Books Worth Reading
  • Winning the Peace: An American Strategy for Post-Conflict Reconstruction (CSIS Significant Issues, No. 26) (Csis Significant Issues Series)
    Winning the Peace: An American Strategy for Post-Conflict Reconstruction (CSIS Significant Issues, No. 26) (Csis Significant Issues Series)
    by Robert C. Orr
  • Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World
    Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World
    by Ashraf Ghani, Clare Lockhart
  • The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (Vintage)
    The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (Vintage)
    by Rupert Smith
  • Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization
    Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization
    by John Robb
  • Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places
    Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places
    by Paul Collier
  • The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century
    State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century
    by Francis Fukuyama
  • When States Fail: Causes and Consequences
    When States Fail: Causes and Consequences
    Princeton University Press
  • Building States to Build Peace
    Building States to Build Peace
    Lynne Rienner Publishers
  • Making States Work: State Failure And The Crisis Of Governance
    Making States Work: State Failure And The Crisis Of Governance
    United Nations University Press

Robert Gates on "Public Business"

A few weeks ago Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke at my university and ended his speech with a favorite quote from former President John Adams, who in a letter to his son says:


"Public business, my son, must always be done by somebody.  It will be done by somebody or another.  If wise men decline it, others will not; if honest men refuse it, others will not."


Gates went on to ask:


"Will the wise and honest here at Duke come help us do the public business of America?  Because, if America’s best and brightest young people will not step forward, who then can we count on to protect and sustain the greatness of this country in the 21st century?"


You can find the full text of his speech here.


America's Debt a National Security Issue?

Via Repartay . . .



A good New York Times piece on the subject is here.


Money quote:


"The story of today’s deficits starts in January 2001, as President Bill Clinton was leaving office. The Congressional Budget Office estimated then that the government would run an average annual surplus of more than $800 billion a year from 2009 to 2012. Today, the government is expected to run a $1.2 trillion annual deficit in those years."


Two reasons:  Entitlement spending (Social Security and Medicare) and stupid wars.


As Elizabeth MacDonald notes, the national debt is a security issue.   The worry is that foreign countries (like China) can use their dollar reservers to destablize our currency. 


Some more quotes: 

The biggest threat we have to our national security is our debt…the interest on our debt is $571 billion in 2012 and that’s notionally about the size of the Defense Department budget.  It’s not sustainable.”—Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, June 2010

“We’ve reached a point now where there’s an intimate link between our solvency and our national security.”—Richard Haass, president, Council on Foreign Relations

“The Pentagon sponsored a first-of-its-kind war game..on how hostile nations might seek to cripple the U.S. economy,” with the weapons being stocks, bonds and currencies…” it was the first time the Pentagon hosted a purely economic war game.”—, 2009 


“Several months ago, a group of logistics officers at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces developed a national security strategy as a class exercise.  Their No. 1 recommendation for maintaining U.S. global leadership was ‘restore fiscal responsibility.”—Washington Post, May 2010



Paul Collier on Stabilization

He makes the point I've been making for a long, long time.  Specifically, nothing you do really matters unless you have security, or something approximating it. 



Second, you need economic growth.  Both of these come before politics.  It sounds nice to say there are multiple "lines of operation" that must be carried out simultaneously, but that's not true.  You can have security without economic growth or democracy, but you can't have either of those two without security.


For those not familiar with him, Collier is a heavyweight in the development community.  His two books The Bottom Billion and Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places are considered required for development and stabilization practioners. 


Development and Dependence

One more nugget from Obama's UN Speech the other week:


"Our focus on assistance has saved lives in the short term, but it hasn't always improved those societies over the long-term.  Consider the millions of people who have relied on food assistance for decades. That's not development, that's dependence, and it's a cycle we need to break. Instead of just managing poverty, we have to offer nations and peoples a path out of poverty."


I appreciate the clarification of terms.  Perhaps we can stop using "nation-building" too.



