978-0-8050-7868-8 / 0805078681

Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq

by Diamond, Larry

Publisher:Times Books



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About the book:

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

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