The absence of Iraqi voices from American discussions about Iraq over the last decade has long been a major shortcoming. The bookshelf of English-language books about the decade of war with Iraq overflows with accounts of Washington inter-agency battles, General David Petraeus, American soldiers in the field, General David Petraeus, and General David Petraeus. Some are excellent, some less excellent. But very few of them seriously incorporate the experiences, views, or memories of Iraqis themselves — a problem of American-centric analysis which I termed "strategic narcissism."
And so, on Thursday, October 3, I’m proud to be hosting a really fascinating and hopefully important conference at the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University called "The Encounter." Each panel at the full-day event will include both Iraqi students who lived in Iraq during some of the years of the war and American students who served those same years in the U.S. military in Iraq (including several Tillman Military Scholars). The keynote lunch session will feature a discussion about American policy and the Iraqi experience between me, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East Colin Kahl and the Iraqi historian Abbas Kadhim. The agenda is open-ended, and the discussions about how Americans and Iraqis viewed one another should be extremely frank and direct.
If you’re in the Washington DC area, I hope that you’ll be able to join us for all or part of this event at GW on October 3. I don’t usually advertise GW events over here at FP, but I really feel like this one is special, and a long time in the making. An open, frank dialogue about the American experience in Iraq which incorporate diverse American and Iraqi perspectives should be extraordinarily interesting and productive. You can RSVP for the event here, and I look forward to seeing people there and sharing their feedback on the discussions.