The George W. Bush administration’s doctrines of preemption and democratization through military action have been much debated. Discussants have included former members of the military, students of international relations and diplomacy, philosophers, and legal theorists, to name a few. Not surprisingly, the focus of these expostulations has been on the utility of hard and soft power, the international ripple effects of military action and state toppling, and the legal and moral propriety of preemption.

For the most part, public administrators have little participated in these debates. This is regrettable, for the central question nestled within any debate over public policy is the question of plausibility. Can this policy be executed successfully?

The governance challenges in postconflict states are profound. Who should rule? How should the state be reconstructed? What administrative structures should be erected? Who should staff government offices and bureaucracies, and what principles should guide them? If preemption and democratization are to succeed, then these questions must be answered.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran is an assistant managing editor of the Washington Post. His book Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone (Alfred A. Knopf, 2006) is an examination of the Coalition Provisional Authority that governed Iraq from April 2003 through June 2004. Mr. Chandrasekaran has served as the journalist in residence for the International Reporting Project at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies and as a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, D.C. In March 2007, Mr. Chandrasekaran was interviewed by Kevin Kosar on behalf of the Public Administration Review.