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

Author:Handley, John M.
Position:Book review
 
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Losing the Golden Hour: An Insider's View of Iraq's Reconstruction by James "Spike" Stephenson, Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2007 (ISBN 978-1-59797-151-5) 166 pages, $23.95

Spike Stephenson presents the reader an account of Iraqi reconstruction during his thirteen-month tour, which began in February 2004. He brought to Iraq some 25 years of experience with USAID, including tours in Egypt, Grenada, El Salvador, Lebanon, Serbia, and Montenegro. Stephenson was USAID mission director in Iraq and in his last three overseas postings, and is an expert on reconstruction as well as post-conflict transition, civil-military cooperation, and counterinsurgency.

The book contrasts the autocratic management style and overall objectives of the Coalition Provisional Authority's (CPA) Ambassador Paul L. Bremer III and his main reconstruction advisor, Admiral David Nash, head of the Provisional Management Office (PMO), with that of what Stephenson and fellow USAID representatives believed should have been the goals: security, economic growth, and local governance. Bremer and Nash wanted large infrastructure projects that took considerable money and time to build, while USAID wanted to focus on democratization, economic policy reforms, private sector development, civil society, rule of law, community development, and the empowerment of local governance.

The book is largely about money, or from USAID's point of view, the lack of it. Stephenson gives the reader valuable insight into how reconstruction both was and was not funded. When he addresses the $18.4 billion supplement for reconstruction, he points out that a sizable portion, around $5 billion, was specifically earmarked for USAID and for the grass-roots, bottom-up approach USAID used to build local communities, economies, and governance. Ambassador Bremer treated the entire reconstruction supplemental as one package, under the control of the CPA and its PMO. Rather than provide the funds USAID needed to operate all of its mandated programs, the PMO treated USAID as one of its own lesser organic agencies and from time to time sent it task orders--accompanied with very limited funding -to accomplish tasks that were mostly outside the interest and priority of any USAID mission. It is an interesting account of how the CPA treated, for the most part poorly, all the...

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