LaSalle University in Philadelphia was kind enough to host me last week as part of their continuing series of “Diplomats in Residence.” The CBS affiliate in Philly wrote a nice story on my talk to the students:
La Salle University students heard a scathing account of America’s counterinsurgency effort in Iraq, from a former State Department officer who wrote about his year in the program.
The speaker’s darkly funny account could have been disheartening but the students found it a valuable lesson.
Peter Van Buren can sound like a cynic, with his tales of billions spent in Iraq on projects such as sheep for widows and art shows that provided little more than photo ops for U.S. officials, but the reason he gave at LaSalle for writing and speaking about his experience is decidedly idealistic.
As Van Buren says, “You all have the chance to not do this again.”
He has suffered for his candor. It cost him his job after the State Department conducted a campaign to discredit him. But Van Buren got his message across to the students.
“Hopefully, looking at what happened in the past, we can do things right and figure out how to connect with the people better.” He adds, “We won’t make the same mistakes. We see what we do wrong and we make sure not to do it again. We need to make sure that history does not repeat itself.”
Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of the Department of State, the Department of Defense or any other entity of the US Government. The Department of State does not approve, endorse or authorize this blog or book. Follow us on Twitter!