affected by the amorality and immorality of wanting U.S. efforts to once again "win the hearts and minds" of a people whose country we had invaded.

Van Buren discusses the tedium, the mind numbing meetings, the social meetings between Iraqis and U.S. officials where optics were the prime concern, the worthless projects, and the waste of huge sums of money. We do not see one-dimensional characters for the most part. We meet Iraqis who are idealists (very few), trying to get rich, embittered or saddened. Military officers are often portrayed as interested in short term success to enhance their careers. State Department policy is seen as confused, ignorant, and ever changing.

Every taxpayer who thinks we should give the military whatever it wants in terms of a defense budget should read this book; they will likely reconsider their opinions. Those who think U.S. foreign policy is guided by experts with clear goals will receive a rude awakening.

As I write this review, I have read that the author is now being harassed by federal investigators. This is very much a whistleblowing book, and sadly whistleblowers are often punished. I wish the author well; clearly he will have no future in government. However he seems to be a patriot, intent on telling the public how badly our government functions.

In short, this is a book that is both entertaining and disturbing.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 15, 2011, 8:18:26 PM PDT
UK76girl says:
Excellent review! I agree totally. I was amused by parts of the book but ultimately horrified by what we've done to Iraq. What an absolute, total waste.....

I hate to hear that Mr. Van Buren is being harassed by investigators. Sadly, I'm not surprised. Mr. Van Buren is a true patriot and I hope the harassment stops soon.

If you have any questions about our role in the Iraq war and wonder what exactly we've accomplished there, this is a thought provoking book and definitely worth the read.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 2, 2011, 3:41:22 PM PDT
R. Doherty says:
It's unfortunate that this book has not had any coverage in the national media, so relatively few will read it. It's an excellent expose of the U.S. government's never ending hubris, arrogance and incompetence in Iraq and our so-called counter-insurgency efforts.
I have worked in federal grant programs in the U.S. where we account for every penny to the nth degree and do benefit-cost analyses ad nauseam. Not so in Iraq.
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