In “The Prince of the Marshes” Rory Stewart, a civilian member of the Coalition’s governing body in two different southern provinces, describes in painful detail his experiences in, if I can call it this, George Bush’s Iraq. This is not a book about military experiences, although inevitably they occur. It is rather an account of some or the more successful efforts of foreigners to bring “democracy” to the region. It is also the story of a young man’s disillusionment, though Stewart never makes himself the center of attention, never makes the book self-serving.
It is definitely worth reading, especially if you harbor any doubts about the folly of our efforts there, and more, if you have some curiosity about Coalition Provisional Authority activities, the ones that are supposed to be improving the lot of Iraqis.
More than that, though, it is required reading for those of us who think we know a foreign culture without having been truly immersed in some specific part of it, through close family ties, deep and long friendships, long residence in the midst of it, and a real effort to see it clearly. This is not to idealize the foreign country or to mysticize it, but rather to say that there are these differences caused by culture, experience, belief, differences that are often subtle, even insignificant-seeming, which are nonetheless important. Furthermore, the differences exist in US as much as in THEM, that is, it is our own culture and its manifestations make it hard for us to see what is really going on. And of course, the converse is true. And it is also true that you still won’t know all there is to know about a country or its various facets even if you come from it, just like my northern relatives don’t have a clue about South Texas.
Right now, the author, who has a truly international background, is the head of a school and foundationin Afghanistan. Here is the link You should enjoy looking at this.
"The Prince of the Marshes" by Rory Stewart
Harcourt Books/Harvest Edition, 2007
Oddly, there is no Amazon link from the blog to the book for this one. Hmmm.