President Bush and his top advisors have never said the United States wants to establish permanent military bases in Iraq. But they have never ruled out the possibility either.
Larry Diamond, a former consultant to the U.S. occupation authority in Iraq, thinks so. In fact, he considers it a crucial step toward ending the insurgency.
Diamond is an expert on promoting democracy and the editor of a respected journal on the subject. Though he considers himself a Democrat, he works as a senior fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University. There he came to know Condoleezza Rice during her time as a Stanford professor and administrator.
In November 2003, Rice asked Diamond to help the Coalition Provisional Authority design plans for holding elections and constructing a permanent Iraqi government.
Diamond had opposed the war but accepted the assignment, and he spent three months in early 2004 in Iraq as a consultant to senior U.S. officials charting the path toward Iraqi sovereignty.
Diamond recently published a gripping book on his experience, which balances praise for the commitment of his co-workers with disillusionment over the administration's postwar planning. His title efficiently summarizes his conclusion: "Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq."
In articles discussing the book, Diamond has laid out four principles "for diminishing the violent resistance in Iraq." He believes the United States should "declare some sort of time frame" -- but not a rigid deadline -- for withdrawing troops.
He thinks the United States should negotiate more with Sunni political groups connected to the insurgency, and he wants to enlist other countries as an "honest broker" in such efforts.
But at the top of Diamond's list is an unambiguous, unconditional pledge from Bush not to establish permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq.