The lack of follow-up was not unique to Afghanistan, or for that matter, to Iraq once Saddam was defeated. For far too long, and with far too few exceptions, American policymakers of both parties and all political philosophies have been shackled to their in-boxes. Their focus is on the immediate, the must-do; they devote little time to considering the long-term consequences of their short-term policies or creating mechanisms for dealing with them. The interconnectedness of the international environment, the speed with which information can be transmitted, has only reinforced the American predilection to focus on the here-and-now.
An endless stream of journalistic accounts has documented the stubborn refusal of leading American actors in the Iraq drama to address the cultural, political, and religious realities that governed Iraqi society. Less well documented but no less important is the pernicious impact of a similar combination of blindness, obstinacy, and illusion regarding the implementation of American policy objectives in Afghanistan.
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." It is all well and good to be a Vulcan, or to be a member of some future exclusive crowd of would-be public servants. Someone, however, has to know how to get the job done.