SQUANDERED VICTORY by Larry Diamond

SQUANDERED VICTORY

The American Occupation and Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Nation-builder Diamond, a liberal denizen of the Hoover Institution, ruefully examines the checkered efforts to make Iraq safe for—America.

When fellow Hooverite Condoleezza Rice called on November 11, 2003, to ask Diamond to join the Coalition Provisional Authority and push the handover of power along, he was, well, conflicted; he had opposed going to war in Iraq and had even published an essay arguing “that the greater danger to the United States at the time was not Saddam’s programs to develop weapons of mass destruction but our own imperial overreach and the global wave of anti-Americanism that it is already provoking.” Still, he regarded building a democratic, lawful Iraq as a sort of least-we-can-do imperative, and so he took the job, regardless of his feelings about “the Bush administration’s arrogant, unilateral approach.” Once on the ground, he found plenty of other wrong approaches at work, calculated, it seems, to disaffect potential allies. Though administrator Paul Bremer promised that the Iraqi constitution would be written by Iraqis, he was only half-sincere, by Diamond’s account: “To a great extent it would be so, even with American advice, but the question was which Iraqis would be drafting the document.” (One CPA official remarked that they shouldn’t leave the work to “a bunch of people with no particular credentials other than the fact that they won an election.” Oh, the irony.) It’s not so much that America backed the wrong horse, Diamond suggests, as that there are so many horses to choose from; too, the handover was done so quickly that, he worried at the time, portions of the law seem to have allowed such things as torture (another irony) and pushed a kind of federalism that, many Iraqis felt, worked against the very idea of a unified Iraq and would yield a “dictatorship of minorities.”

Handover and constitution or no, Diamond foresees rule by “some uneasy, periodically rejiggered, continually crisis-ridden form of the Governing Council coalition” for the near future. Meaning chaos—and, likely, American boots on the ground.

Pub Date: June 14th, 2005
ISBN: 0-8050-7868-1
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Times/Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2005