The past two weeks of Middlebury life have been in a way ultra typical, but in a way also extemely interesting. It started last week when Rajiv Chandrasekaran came to speak on campus. He is an editor at the Washington Post and wrote the book Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone about the first few months of the US invasion in Iraq. He was very journalistic in that he didn't really offer any political views or blame.
He did, as he does in the book, highlight a lot of the atrocious planning mistakes commited by the Bush Administration. It wasn't really anything new or different from the book. The one thing I took away was how journalists could conduct their investigations so much easier immediately after the fall of Saddam. Now Western jounralists can't even leave the green zone and Iraqi journalists do all the investigating, and even they are at risk. I do recommend the book though as a basic run through of how we messed up. Chandrasekaran has a lot of unique takes on the whole situation and is very good about not blaming the soldiers or State department.
This past Wednesday, I was lucky enough to have dinner with Peter Galbraith, an expert on Iraq and former Ambassador to Croatia under the Clinton Administration. The public library where I work was sponsoring Ambassador Galbraith, and I was invited to dinner. I was a bit disappointed because I thought the other adults failed to really address the expert mind we had at the table - instead we were discussing how young kids are so tech savy (never heard that before). But after awhile we got around to a more serious discussion.
Turns out that Galbraith went to Oxford and Harvard with current Pakistani #1 dissident Benazir Bhutto. From what I have been reading in the press, I wasn't the world's biggest fan. When Bhutto was Prime Minister, she wasn't exactly a pillar of democracy. She also inherited the post from her father, also again not exactly a morally stable person. I had my reservations, so when Galbraith talked about his close friendship with Bhutto, I was a bit mystified. Over the course of dinner, though, I think Galbraith backed it up with some so-so examples.
Although Galbraith was ambassador to Croatia, its not really his thing. Which was sad for me because of my current interest in that country. He spoke about the Dayton Accords and the war in Bosnia, but not with any real passion. He saved that for Iraq - which he worked on during his time at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The other big idea Galbraith had was partition in Iraq. Again, from everything I read, it doesn't seem that partition works. Most experts agree that the Sunnis and Shia do not want the country split up, and neither group wants to lose the Kurds. In my view, it makes sense on just about every front to let the Kurds go their own way. They've earned it, they've instilled stability, and they have a homogenous geography. Sadly, the question of oil revenues prevents any movement in this direction.
The final highlight of my week was dinner with Eileen O'Connor. She was a journalist for ABC and CNN in Moscow during the 80s and 90s. While I thought her political conclusions about the situation in Russia were a bit underdeveloped, she told fascinating stories about her interactions with Russian officials. O'Connor was the only journalist to discover Boris Yeltsin's heart attack in 1996. In the wake of this coverage, O'Connor was threatened by groups and followed by hitmen. She found out that she had a price on her head, and officials were encouraging her to leave the country. Not only that, she was pregnant at the time. (Photo Credit: AP)
This was just one of the many interesting stories she shared with us over the course of the evening. For me dinner with important people is alwasy difficult. I have no manners, and I'm generally awkward. I'd just like to editorialize and brag that I didn't have any large gaffes during the meal. I managed to not spill any food, or apply any stains to my clothing. This was really promising for me and I hope my luck continues.