Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States

Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States

Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States

Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States

Synopsis

Combining rigorous academic scholarship with the experience of a senior Pentagon policymaker, Mara E. Karlin explores the key national security issue of our time: how to effectively build partner militaries. Given the complex and complicated global security environment, declining U.S. defense budgets, and an increasingly connected (and often unstable) world, the United States has an ever-deepening interest in strengthening fragile states. Particularly since World War II, it has often chosen to do so by strengthening partner militaries. It will continue to do so, Karlin predicts, given U.S. sensitivity to casualties, a constrained fiscal environment, the nature of modern nationalism, increasing transnational security threats, the proliferation of fragile states, and limits on U.S. public support for military interventions. However, its record of success is thin.

While most analyses of these programs focus on training and equipment, Building Militaries in Fragile States argues that this approach is misguided. Instead, given the nature of a fragile state, Karlin homes in on the outsized roles played by two key actors: the U.S. military and unhelpful external actors. With a rich comparative case-study approach that spans Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, Karlin unearths provocative findings that suggest the traditional way of working with foreign militaries needs to be rethought. Benefiting from the practical eye of an experienced national security official, her results-based exploration suggests new and meaningful findings for building partner militaries in fragile states.

Excerpt

In 2014, much of the Iraqi Army dissolved as the Islamic State overran key Iraqi cities like Tikrit and Mosul. After more than a decade of U.S. training and more than $20 billion in assistance to strengthen the force, training was for naught as Iraqi soldiers fled battles and holed up in their homes, military leadership disappeared, and nearly three divisions worth of equipment were abandoned to the Islamic State. Yet another example of U.S. efforts to build militaries in fragile states had failed.

As a civilian policymaker in the U.S. Defense Department, I led a wide range of programs to build militaries in fragile states. Sandwiched between teams building Iraq and Afghanistan’s militaries while I sought to strengthen the Lebanese, Pakistani, Palestinian Authority, Sri Lankan, Nepalese, and Jordanian security sectors, I began to appreciate how difficult it is to execute these programs in fragile states. the relevant literature seemed detached and unhelpful, and policymakers—including me—longed for a better approach that was both effective and implementable. Above all, I wondered what circumstances would make it more likely for these programs to succeed. This book seeks to answer that question.

When, why, and under what circumstances have U.S. programs to strengthen partner militaries for internal defense succeeded? Particularly since World War ii, the United States has often responded to its allies’ faltering internal security situations by training and equipping their militaries. It will continue to do so given U.S. sensitivity toward casualties, a constrained fiscal environment, the nature of modern nationalism, increasing transnational security threats, and the proliferation of fragile states. and yet the U.S. track record for building militaries in fragile states is uneven at best.

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