In America, we’re pretty darn good at starting new things. But, we’re not always so hot at transitioning from one thing to another.

Our kids struggle with them (more kids fail 9th grade than any other grade because of the difficult transition to high school). Our young adults struggle with them (I speak from experience here – and apparently I’m not alone). And, our older adults struggle with them (know anyone who’s had a mid-life crisis?)

In foreign policy, our capacity to deal with transitions is woefully inadequate. Our war-fighting expertise is unparalleled, but our learning curve for supporting post-conflict reconstruction and democratic transitions is still high. We do have an “Office of Transition Initiatives” within the U.S. Agency for International Development, but its 2010 budget was $55 million. The budget for a new fleet of Marine Ones (the president’s helicopter) was $6.1 billion when the Pentagon authorized it in 2005. Of course, we are not alone in this. 30% of peace agreements signed around the world in the last few decades have been broken within five years. It turns out, transitions are just hard.

But, I think the age favors those who succeed in transitions. Change, as they say, is the only constant. Today the idea that we move through life, or that governments or organizations move through projects, in predictable, manageable stages is obsolete.

Everything around us, including us, is in flux. The Department of Labor tells us that the average adult today will change jobs ten times between the age of 18-39. The events unfolding in Egypt are testament to transitions in the global order. Technology is transitioning faster than we can consume it.

Succeeding in this world of transitions will necessitate that we adjust the way we educate our children, the way we organize our institutions, and the way we address problems at home and abroad. Our ability to support Egypt in its historic transition will be just one test among many.

Transitions may not be our strong suit now, but I’m confident. After all, were pretty good at starting new things.

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