By Fareed Zakaria
The controversy over the desecration of copies of the Quran in Afghanistan and the murder of Americans that followed is, on one level, one moment in a long war. But it also highlights the difficult and ultimately unsustainable aspect of America’s Afghan policy. President Obama wants to draw down troops, but his strategy remains to transition power and authority to an Afghan national army and police force as well as to the government in Kabul, which would run the country and its economy. This is a fantasy. We must recognize that and pursue a more realistic alternative.
The United States tends to enter wars in developing countries with a simple idea — modernize the country, and you will solve the national security problem. An articulation of that American approach came from none other than Newt Gingrich during a 2010 speech at the American Enterprise Institute. We are failing in Afghanistan, Gingrich argued, because “we have not flooded the country with highways, we haven’t guaranteed that every Afghan has a cellphone, we haven’t undertaken the logical steps towards fundamentally modernizing their society, we haven’t developed a program to help farmers get off of growing drugs.” FULL POST
By Barak Barfi, Project Syndicate
TRIPOLI – With the creation of a new government, Libya’s leaders should finally be able to focus on organizing the transition from the authoritarian state that they inherited to the more pluralistic one they envisage. But are they really able and willing to achieve that goal?
In the United States, the debate on Libya has focused on what steps its government should take next. Senator Robert Menendez argues it “must move quickly to embrace democratic reform,” while international development specialists, such as Manal Omar of the U.S. Institute for Peace, believe that success lies in the cultivation of a vibrant civil society.
These views, however, overlook Libya’s unique history, and treat Libya as though it were just another Third World country in need of generic solutions. In fact, remedying the country’s ills requires building strong state institutions. FULL POST
Editor’s Note: This is an edited version of an article from the ‘Oxford Analytica Daily Brief’. Oxford Analytica is a global analysis and advisory firm that draws on a worldwide network of experts to advise its clients on their strategy and performance.
International efforts to rebuild states in the aftermath of violent conflict have expanded considerably in the past two decades. A number of state-building operations are expected to wind down in the next several years. However, the United States, U.N. and other leading state-builders are failing to develop coherent exit strategies, despite greater awareness of the importance of preparing for exit well in advance.
This threatens what achievements there have been in enabling sustainable peace. As austerity kicks in, domestic financial and political considerations will influence many state-building actors’ formulation of exit strategies in the next few years. FULL POST
Editor's Note: James Dobbins, a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, is director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation. Frederic Wehrey is a senior policy analyst at RAND.
By James Dobbins and Frederic Wehrey, Foreign Affairs
With the fall of the Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in sight, the United States and its allies face the familiar challenges of post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction. As in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the United States and its allies have prevailed militarily and Western governments must now assume some role in helping establish a new order. Given the mixed results of the ventures in those regions, it is worth examining how Libya compares to them in terms of size, wealth, homogeneity, geography, and political maturity.
Nation building is resource-intensive, and the size of the country is a major determinant of the scale of the effort needed. Libya is between two and three times more populous than Bosnia and Kosovo, but less than one third the size of Iraq and Afghanistan, suggesting that the reconstruction effort in Libya would fall somewhere between the operations in the Balkans in the 1990s and the more demanding efforts after 9/11 in terms of cost, time, and difficulty. FULL POST
Author Rory Stewart and political economic Gerald Knaus examine the impact of large-scale international interventions from Kosovo to Afghanistan in their new book, Can Intervention Work? Their bottom line: The international community needs to be much more humble about what it can accomplish in terms of state-building abroad.
Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:
The difficulty is to show people how intervention—with its elaborate theory, intricate rituals, astonishing sacrifices and expenditure; its courage and grandeur and fantasy—can often resemble the religion of the Aztecs or the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; to show how bad intervention can be: how far more absurd, rotten, counterproductive than any satirist could suggest or caricaturist portray. And that even when all the leaders have recognized that a policy is not working, how impossible it often seems for them to organize withdrawal. FULL POST
Francis Fukuyama is the author of, most recently, The Origins of Political Order. He has also written State-Building: Governance and world order in the 21st Century. I spoke to both authors together about their views of international intervention and state-building last week, before the situation in Libya really heated up. But their remarks remain as relevant now as before.
In short, they caution the international community against grand foreign interventions and urge us to limit our ambitions for state-building abroad.
Amar C. Bakshi: Rory, can intervention work?
Rory Stewart: Intervention has worked, broadly speaking, in Bosnia and Kosovo. It has failed, broadly speaking, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Amar C. Bakshi: What went wrong there and what went right?
Rory Stewart: I think 95% is internal to Bosnia and Kosovo and has very little to do with foreigners. It has to do with the fact that in the end Bosnians were not as committed to ethnic cleansing and civil war as foreigners believed. FULL POST