I'm not sure if this is "Debate Room" worthy or not - but it seems like it might be! Anyway, I'm currently listening to the audio version of Imperial Life in the Emerald City (http://www.audible.com/pd/History/Imperial-Life-in-the-Emerald-City-Audiobook/B002V8HBBA). It follows the early days of the rebuilding effort in Bagdad after Saddam was ousted, and has some pretty good insider perspectives, albeit from a clearly biased perspective. (The bias matches my own, so I'm okay with it!) I was a bit bored at the start - oh, Bush-era appointments to important posts valued political affiliations over competence? No kidding, book, I think we all knew that. Oh, neo-conservatives have blinkers on and can't see the real world through all the barriers of their ideology? You're preaching to the choir, book. But then it started getting really interesting. It was easy to be dismissive of the incompetent ideologues at first - they thought they could just impose capitalism and everything would be magically fixed? Stupid conservatives. Oh, they ignore local concerns and instituted a system based on American values? Terrible idea. They insisted that the new constitution include a guarantee of rights for women? Idiotic... wait a second. I agree with that one. I... Huh. There have been a few other examples, too. The American occupiers wanted to ensure a separation of church and state. It's a value I totally agree with and have internalized almost to the point that it feels like an essential human right. But for the people of Iraq, it was apparently completely ridiculous. Even the fairly secular Iraqis felt that there needed to be representation from the religious world in their constitution. So the incompetent Americans, working to impose an US system on a country that doesn't WANT a US system, seemed like a caricature, at first. Of course they were wrong. But then the struggle shifted to areas where my treasured ideals were under discussion, and everything got a lot murkier. There were practical issues - does it do any good to have lofty ideals in the constitution if the people won't agree to follow them? There were ideological issues - is the right to self-determination on a national level more or less important than the right to self-determination on an individual level? How much does the answer to this question depend on the culture in which you were raised? etc. I'm not done the book, yet (no spoilers!) but it's been really interesting so far. I think the lesson I'm taking from it is that there really are no easy answers to most of the world's issues, and there are very rarely truly 'evil' people involved in any situation. Most people do their best, based on what they believe is right. And still, things manage to go horribly wrong. I don't know if there's much to debate, here. If anyone else has read the book, I'd love to talk about it, so maybe this should just get moved to book discussions. Or maybe, to make things more inclusive: Have you guys ever read a single book or had a single experience that caused you to seriously question your way of seeing the world? Or, less personally: Are partisan politics as destructive a force as they seem to be, and is there any solution to the problem? Anything?