New Interagency Reform Legislation

Via Small Wars Journal, we learn that Congressman Ike Skelton, Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, has introduced what has been called "groundbreaking" legislation to "overhaul interagency national security coordination."


According to SWJ, highlights include:

  • Creating a new interagency governance structure to develop interagency knowledge, skills, and experience among national security professionals;
  • Creating incentives for national security professionals to undertake-and their employing agencies to encourage-interagency education, training, and assignments;
  • Creating a consortium of colleges and universities to develop and offer consistent and effective interagency education and training opportunities; and
  • Requiring agencies to maintain staff levels to continue day-to-day functions and mission operations while national security professionals undertake professional education and training.

Click on the links to find the actual draft legisation, along with Chairman Skelton's speech introducing it, and a section-by-section summary of the bill.


Some additional info from Laura Hall, one of the best observers of stabilization operations, interagency issues, and "D3," can be found at the new Stimson Center blog: The Will and the Wallet.  Together with Jonathan M. Larkin she writes about some of the bills problems that could make it yet another unmet mandate.  It's worth a read.



Obama's Speech to the U.N. on U.S. Global Development Policy (Or, "It's the economy, stupid")

Here's President Obama's speech on America's new "Global Development Policy," given at last week's summit on the UN Millenium Development Goals:



Some quotes [emphasis mine]:


"I suspect that some in wealthier countries may ask-with our economies struggling, so many people out of work, and so many families barely getting by, why a summit on development? The answer is simple. In our global economy, progress in even the poorest countries can advance the prosperity and security of people far beyond their borders, including my fellow Americans."


"My national security strategy recognizes development as not only a moral imperative, but a strategic and economic imperative."


"For too long, we've measured our efforts by the dollars we spent and the food and medicines we delivered. But aid alone is not development. Development is helping nations to actually develop-moving from poverty to prosperity. And we need more than just aid to unleash that change. We need to harness all the tools at our disposal-from our diplomacy to our trade and investment policies."


"To unleash transformational change, we're putting a new emphasis on the most powerful force the world has ever known for eradicating poverty and creating opportunity. It's the force that turned South Korea from a recipient of aid to a donor of aid. It's the force that has raised living standards from Brazil to India. And it's the force that has allowed emerging African countries like Ethiopia, Malawi and Mozambique to defy the odds and make real progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals, even as some of their neighbors-like Cote d'Ivoire-have lagged behind.  The force I'm speaking of is broad-based economic growth. Now, every nation will pursue its own path to prosperity. But decades of experience tell us that there are certain ingredients upon which sustainable growth and lasting development depends."


Full text here.  If you don't understand the title of the post, see here.



Obama's Development Policy

President Obama spoke last week at the opening of the United Nation's Summit on the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), and in his speech laid out his Administration's new Global Development Policy.


The best analysis I've seen so far is that of Connie Veillette who is with the Center for Global Development in New York.  She writes about the good, the bad, and "the uncertain."


The good, she says, is that now we have a plan in place, "one that sets objectives, clarifies approaches, and is results-oriented."  The bad, of course, is we "will seemingly continue to rely on a gaggle . . .  of government agencies to do development work," which as Rebecca Williams at the Budget Insight blog notes, involves "12 departments, 25 agencies and nearly 60 government offices."


And the uncertain?  Well that has to do with how the Obama Administration's new policy will be operationalized in addition to unresolved issues related to the role (or lack thereof) of USAID.


You can find the whole post here, along with some useful additional commentary by Nancy Birdsall, the founding president of the Center for Global Development, and a major player with a lot of influence in development circles.



Life Lesson of the Day . . . 

Enjoy the ride.


Fallen from Sascha Geddert on Vimeo. 

A little meteor learns the biggest lesson of life on it's way down to earth.

Via Andrew Sullivan.


Jobs 4 Development

For those of you interested in development jobs, here's a link to a site where you can post available positions and resumes.


