30 August 2011

Sound Off! Nation-Building?

This week it isn't a choice, you get to extemporize instead.

Define "nation building".
And tell us what government agency should have lead responsibility for it (yes, we know this'll be different for people in different countries).

Sound off in the comments!

By: Brant


Guardian said...

You're making me write two days in a row? What are you, my professor now? :)

I'm going to set aside doctrinal definitions and give you what I think nation-building should be:

"'Nation-building' is providing training, advice, leadership, and materiel to enable a nation to become stable and self-sufficient in economic, security, governance, political, and social dimensions."

A couple of notes:

1) My definition emphasizes self-sufficiency. We must have a clear, actionable plan to wean the host nation from external aid as quickly as possible.

2) Note that I specifically include "leadership" in the scope of nation-building. I think we have become too eager to turn the asylum over the inmates. We had a military occupation government in place in Germany and Japan for several years after WW2 and those were reasonably modern countries, not relics of the 7th century like Afghanistan. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, we rushed to hold elections to create the (largely empty) illusion of democracy and all we accomplished was to establish host-nation governments with their own agendas, corruption, etc. over which we had only limited control. If we're serious about post-conflict nation-building (as in Afghanistan and Iraq), we have to be in charge until the locals are really ready to responsibly manage their own affairs. In cases where we haven't ousted a hostile government (like that of Saddam Hussein or the Taliban), I think our nation-building support has to come with quite specific strings re: responsibility and accountability. Colombia is an example where this kind of thing has worked fairly well, while Pakistan has just taken us for a ride for the past 10 years, taking billions of dollars in aid and wasting the time of US and Allied advisors while sheltering OBL and other hostiles all the while.

Note that this approach to "nation-building" implies a long-term commitment, which is likely to be politically distasteful. Bearing this in mind, we might be better off with what I've previously referred to as the "Israeli strategy": if somebody acts up, spend a few days or weeks tearing them up and then leave them to clean up the mess. It's easier to break things than fix things and turning the West Bank and Gaza into a peaceful, stable, and prosperous country is too hard for the Israelis (or anyone else except the Palestinians themselves) to do.

Finally, I should address the question of the lead agency. I really think DoS should have the lead. DoD should just be the muscle for security and FID missions. State is *supposed to* have the expertise in governance to do this stuff, while DoD should be focused on killing people and breaking things. (As one of the officers I worked with gleefully explained, "Sometimes we get to do both!")

-- Guardian

"I want everybody on the objective dead... except us."

Guardian said...

One addition: In The Pentagon's New Map, Thomas P.M. Barnett suggests that responsibility for these nation-building missions would fall to what he called a new "Leviathan Force," referring to Hobbes' Leviathan. In general, I agree with this idea. Some implementation ideas:

1) Put Barnett's proposed "Leviathan Force" under DoS.

2) The Leviathan Force woud be a paramilitary organization. They should be trained and equipped roughly along the lines of Army SF: sufficient organic firepower for self-defense plus the communications and training to call for fire or QRF if they get into serious trouble. They should also have organic foreign language and cultural orientations like the SF Groups and other SOF units (at least on paper) do.

3) Just because the Leviathan Force has guns doesn't mean they should be using them. The weapons are for self-defense, period. If somebody in their AO needs killin', let the DoD know. The Leviathans should be 100% focused on training, advising, leading, and coordinating indigenous personnel to build stable, self-sufficient economic, governance, security, and other institutions.

4) Take the FID mission away from Army SF and give it to the "Leviathan Force." SF would keep the UW mission and would also retain the sexy Direct Action, Special Reconnaissance, and Counter-Terrorism missions along with the Ranger Regiment, Naval Special Warfare, AFSOC, MARSOC, and the Special Mission Units.

5) Take the CA mission away from the Army and other services. It goes to the Leviathan Force too.

6) If DoD forces are in the area, embed the Leviathans with them for more security and closer coordination.

7) Perhaps, depending on the phase of conflict, leadership shifts between the DoD and the Leviathans. If an AO is hot, DoD has the lead because security is a pre-requisite for anything else. Once the AO has cooled down, the Leviathans have the lead. This might be on a province-by-province or district-by-district basis, BTW, not an entire country.

It all sounds good in theory, doesn't it?

However, 10 years of war has made a cynic. A lot of the instability in the Third World is because of corrupt and dysfunctional economic, social, cultural, and governance institutions. If we want to fix it (which is a big question in itself), I think we need to be much more forceful and direct about it.

We are constantly accused of building an empire. Perhaps we should either pack our toys and go home or get serious and actually build a (benevolent) empire. To put it lightly, there are lessons to be learned from Army of Darkness: "Alright you primitive screw-heads, listen up! You see this? This... is my boomstick!" and "Good. Bad. I'm the guy with the gun."

More seriously, we should take into account the lessons of successful past empires like that of the Greeks, Romans, and British. In particular, Britain was able to keep India under control for a long time with a comparatively tiny number of troops by effectively integrating locals into the Imperial administration.

Bottom-line: Maybe the Leviathan Force is the right idea, but we have to be in it for the long haul and not rush to hand the keys to the asylum over to the inmates.

Brian said...

PRTS-plus R Us.
I think USG is or was groping towards this with the Active, Standby and Civilian Response Corps. I have no idea what the status of the program is today, except I remember reading it was netting nowhere near the number of people it needed to function. There are other similar organizations, just not quite so paramilitary.
And there appear to be a growing number of increasingly "corrupt and dysfunctional economic, social, cultural, and governance institutions" at home too, so there may be no other option than to pick up the toys and go home.

Guardian said...

@Brian: Right on re: the domestic problems. I did a little work with the CA community over the years and I and a few of my colleagues half-jokingly observed that we might want to apply our own CA doctrine at home.