Mugged by Reality: The Liberation of Iraq and the Failure of Good Intentions

Overview


John Agresto spent nine months in Iraq—from September 2003 to June 2004—working under Ambassador Paul Bremer as senior adviser to the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. His daunting task was to assist Iraqis in rebuilding their once distinguished system of colleges, universities, and vocational schools. As he left Iraq, Agresto was asked by the Pentagon to write a few paragraphs about the “lessons learned” during his time there. Those paragraphs were never written, but a book was born instead....
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Overview


John Agresto spent nine months in Iraq—from September 2003 to June 2004—working under Ambassador Paul Bremer as senior adviser to the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. His daunting task was to assist Iraqis in rebuilding their once distinguished system of colleges, universities, and vocational schools. As he left Iraq, Agresto was asked by the Pentagon to write a few paragraphs about the “lessons learned” during his time there. Those paragraphs were never written, but a book was born instead. Mugged by Reality is partly the memoir of an American civilian and educator trying to help a devastated country revive its educational institutions. It is also a compendium of the successes and failures that followed in the wake of Iraq’s liberation. Many books discuss what the United States and its allies did or didn’t do, making our mistakes look simple in hindsight: we disbanded the army, we didn’t have enough troops, we de-Ba’athified too thoroughly. If only we had done things differently, they say. But the sober truth is that we have been thwarted not simply by failures to “understand the culture of the Middle East,” but by failures of Americans in Iraq to understand their own culture and what America really stands for. In the end, Mugged by Reality offers “lessons learned” not only about Iraq and Middle Eastern culture, but also about American democracy and about our common human nature.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594031878
  • Publisher: Encounter Books
  • Publication date: 2/28/2007
  • Pages: 300
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Table of Contents


Preface     ix
Going     1
Why we are there
Why I was there
What we hoped to accomplish
"Neoconservatism" and democracy
Democracy and Terror
Religion and Terror
Daily Life     25
Conditions as I found them
Of life in the Green Zone
Of safety and security
Iraqi culture, American culture, common culture
Truth, Facts, and Lies: Five Aspects of Culture and Character     41
Truth, Facts, and Lies
Stories and Lessons
Death Goes to Pick the Finest of All
Getting Iraqis to Fight
An Assassination Attempt and a Kidnapping
Higher Education, Politics and Religious Totalitarianism     71
Politics, fanaticism, and the universities
Conditions before and after the war
Difficulties with the Minister
Fears and hopes
Bringing Iraq To Democracy     97
Democratizing a non-democratic country
Effects of both tyranny and socialism on character
Democracy and the necessary character of citizens
"Cultural Insensitivity," or American ignorance as to what makes its own democracy work
Education and Democracy     121
Reflections on higher education and political liberty
"All Assistance Short of Actual Help"     139
What we did and, especially, what we failed to do
Funding failures and the failures of misplaced priorities
Soldiers     155
How the US military saved the day, and also how it lost it
Reality Often Astonishes Theory     171
American Ideals and theFailure of Good Intentions
What we did right, what we did wrong, and what we might learn from it all
The death of Ali
Hopes for the future, and fears
Acknowledgments     195
Index     197
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