It's completely free and you can set up alerts to notify you when selected positions become available.


Some Career Advice for the Development Industry

This week I participated in two small group meetings with leaders in the development industry, one of whom I was able to sit down with for an individual 30-minute session.  Both provided advice on gaining positions in development and humanitarian aid in addition to rising to the top of the industry.


The first was the head of recruitment for IRG, one of America’s biggest development contractors.  The second was with the CEO of Save the Children, one of the world’s oldest and largest NGOs (it has been in existence since 1919), and which operates in 120 countries, has over 15,000 employees and a budget that exceeds one billion. 


Both highlighted above all other points the importance of networking and relationships when it came to securing positions and advancement.  Most jobs, it was noted, aren’t even advertised.  The development community is relatively small and positions are filled via networks or the large resume databases organizations have on file and are able to query when they need to fill a position.  And if you burn someone, don’t get along well, or end up doing a poor job, then there is a good chance it will come back to bite you somewhere down the road.


Being able to work well with diverse teams and knowing how to listen was deemed a key skill, as was knowing how to get results and drill down into the specific details of a problem or program (this latter aspect is important if you want to one day become a senior manager).


Also discussed was maintaining an appropriate work/life balance.  Ultimately, we were told, you need to figure out how much work each week suits you, and that your choice of a wife/husband needs to be in line whichever path you choose.  A distinction was made between “performers” and “sufficers,” the latter of which work 9-5, with the former putting in 60-80 hour work weeks.  It was mentioned that if you want to have kids, then it’s very difficult if the couple is comprised of two “performers.”  Two “sufficers” marrying each other works well if you want to start a family, and a “sufficer” marrying a “performer” works too.  Two “performers” can certainly marry each other, but kids probably shouldn’t be in the picture unless you have a lot of money or some outside parenting help.  Both of you trying to be at the top in your careers means the kids get left out. 


The CEO of Save the Children made two additional points that I thought were important.  The first was that in the development community, there is a lot of jumping between career fields.  That means going from NGO work to being in the government to teaching in academia to researching at a think tank to advising an international organization (like the UN or World Bank) to working in the private sector and even spending time in the media.  Development and aid work cuts across all these sectors, and those at the top of the game have experience in several of these areas. 


The other point he made that I thought was particularly important was about stamina.  While there are a lot of variables affecting how high one reaches in their chosen career (such as how productive you are and how well you manage your relationships), the simple fact of the matter is that the number of hours you work correlates to your professional success.  Taking care of your body, mind, and those other factors affecting your performance and energy levels is crucial to being able to put in the amount of work needed to get to the very top. 


Not mentioned was public speaking, which I think has more to do with those who want to be in leadership positions.  Having the confidence to speak extemporaneously, either to small & large groups of employees, in the boardroom, and front of senior executives is also vital.


And while it should go without saying, making sure you stay current in what’s going on your industry is a must.  One would be surprised though by the number of those who pay too little attention (being made redundant or out work because your industry changed or relocated positions overseas is a perfect example of how many fail to do this).  Knowing where the industry has been, but more importantly, where it is headed, is key if you’re going to make it to the very top, whether as a leader or an advisor to those making the most important decisions.


I’ll end with a few books that will help those interested in being successful in the non-technical aspects of development work.  The first was mentioned during the talks in relation to networking & leadership, the second was mentioned afterwards by a friend, while the third is a book I’ve read and found to be very useful.


They are:


And if you’re interested in improving your public speaking skills, consider Toastmasters International.


I’ve written before about how to get a job in diplomacy, development, and defense with a variety of public and private sector organizations. 


They include:


You can find additional resources for some of these jobs here:



I'm Back

When I last posted I was in the process of getting ready to leave Kurdistan after two years of work with the Department of State.   In the interim I've bought a home and moved to Durham, North Carolina, where next week I begin orientation for a Master's in International Development at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy. 

Durham's weather sucks.  It's way too hot and humid.  The food is great though, and evidently the Fall is spectacular.

