As we begin winding down in Iraq, many years after General Garner had us lined up to exit without destroying the Golden Hour, and as we reflect on Afghnaistan, which we also lost by refusing Charlie Wilson's urgent pleas to continue the money after the Soviet left, but earmarked for schools, water, and other necessary infrastructure, we once again return to the topic of “the Golden Hour” and the matter of inter-agency planning, programming, budgeting, and campaigning.
Winston Churchill likes to say that “The Americans always do the right thing, they just try everything else first.”
We're there. War is a racket and we are on the tail end of a 50-year wound self-imposed by hubris, and the sorrows of empire that in the last two decade has increased failed states from under 50 to over 175 while we continue to be best pals with 42 of 44 dictators. The USA, with the best of intentions but an extraoridnarily mediocre government process for making decisions, has suffered–and inducted suffering by others–because of the convergence of three terrible practices:
1. Policy made by political ideologues divorced from reality and means, and ways
2. Intelligence prostituted to policy (George Tenet) or ignored by policy (Charlie Allen)
3. Flag officers who confused loyalty with integrity–the first is personal, the second Constitutiional.
The Department of State and the Agency for International Development actually know what they are doing, and when given a chance–which Cheney and Rumsfeld refused to allow in Iraq–are absolutely essential to leveraging what is called “the Golden Hour.” That is the period–the grace period–between public affection for the USA for having rid it of a tyrant (e.g. Sadaam Hussein) and public disaffection with the USA for having overstayed its welcome and failed to leverage the Golden Hour.
Below are just two references. There are many more. It's time we got back to being American the Beautiful.