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Politics & Current Affairs

How Bush Lost Afghanistan

One of Bush’s original national security advisors, Dov Zakheim explains how the administration lost Afghanistan, beginning with its foreign policy plans on September 12, 2001.

What’s the Latest Development?

Dov Zakheim was in the Pentagon’s conference room on September 12, 2001 when President Bush told a parable about bothersome rattlesnakes on Texan ranches. The meaning was clear, says Zakheim: The United States was going to war. Secretary of defense Rumsfeld’s subsequent decision to subordinate international consensus to America’s will made executing the war more difficult. Finally, Zakheim was appointed to head the reconstruction of Afghanistan: “The decision to appoint me reflected not only the administration’s preoccupation with Iraq but its seeming loss of interest in following through on support for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.”

What’s the Big Idea?

While Zakheim initially believed that nation building was not a task the United States was up for, he recanted that belief, sincerely, after travelling to Afghanistan to meet with its president. In the end, he blames the ineffective leadership of the Bush administration that felt it was beyond the rules history. “Real leadership is not only about setting directions. It also has to encompass a management style that can see efforts through to successful completion. In fact, it is not the management style itself that matters, it is the awareness that management matters. The details will not ‘take care of themselves.'”


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