I do plan on continuing with the blog again after a long vacation, but with classes, consulting, and other work, we'll have to see.  Right now I have about 1K in unread blog postings in my Google Reader account to wade through.  I've been ignoring all my usual readings since I left Iraq three months ago.

At any rate, expect something this week (or next).  In preparation for classes (which unfortunately begin at 0830, Monday through Thursday) I'll be following a normal work schedule this week.


1,500 Lives = One New York Times Article

From a 2005 study on “The Politics of Humanitarian Aid: U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, 1964-1995,” published in The Journal of Politics.  The study looks at how political the decision to grant assistance is, in addition to how politics influences “how much” aid is ultimately given.  But as we know, the media always has a vote.


“A striking finding, however, centers on the powerful impact of a disaster’s media salience, with one New York Times article being worth more disaster aid dollars than 1,500 fatalities.”


In other words, a humanitarian emergency which involves greater loss of life and significantly more human suffering may get the short end of the stick if it lacks advocates who can garner media coverage or journalists willing to go to the center of the storm.  I guess this is why the U.S. ignores the Congo. 


Reporters don’t really like traveling the middle of Africa where conditions suck and where you can get a mosquito bite, despite the fact that millions have died there in the bloodiest intrastate conflict this century and that alone should make it worthy of substantial coverage.  Journalists are much happier reporting on places like Palestine, where they can do a story in the morning and grab a falafel and hit the clubs in Tel Aviv at night, or as they did in the nineties, spending their time in Sarajevo, a short airplane ride to the rest of Europe.  So they go there instead. 


What Makes a State?

Answer: It depends.

A state is generally considered to be an entity that maintains effective control over its territory and is recognized, formally or informally, by other members of the international community. The citizens of states are expected to have their own government and not be subjected to the laws of any other power or states. This is sovereignty.

Yet as this article in the Economist notes “[a]ny attempt to find a clear definition of a country soon runs into a thicket of exceptions and anomalies.”

Diplomatic recognition is clearly not much guide to real life. In the early years of the cold war most countries recognized the Chinese regime in Taiwan (“Free China”) while the mainland communists (“Red China”) were isolated. Now the absurdity is the other way round. The number of countries with formal diplomatic ties to Taiwan has shriveled to just 23—mostly small, cash-strapped islands. Yet Taiwan is not just a country, but a rather important one. Under mainland-pleasing names such as “Chinese Taipei” it is a member of the Asian Development Bank and the World Trade Organization, and an observer at some OECD panels. It has nearly 100 “trade offices” around the world.

So what makes one country recognize one state but not another? In a word: politics.

Before one state will recognize another, it takes into account a series of domestic & foreign political considerations, such as how it will impact its own internal stability and relationships with other countries. As the article notes, there is “a feeling among many sovereign states that changes of boundary and status set a bad precedent, [thereby making] changes less likely [for new states seeking international recognition].” This is doubly true if you have any nationalist or breakaway ethnic movements in the country.

There is no clear consensus on the definition of statehood. What matters is how much power the government has over internal matters and how other states behave in relation to it. Somalia is considered a state and has as seat at the UN, but lacks the ability to govern its territory. Kosovo and South Ossetia both have somewhat effective (though corrupt) governments, yet their recognition as states remains in dispute. Some (but not all) Western nations recognize Kosovo, while neither Russia nor China do, whereas South Ossetia is recognized only by four nations, one of which is Russia, the hegemon in the region (it's Russian support that allows South Ossetia to remain autonomous from Georgia).

But sovereignty gets even more complicated. The countries of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands have arrangements granting the United States complete authority over their security and defense. The Solomon Islands, meanwhile has police and judiciary forces led by Australia. Yet all three are UN members and considered states when the more proper term might be “protectorates.”

