Could Iraq have been got right?

I’m out at the Hoover Institution in California this week and today I had the opportunity to pick Larry Diamond’s brain. If you don’t recall, Diamond served as a senior advisor to the CPA in Iraq in 2004. For more on his experience there read this interview (free registration required) he gave my friend and ...

608824_LarryDiamond.thumbnail_05.jpg
608824_LarryDiamond.thumbnail_05.jpg

I’m out at the Hoover Institution in California this week and today I had the opportunity to pick Larry Diamond’s brain. If you don't recall, Diamond served as a senior advisor to the CPA in Iraq in 2004. For more on his experience there read this interview (free registration required) he gave my friend and colleague Mike Boyer, or his book Squandered Victory. I was keen to hear what he thought of the current situation there.

He started off by telling me, that “we’re not going to get democracy in Iraq anytime soon.” He thinks that we need to convene a Dayton-style conference with all the key Iraqi players, the allies, the regional powers—including Iran—and lock the doors until there is an agreement.

Then, I asked him about what is becoming the intellectual crux of the Iraq debate today—could an Iraq war have been successful? In other words, if this was the wrong way to execute this war aimed at regime change, was there a right way?

I’m out at the Hoover Institution in California this week and today I had the opportunity to pick Larry Diamond’s brain. If you don’t recall, Diamond served as a senior advisor to the CPA in Iraq in 2004. For more on his experience there read this interview (free registration required) he gave my friend and colleague Mike Boyer, or his book Squandered Victory. I was keen to hear what he thought of the current situation there.

He started off by telling me, that “we’re not going to get democracy in Iraq anytime soon.” He thinks that we need to convene a Dayton-style conference with all the key Iraqi players, the allies, the regional powers—including Iran—and lock the doors until there is an agreement.

Then, I asked him about what is becoming the intellectual crux of the Iraq debate today—could an Iraq war have been successful? In other words, if this was the wrong way to execute this war aimed at regime change, was there a right way?

He said that this question “troubles me more intellectually than any other.” He went on to point out that he thinks it could certainly have been far better than it is now and that some kind of partial-democracy could have been achieved. As he notes, “even with all of the mistakes and the pitiful mismanagement and lack of commitment, lack of troops, lack of dispersion of economic reconstruction funds, the American and British neo-colonial character to this post-conflict-intervention; with all the mistakes we’ve made, we’re still in the game.”  

So, what should we have done differently? Sent 350,000 troops, sealed the borders, given the troops entering Baghdad clear instructions to protect the ministeries and to prevent looting—using lethal force if necessary. 

James Forsyth is assistant editor at Foreign Policy.

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