In the December 6th issue of The Rover, the always insightful, often spiteful, usually delightful, Religion and Ethics editor Conor McNamara reports on a talk given by Stanford University Professor Larry Diamond on the current state of political stability in Iraq. Intrigued by the news piece’s not so subtle inferences of hypocrisy on the part of Diamond, I, the unrivaled Prince Valiant, decided to dig a little deeper into the past of this outspoken war critic.
Turns out, way back in 2004 Diamond served as a Senior Adviser on governance to the Baghdad Coalition Provisional Authority at the request of Secretary of State Condi Rice. He initially signed on for a sixth month stint, but left Baghdad after three months due to what he described as the “gross incompetence” of the American counterinsurgency strategy and the refusal of high-ranking Bush administration officials to implement any of the advisory council’s recommendations.
Now, let the record show that the Prince Valiant deems much of what Diamond said during his “Can Iraq be Stabilized?” lecture to be accurate. The administration’s initial counterinsurgency strategy was flawed, changes on the ground should have been made faster, American and Iraqi lives could have been saved with a more well-thought-out plan for post-invasion occupation and reconstruction. All this is well and good, and Prince Valiant has no qualms about granting Diamond his due.
But bring in the cows from the pasture, because here is where the Eminent Prince finds his beef: Instead of staying in a position of influence with the Coalition Provisional Authority, a position wherein he ostensibly had a direct line of communication with high ranking Bush administration officials, Diamond bailed. He rejected the opportunity to bring about internal reform, choosing instead to join the cacophony of anti-war critics who, by mid 2004, already permeated the airwaves and lecture circuits. Diamond claims that it was futile for him to stay, as nothing he said was making a difference.
But the Prince says, “What the hell?! You were only there for three months!” Maybe it would have taken sixth months to effect change. Maybe it would have taken a year. But the Prince is willing to bet his castle that it wouldn’t have taken three years – the actual time it took for strategic reform to occur without prudent voices like Diamond’s in the mix. McNamara’s article said that Diamond lamented the unnecessary loss of life brought about by flawed strategy. The Prince wonders how many lives would have been saved had Diamond stayed instead of booking back to sunny California.
Finally, my Unsurpassed Self, The Most Esteemed and Most Illustrious Prince Valiant, wishes to cast doubt upon Diamond’s motivations for being in Baghdad in the first place – it seems mighty probable that he went over there with the premeditated intent of scoring a book deal out of the experience. Here’s a passage from Diamond’s impartial journalistic masterpiece, Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq:
In the days before my visit, Sadr's organization had been widely distributing a leaflet denouncing Qizwini and his leading supporters as "pigs and dogs" who had defiled Islam and needed to be "stopped and silenced." Qizwini had been living under threat of assassination for months, but now this pseudo-religious call for his murder had raised the stakes.
Qizwini implored the United States to act immediately. "These militias will turn Iraq into a dark age of bloodletting if they are not stopped soon," he told me. "Any decision to dissolve the militias should be implemented in the next week." At that moment, I thought Qizwini's statement a bit hyperbolic in its urgency. But I did not realize that the dam was just about to burst, and that this dramatic day would essentially mark the end of my involvement with the American occupation.
Oh, Larry, Larry boy, the Prince sees right through you. To get these exact quotes, Diamond was either collecting internal memos (with the intent to publish them later), tape recording conversations (with the intent to publish them later), or taking meticulous notes (with the intent to, you guessed it, publish them later!) Any way the Prince looks at it, it seems the only way that Diamond could have published Squandered Victory by June 2005 is if he went to Baghdad intent on writing a book and cashing in on the D.C./university lecture circuit.
The Prince isn’t saying that Diamond went with predetermined intent to criticize war effort, only that he knew this was one experience he was going to cash in on. It’s a real shame that with so many valuable insights which could have brought stability to the region, Diamond saw fit to leave before his tour of duty was up.