International recognition for states is important. In addition to diplomatic status and protection, it also means recognized control over internal resources by the international community, the ability to print money and perhaps most importantly in the case of poor states, acquire easier access to aid and development assistance from foreign governments and international institutions. Ultimately though, whether or not a country is considered a state or not depends upon what other countries think, a clear case of perception equaling reality.


Post-Conflict Stabilization Doctrine and Training Resources

Here are two interesting resources available for you to further develop your knowledge and skill sets when it comes to post-conflict stabilization and state-building . . .


The first is a joint venture from the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the U.S. Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute to develop a manual for those involved in post-conflict stabilization.  The 244 page document  is entitled “Guidelines for Stabilization and Reconstruction,” and is available for download here




It is not unlike the recent cooperation between the U.S. Army and Marine Corps on Field Manual 3-07: Stability Operations, and before that, Field Manual 3-24: Counterinsurgency Operations, which is much more famous.  Together, these three documents should be considered the key texts when it comes to U.S. government policy as it relates to post-conflict stabilization and stability operations in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. 


Ambassador John Herbst, who is the State Department’s Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, wrote about the Guidelines in his office’s Winter 2009/2010 newsletter, calling it “doctrine” for “civilian planners and practitioners involved in peacebuilding missions.”


According to Herbst:


[The] manual offers two important contributions: 1) a comprehensive set of shared principles and 2) a shared strategic framework. Both rise directly from the enormous wealth of knowledge and experience that has accrued across the global peacebuilding community over the last two decades. The development of the manual involved intensive vetting and consultation sessions with NATO planners, British stabilizers, UN peacebuilders and other key partners. It also involved a thorough review of hundreds of doctrinal documents produced by the very institutions that have toiled in these difficult environments. [Emphasis mine]


The second resource is a set of courses you can take from USIP that deals directly with post-conflict stabilization.  The only issue is they are all based in Washington, DC.


Below are descriptions of two sample courses being held in June . . .


Peacebuilding Organizations and Institutions

Covers the missions, cultures, operating procedures, and other essential characteristics of key international organizations, regional organizations, government organizations, militaries, and nongovernmental organizations in peace operations and stability operations. Inter-organizational planning, communication, and coordination in hostile environments are also addressed.


Economics and Conflict

Participants explore the analytical links between economic activity and conflict as well as the practical constraints and rewards of using economic instruments of conflict management. Case studies and simulations set in Kosovo, Haiti, and Sudan encourage participants to formulate economic instruments within a strategic framework for economic development in vulnerable and conflict-affected states.


Those who wish to work in post-conflict stabilization often find it difficult to get their foot in the door unless they’re already a U.S. government employee and deployed into one of these areas, or have worked for an NGO in another area and brought in.  Those who already work in this area find there are not many training opportunities and most of what you learn is either on the job or through self-study.


In both cases, by internalizing the above manuals and taking some of these courses, individuals can better position themselves for finding positions and working successfully in conflict and post-conflict environments. 


Eventually, USIP says all the courses will be online.  Three are already up and are available for free.  I’ve taken their online certificate course in conflict analysis and thought it well worth the time.


The Functions of the State

The Institute for State Effectivness, founded by by Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart, (both of whom are listed by Foreign Policy Magazine as one the Top 100 Global Thinkers for 2009), have an informative graphic which proposes that states "must perform ten critical functions in the modern world in order to serve their citizens and fulfill their international obligations."


Here it is:



It seems pretty comprehensive to me.  This is all macro-level stuff.  Notice they don't say how the social contract should be defined or how the government should be organized.  They merely mention tasks.  The trick is getting failed or developing states to the point where they can perform all of the tasks effectively, justly and continually.  That's real question and challenge.  For states at the lowest levels of development, this will probably take decades. 

The only issue I have with is there doesn't seem to be a place for federalism in their model.  Many  responsibilities, such as education and internal security, should devolve to the cities, counties and states, especially in the larger countries.   Too much centralization can lead to ineffective government and instability.  Ultimately it's a question of balance and context.