Posted by Robin, a resident of another community, on Jan 19, 2007 at 4:10 pm
Here is Amazon's Spotlight review of Larry Diamond's "Squandered Victory":
"Larry Diamond's Squandering Victory stands out as the best evidence on why America found itself in an Iraqi quagmire. If this is the best analysis of the Iraqi situation a Stanford professor deployed to Iraq could come up with, then it is perfectly understandable how the United States was never able to grasp what's going on there.
Read the book's description: "America's leading expert on democracy delivers the first insider's account of the U.S. occupation of Iraq." The leading expert on democracy is not an Arabic speaker and his background on the Middle East seems minimal. His knowledge on the Arab world, like his expertease on democracy, comes mainly from Western media and secondary English sources rather than from primary Arabic texts or sources.
As for the "the first insider's account of the U.S. occupation of Iraq," well, the account was of such an insider that during his stay in Baghdad, he spent all of his time inside the heavily fortified Green Zone - according to his own account - save for a single trip that he made to Babylon in an armored SUV.
Put all of this given together and here's what you get: A Stanford professor and fellow at one of Washington's prestigious think tanks, National Endowment for Democracy, received a call from his personal friend, then National Security Advisor and today's Secretary of State Condi Rice, seeking his participation in salvaging America's attempt to establish democracy in Iraq. With no Arabic and minimum knowledge about Iraq and the Arab world that were apparent in the form of factual mistakes in his book, Diamond joined the American-made Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.
His interpretation of what went wrong there came through his observation of the head of CPA Paul Bremer instead of trying to understand the behavior of Iraqis.
And if that's not enough, Diamond even came up with some recommendations that he thought could rectify the situation there. Why not send UN envoy Algerian (Arab) Lakhdar brahimi, who is Sunni, to patch things up in Iraq? After all, he succeeded in a similar mission in Afghanistan. For those who don't know, the majority of the population in Iraq is Arab-speaking Iraqi Shiites. The majority in Afghanistan is Urdu-speaking Pashtun Sunnis. Does the cultural and ethnic difference ring any bell? To the majority in Afghanistan, Brahimi was an impartial Arab UN envoy, Sunni like they are. To the majority of Iraqis, this Sunni Arab was an official of the Arab League which Iraqi Shiites abhorr. He had good links with the toppled Saddam Hussein who oppressed these Shiites. He sumpathized with the agenda of the region's Arab Sunnis, which was in conflict with that of the Arab Shiites. Does he look impartial at all to Iraqi Shiites? Of course not. To many Americans, he does.
I cited this one example to illustrate how shallow and superficial the knowledge of this expert on Iraq is... and he still has the guts to criticize the administration for squandering a chance in Iraq. His book is the best example of why America lost an opportunity there in the first place, not a guide on how it could have been avoided."