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

Entries in State-Building (8)


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.



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.



Does the U.S. Need a Special Office for Nation-building?

Recently the Special Inspector General for Iraq (SIGIR), Stuart Bowen, testified before the Commission on Wartime Contracting on the need for a new “U.S. Office of Contingency Operations” to oversee future American efforts at post-conflict stabilization and nation-building (really state-building, but that’s another post).


Bowen, who since 2004 has investigated and exposed much of the corruption and incompetence in the Iraq reconstruction effort, argues the new office is necessary to prevent poor coordination and planning among U.S. government agencies, two problems which have been a distinguishing feature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The main reason the new office is needed, he says, is that there is no one U.S. government agency charged with responsibility for stabilization and reconstruction efforts and “there is no central point of planning and management," which has "bred the problems of poor coordination and weak integration we’ve encountered” in Iraq.


But as Spencer Ackerman notes, neither the Departments of State nor Defense support the proposal . . .


“In formal responses appended to the USOCO paper, two senior administration officials praise Bowen’s effort and endorse his diagnosis that civilian and military efforts in stabilization and reconstruction missions suffer from an ad hoc planning and implementation structure, saying he “correctly identifies under-funding [and] lack of capacities” within State and the U.S. Agency for International Development as a key weakness. But both reject USOCO as a solution. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy writes that the problem is “one of capacity and not of structure” and observes that congressional support for a restructuring “in today’s fiscally constrained environment seems unlikely.”


Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew, presenting State’s lengthy formal response to USOCO, pledges to Bowen that the USOCO proposal will receive “full consideration” from an ongoing State Department and USAID comprehensive review of development and diplomacy known as the QDDR. But he says Bowen’s fix is “problematic on several fronts,” and that USOCO would take too much policymaking responsibility away from the Secretary of State and the department’s regional bureaus.” 


Bowen has publicly stated the he will try and sell the idea to Congress, but considering the two agencies primarily charged with the post-conflict stabilization missions are not on board with the proposal and will actively fight against, it means the chances of it coming to fruition are unlikely.


I’m a big fan of Bowen for his work uncovering corruption in Iraq and I’m glad he’s stuck around since first being appointed in 2004, but I’m against the new proposal for a couple reasons. 


First, the main cause of the screw ups in the initial post-war period had to do with political choices made at the highest levels of government, primarily the decision to not start planning for the post-war period until just a few months before the war began.  What made it worse was the planning was based on a series of false assumptions that were tailored not to the situation at hand, but on a politically expedient notion that the war would be easy (a view that made it easier to sell to Congress and the public), so ergo, not much planning would need to be done.  The problem in this case wasn’t the lack of a special office to do planning and coordination, but the lack of sound strategic decision-making by a bunch of incompetent senior government officials.  These officials were also blinded by ideology and a desire to remake Iraq into some democratic redoubt which resulted in them ignoring the complex realities on the ground that didn’t fit into their magical thinking and ended up resulting in needless deaths and lost resources.


Another problem is that the office won’t solve the issue of interagency friction.  Having spent over four years in Iraq, with that time split almost evenly between roles with State and Defense, I can tell you that employees seconded to interagency organizations (like Provincial Reconstruction Teams) will have allegiance first to the organization and leadership that evaluates, pays and promotes them.  That means working against the interagency team's objectives if they are not in the interest of that person’s organization.  I’ve seen it happen.  A special office that draws on personnel from various departments won’t be able to do combat this problem unless it can create disincentives for failing to play nicely, such as the ability to write negative performance reports or dock pay.  But this is a power home agencies are never going to give up. 


The solution to problems of planning and coordination in future missions are quite simple:  begin planning and coordinating for them early.  Planning for the post-war occupation of Germany was several years in the making before Hitler killed himself and the country surrendered.  Personnel and resources were specifically prepared for that eventuality and a special School of Military Government was even established.  This meant that once the combat phase of the war was over both military and civilian officials were ready to move in and successfully help rebuild, de-Nazify, and democratize the country.  



Karzai Speaks the Truth

There's a big 70-nation conference going on in London right now over what to do in Afghanistan, and in his opening address, Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai gives the longest time frame I've ever seen anyone give concerning what it really takes if you want build from scratch a new government and put in place a security force to protect it . . .

Via Agence France-Presse . . .


The NATO-led force fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan is due to rise to 150,000 by the end of the year, but Karzai said earlier Thursday his country would need international help for at least another decade.

"With regard to training and equipping the Afghan security forces, five to 10 years will be enough," he told BBC radio.

"With regard to sustaining them until Afghanistan is financially able to provide for our forces, the time will be extended to 10 to 15 years."


Two truths about state-building:  You can't do it quickly, and you can't do it on the cheap.


It will be interesting to see how the US political establishment and citizenry react to those numbers.


The Challenges of Nation-Building

From MIT World, a lecture by Jose Ramos-Horta, the former President of East Timor, on the Challenges of Nation-Building:  



You can also download it from iTunes.