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Why We Just Can't Get It Right In Foreign Policy

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After a very hectic pace of attempting to check and double check the planning factors; restudy the social structure and tribal influences, go through seven 3" binders of copious notes and backgrounds, I was absolutely convinced without a doubt that we were making a mistake in our re-entry into Iraq for whatever motivation. Short of a direct attack, there was no motivation sufficient to reenter what I knew could never succeed.

Only a decade before, I had worked within the planning efforts for the US to go to War. Several of the factors that were considered then and ultimately were reflected best by Admiral Scowcroft and then President George H.W.Bush was an unwillingness to be mired down in the mud of "tribal" conflict.

My how those old men seemed so wise. And yet we can't forget that the new team consisted of some of the same old faces in new and more powerful positions. Someday, it would be great to ask General Powell, Vice President Cheney, and others what was so different now.

In the heat of their passion to overthrow a man who had mocked them openly, they forgot the wisdom of their first ways. So was this wisdom a "bottoms up" conclusion from staffers like me, or was it theirs and it was dictated down? Or maybe it was a joint conclusion, or the influence of a true allied relationship of a multi cultural force.

And then the reality seemed to pour from no where.

Regardless what happens, Israel seems to be in constant war with someone. A Nation with a chip on her shoulder can't go long without conflict.


Even nations that could possibly have less moral dignity seem able to balance the issues of living with "good fences" better than Israel since the old adage "Good fences make good neighbors" seems so well to apply in the Middle East.

Throughout the last five years, America has seemed to stoop lower and lower and further erode her support and respect around the Globe. How could we seem so stupid today, yet be sucked in so deeply at the time? What went wrong and when?

From a combination of my military work on senior headquarters planning staffs and my work within business and government all tempered with a good dose of common sense and some experience in working around the World, it seems really so simple in retrospect.

Don't get me wrong. I'm as baffled as anyone as to how we could have the very best and brightest experts in the field; the very smartest and most practical experts and field agents who know better than what we've done on each and every count. These are the professionals. They work for the State Department, the Defense Department, the CIA and a host of other agencies and are stationed throughout the World on both sides of the political curtain. They work in these positions regardless of which party is in power in Washington. They have made knowing what is going on and why their life, and their way of life.

And my hat has always been off to them. I've met dozens of them and worked with them on multiple projects. They are talented, smart, moxie and just plain GOOD.

So how do we get from that level of talent to the five years of terrible mistakes?

It's a matter if ignorance, arrogance, and incompetence in leadership positions. The Political leadership has overpowered and displaced the wisdom of the professional leadership. And contrary to commentary by the Pat Robertsons of the World, it has to be the continuum of the professionals that conduct foreign policy - not knee jerk centralized actions of a politician.

I may not have learned every principle right, but several of the lessons I was taught by some pretty darned good teachers don't seem to have been used here.

For example, I was taught that elected political leaders dictate policy through "statements of intent".

It is the job of the professionals to first background and provide the situational estimates to a leader and then provide several well developed courses of action that can be used to accomplish that intent statement. Is that what happened here? If that rule was applied then there is only one other cause to knee jerk reactions such as we've seen here. And I speculate when I say this, but it seems that the change was so diametrically opposed to the facts and assessments of the professionals that the dynamics were thrown completely off balance.

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