Andrew Exum answers his own question thusly
(bold/color is mine):
Why do we suck at nation-building? A lot of reasons. Here are just a few:
(1) We are ignorant. We do not know enough about the cultural, political and social contexts of foreign environments to fully appreciate how our interventions will affect those environments. Thus our aid and development spending (and military operations, to be fair), meant to ameliorate drivers of conflict, often exacerbate them.
(2) We do not provide enough oversight and accountability for the projects we initiate. This is boring but important. We have spent ungodly sums of money in both Iraq and Afghanistan and have not provided enough contracting officers to effectively oversee the money we have spent. How do we just give tens of millions of dollars to agencies and departments in the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan without any oversight? Lack of contracting officers. How are contracts in Afghanistan divided up between shady sub-contractors and sub-sub-contractors, with tax-payer money falling into the hands of the Taliban and warlords? Lack of contracting officers.
(3) We do not have any patience -- and we have limited resources. Nation-building takes time. Where we can nation-build at relatively low-cost over an extended period of time, as in Colombia, we can be successful. But asking Americans to spend massive amounts of money for an extended period of time in Iraq or Afghanistan is a recipe for ... turning your average U.S. tax-payer into an isolationist.
Cannot really add much to this. He is on target with all of this.
Perhaps the problem is that it's all jargon. Nations are not 'built'.
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