Wed, November 19, 2014

We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People

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All lectures are held in the multipurpose rooms of the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, 950 Soldiers Drive, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The building opens at 6:30 p.m., the talk begins at 7:15 p.m., and the question period concludes around 8:30 p.m. All are welcome, and the event is free! For further information, please call 717-245-3972

November 19, 2014 (Wednesday)
Perspectives in Military History Lecture Series with Mr. Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren
Independent Scholar
Lecture Date: November 19, 2014
Title: "We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People"

Winning hearts and minds is an idea in which mission success is not a function of superior force, but rather emotional and intellectual appeals to gain supporters from the other side of a conflict. In America's bellicose past, the strategy was alternatively emphasized, implemented, and ignored during war, insurgencies, and other conflicts. The Iraq War (2003-2011) is no exception; the war demonstrated the efficacy of the "hearts and minds" tactic if it is remembered and put into practice. In his book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, former Foreign Service Officer Peter Van Buren describes, from first-hand experience, how America's decade-long occupation and the ongoing reconstruction of Iraq was mismanaged, leading to grievous misspending and waste.

Mr. Van Buren will present a lecture at the USAHEC based on his book, and will emphasize the military and civilian leadership's poor planning, disorganization, and lack of forethought for the future of Iraq and its people. He will describe how the U.S. State Department's good intentions to defeat terrorism led down a road of counterintuitive and frivolous spending. Van Buren's inside look at the State Department's misguided efforts span from spending taxpayer money on a sports mural in Baghdad’s most dangerous neighborhood, to pastry classes meant to train women to open cafés on bombed-out streets without water or electricity. Because of ineffective projects and bureaucratic fumbling, the Iraq reconstruction project is remembered as the most expensive hearts-and-minds campaign since the Marshall Plan.

Peter Van Buren is a 24-year veteran Foreign Service Officer at the State Department, who spent a year in Iraq (2009-2010) leading two State Department Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT). He is the author of the books Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent, and We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.