Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Iraq II: Lessons Not Learned

I just finished reading "Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle of America's War With Militant Islam," Mark Bowden's terrific new book on the American Embassy siege and 444-day hostage crisis in Iran.

I read "Guests" with especial care because Bowden is a former colleague and all-around nice guy, and most importantly because it was an opportunity to rexamine the events from the fall of the Shah through to the release of the hostages and election of Ronald Reagan from the perspective of whether any of the lessons learned from those agonizing events were remembered and applied by the Bush administration in Iraq.

The answer is a resounding "no."

There weren't many people in the Teheran embassy who had a clue about Iranian society, which was undergoing a seismic upheaval, let alone knew any Iranians or spoke Farsi. Those who did were deeply conflicted about American policy. This same dynamic (or lack off) has played out again in Iraq, and undoubtedly will in some future conflict that is only a gleam in a foreign policy wonk's eye.

Like maybe Iran? Again?

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