Losing the Golden Hour: An Insider's View of Iraq's Reconstruction

Overview

In emergency medicine, “the golden hour” is the first hour after injury during which treatment greatly increases survivability. In post-conflict transition terminology, it is the first year after hostilities end. Without steadily improving conditions then, popular support declines and chances for economic, political, and social transformation begin to evaporate.

James Stephenson believes we have lost Iraq’s golden hour. A veteran of postconflict reconstruction on three ...

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Losing the Golden Hour: An Insider's View of Iraq's Reconstruction

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Overview

In emergency medicine, “the golden hour” is the first hour after injury during which treatment greatly increases survivability. In post-conflict transition terminology, it is the first year after hostilities end. Without steadily improving conditions then, popular support declines and chances for economic, political, and social transformation begin to evaporate.

James Stephenson believes we have lost Iraq’s golden hour. A veteran of postconflict reconstruction on three continents, he ran the Iraq mission of the Agency for International Development in 2004–05 with more than a thousand employees and expatriate contractors. The Coalition Provisional Authority, which oversaw the largest reconstruction and nation-building exercise ever, was a dysfunctional organization the Department of Defense cobbled together with temporary employees and a few experienced professionals from the State Department and other agencies. Iraqis soon became disillusioned, and the insurgency grew.

Losing the Golden Hour tells of hubris, incompetence, courage, fear, and duty. It is about foreign assistance professionals trying to overcome the mistakes of an ill-conceived occupation and help Iraqis create a nation after decades of despair. Neither criticizing nor defending U.S. foreign policy, Stephenson offers an informed assessment of Iraq’s future.

Selected for the Diplomats and Diplomacy Book Series of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training and Diplomatic and Consular Officers, Retired.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Stephenson was intimately involved in the U.S. government's post-conflict stabilization effort in Iraq in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion. A veteran of such post-conflict reconstruction projects in many countries, he headed the Iraq mission of the U.S. Agency for International Development. From his intimate knowledge of the day-to-day reconstruction and nation-building activities undertaken under the umbrella of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), Stephenson portrays a chaotic picture of various groups involved in the U.S. government's reconstruction projects in post-Saddam Iraq. He is particularly critical of the dysfunctional nature of the CPA and the inexperience and incompetence of several of its employees, which contributed to the disillusionment of many Iraqis with the U.S. reconstruction effort. Although Stephenson is critical of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, his intention is not to offer an analysis of the political decisions that led to it. Rather, he is focused on explaining the causes and consequences of the failure of the post-war reconstruction schemes. The book lacks endnotes or a bibliography, but it will be valuable for both policy analysts and informed citizens.
—Nader Entessar

Kirkus Reviews
An on-the-ground account of the botched reconstruction of Iraq. Plenty of ink has been spilled on what turned the greeted-with-candy-and-flowers predictions of Iraq's liberation into a seemingly intractable bloody conflict, and Stephenson, the former director of the USAID mission there, covers little new ground. His narrative recounts the ways in which USAID, a non-military foreign-aid agency, clashed with the various U.S. departments in charge of rebuilding the country, especially the ad hoc Coalition Provisional Authority, which he calls "the most dysfunctional organization I have ever seen." In order to give Iraq the functional democracy it was promised, Stephenson argues, the occupying forces had to provide security, build democratic institutions and create the conditions for economic growth. The failure to do so quickly after Saddam Hussein's government fell meant a vital opportunity was lost, one that can never be fully recovered. A vital opportunity was lost in this retelling as well, as the author focuses too much on who was at fault and on his own memories, experiences and relationships with various bureaucratic staffers, rather than on providing a sober analysis and recounting of what went wrong. This is a shame, since there is a good and important story to tell. But the general reader is likely to get bogged down in an endless stream of bureaucratic acronyms and one-dimensional characters. A decent textbook for students of international development in a war zone; those interested in Iraq, foreign policy or compelling narrative nonfiction should look elsewhere.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597971515
  • Publisher: Potomac Books, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/31/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.58 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

James "Spike" Stephenson is a retired senior Foreign Service officer with twenty-eight years’ experience in rebuilding states at war or recovering from war. He was USAID mission director in Lebanon and in Serbia and Montenegro prior to assuming the position in Iraq. He also served in Egypt, Grenada, and El Salvador. A decorated Vietnam War veteran, Stephenson is a recognized expert on post-conflict transition, civilian-military cooperation, and counterinsurgency. Currently he is a senior adviser for security and development at Creative Associates International, Inc. He lives near Charlottesville, Virginia.

Foreword by the Honorable Richard L. Armitage. Armitage is a former Deputy Secretary of State and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.

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