Ryan Crocker, former ambassador to Iraq, offered his insights about Iraq and other foreign policy challenges during talks with students and others at Whitman College and in an interview with The Seattle Times.

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On a classified memo about the risks of going to war in Iraq that was drafted for then-Secretary of State Colin Powell:

“He (Powell) didn’t ask for that memo. He got it anyway.”

On his relationship with Gen. David Petraeus, who commanded U.S. forces in Iraq while Crocker was ambassador.

“Gen. Petraeus and I, we were together all the time. … You haven’t lived before you have testified before a hostile Congress. We were darn sure that we did it together, and whatever differences we had, and there are inevitably differences, we hammered them out between us before we talked to anybody else. It was absolutely vital.”

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On the effects of the Iraq war on American politics:

“Its another discussion for another day how, in a sense, the Iraq issue flipped American politics on its head, with the liberals being cast as kind of the hard-eyed, hardheaded realists, and the conservatives (becoming) the stargazing ‘there is a wonderful world out there, and we can create it’ (group).

And I don’t think that, even now, either community has come to grips with this.”

On Iraq’s future:

“This narrative is just getting under way. Whatever we do about it. Declare victory. Go home. Stay engaged at whatever level, to what end. The process of a development of state and society is going to play out over years and decades. Not, in a time of scarce resources, a message that the Americans like to hear. Because it is in my judgment an argument for continuity of policy and steadiness of engagement.”

On the greatest foreign-policy challenge for the Obama administration:

“The greatest of them, in my view, it’s not Iraq, not even Afghanistan. It’s Pakistan. I don’t think you can find sustainable stability in Afghanistan without Pakistan settling down. …

We have to work with the Pakistanis and not even consider the possibility of military intervention. This is a country of 170 million people. If we think we have got our hands full with Iraq and Afghanistan … you can’t even conceive of intervention in Pakistan.”

— Seattle Times reporter Hal Bernton

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