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

Diamond, Larry

Published by Holt Paperbacks
ISBN 10: 0805080082 / ISBN 13: 9780805080087
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"Chilling―and often scathing―detail . . . Should be read by anyone interested in understanding why the United States' quick military victory has given way to an increasingly virulent insurgency."―The New York Times

In the fall of 2003, Stanford professor Larry Diamond received a call from Condoleezza Rice, asking if he would spend several months in Baghdad as an adviser to the American occupation authorities. Diamond had not been a supporter of the war in Iraq, but he felt that the task of building a viable democracy was a worthy goal. But when he went to Iraq, his experiences proved to be more of an education than he bargained for.
Squandered Victory is Diamond's provocative and vivid account of how the American effort to establish democracy in Iraq was hampered not only by insurgents and terrorists but also by a long chain of miscalculations, missed opportunities, and acts of ideological blindness that helped assure that the transition to independence would be neither peaceful nor entirely democratic. And in a new Afterword for the paperback edition, Diamond shows how the ongoing instability in Iraq is a direct result of the shortsighted choices made during the fourteen months of the American occupation and the subsequent Iraqi interim government.

"A forceful and detailed critique of the invasion's aftermath. . . . A searing indictment." ―The Wall Street Journal

"Larry Diamond has a flair for making incisive points at the right moment. . . . [Squandered Victory] explodes with the frustrations he felt working for the U.S. occupation." ―The New Republic

Review: 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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Title: Squandered Victory: The American Occupation ...
Publisher: Holt Paperbacks
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