A Slice of Fried Gold

We need to learn more history!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Rory Stewart, Diplomat Extraordinaire

Rory Stewart, 34 year old wunderkind and diplomat extraordinaire, spoke at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium at UAA tonight. Kim and I attended this event, as it seemed like something that would be fairly interesting - this man has led an incredible life, and he's still very young. It was a very well attended event, and far more diverse in terms of age and gender than I'm used to at the Wendy Williamson (although that is in comparison to my times seeing Cursive and Bright Eyes there).

Stewart was a very intelligent and interesting speaker, and he dedicated about 40 minutes to talking about his experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the remaining 20 to 30 minutes taking questions from the audience. What did we find out? Well, I've included Kim and I's notes from the experience, as I find them to be really entertaining. I won't go into great detail, but here are some fun little things we learned.
  • Diplomats are really diplomatic - Obviously they have to be, but speaking to an audience who had clearly come to hear him rip on the Coalition movements and actions in Iraq, he did not give them a single shred of what they wanted. Why?

  • Rory Stewart is an idealist - I thought this was the most interesting aspect about the man, and he was a remarkably interesting man. Right, wrong, whatever, Stewart believed that that what he and other Coalition forces (the oft spoken of "we" - Aid workers, soldiers, and diplomats) were doing something that was inherently right and ultimately beneficial, and I had a ton of respect for the guy for going out and saying that to an audience looking for a good ol' fashioned Bush burning.

  • Alaskans are obsessed with oil and are very angry! - I thought this one woman was going to run and punch him in the face after he did not give her the answer she was looking for in response to her question (Question: Where is Iraqi oil money going? Desired response: Bush's pocket. Actual response: Iraqi government).

  • Afghanistan loves heroin! - Afghanistan produces 92% (!!) of the world's heroin, yet receives a ridiculous sum in International Aid yearly. Gooooooo world! Encourage that heroin growth!

  • The job that the Coalition set out to do was not a bad one conceptually. It had a great plan, just one that was impossible to accomplish. Kind of incredible to hear someone admit to that.

  • When in doubt, use big words and talk longer - Stewart was "thrown on his back foot" a couple of times by questions (even admitting so once, as you can tell from the quote) but he has a sure fire way to make further questions go away - use gigantic and complex words frequently, and take forever to answer questions. People will give up and assume that he answered it well.

  • In his first four months as the Governor of Dhi Qar (a region in Iraq), 54 (!!) new political parties were created. - Stewart spoke often about how the variable that was most ignored in the Coalition's plan was the economic and political complexities that were entirely new to them when they arrived. I must ask though - how do you prepare for something as volatile as that?

Alright, that's enough factoids for the lot of you. I probably bored you to tears with this one, but I thought it was remarkably interesting and found that Stewart was a bit of a fresh thinker in a time of people only believing in absolutes. He recognized there were problems, but he identified that they were impossible problems and saluted the Coalition's attempts at solving them (even if they have been somewhat futile).

I say cheers to him for giving a wonderfully gray and two sided view on the situation in this black and white society we're in.


Anonymous said...

What a rarity someone agreeing with Bush, McCain and Petraeus.
What has the world come to.

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