James Dobbins, director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at RAND, a D.C. thinktank, criticized the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq at a roundtable event held at the Hotel Lombardy last week.
“No country is more experienced in nation-building,” Dobbins said. “How can we do it so often and do it so badly?”
Dobbins discussed his most recent book, “The Beginner’s Guide to Nation-Building,” which was published this year. Dobbins originally titled the book “Nation Building for Dummies,” but decided to change the title so it would be less insulting to the current administration.
“The Bush administration made the decision to model Iraq on Germany and Japan, not Bosnia or Kosovo,” Dobbins said. “A better model would have been a more recent and relevant model.”
He outlined the mistakes of the current administration in Iraq.
“(The current administration) suffers from what I call, ‘unconscious calculated ignorance,'” Dobbins said.
He added, “They shouldn’t have taken on non-military tasks. The military was completely unprepared for what they’d be doing in Iraq.”
Dobbins said the current administration looked at the progress that was made in terms of nation-building in the 1990s and then ignored it.
“They were determined not to do anything their predecessors have done,” Dobbins said. “Therefore there was a regression.”
Dobbins served as the assistant secretary of state for Europe and worked in President Bill Clinton’s administration, in addition to posts under President George W. Bush. Under former President Clinton, he served as the special envoy for Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo. Under President George W. Bush, he was with the first special envoy to Afghanistan and he acted as the Bush administration’s representative to the Afghan opposition in the wake of Sept. 11.
“In moments when great thought was required in foreign policy, (Dobbins) was called upon,” said Lee Huebner, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at the event, which was co-hosted by GW’s Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies and the School of Media and Public Affairs. It is the first of a series of six roundtable discussions on foreign policy.
The policy study group has been in existence about 10 years but has remained largely inactive in the public sphere, representatives said. In a brainstorming session this summer, Huebner and Professor Amitai Etzioni, the director of ICPS, developed the idea of launching these roundtable discussions.
“The series of foreign policy discussions will be on foreign policy objectives which have not been given special attention,” Etzioni said.
GW professors, members of the media and students attended Monday’s event.
“I think it was very interesting,” said James Bonnaeua, a freshman. “Nation-building is something we (the United States) should look into more.”
Davy Baks, a doctoral candidate in political science, said he liked the discussion of foreign policy.
Baks said, “It is not really related to what I’m studying, but I’m interested in listening to policy people.”