Academic journal article Pepperdine Policy Review

Putting Humpty Dumpty Back Together Again: Lessons Learned from U.S. State-Building in Iraq

Academic journal article Pepperdine Policy Review

Putting Humpty Dumpty Back Together Again: Lessons Learned from U.S. State-Building in Iraq

Article excerpt


In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq to overthrow a tyrant, eradicate a terrorist organization, and destroy an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Thirteen years later, there are still United States soldiers fighting in Iraq. The name of the war has changed over the last thirteen years. The failed effort to rebuild Iraq after the 2003 invasion illustrates a larger incoherence of the United States foreign post-conflict policy. There are valuable lessons to be learned from this failure because this is surely not the last time the United States will find itself in a situation like it did in Iraq at the turn of the millennium. The threat of failed and weak states did not end in 2011, nor will it end when the so-called Islamic State is defeated. Failed states pose a threat to the interests and security of the United States. Understanding the shortfalls of Operation Iraqi Freedom can help policymakers to address the threat of failed states in the future.

This paper will analyze and discuss the reconstruction of Iraq in three components. The first component will emphasize the importance of this analysis by establishing that failed and weak states are a threat to the security of the United States. The second portion will identify and assess the ends, ways, and means of rebuilding Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The third will identify and discuss lessons learned from that effort, and how they apply to U.S. foreign policy going forward. In short, this paper finds and will prove that failed states are, in fact, a threat to U.S. national security and should be treated as such in strategic planning. Furthermore, the original sin of the Iraq War was a failure to understand that winning the war and winning the peace require different ends, ways, and means. Finally, this failure underlines the need for the United States to implement a strategic process for addressing the threats of weak states to international security and stability.

II.Failed States as a Threat to U.S. Security

i.What are Failed States?

In the Westphalian System, a state is required to have four components: a permanent population, a defined territory, a government, and the recognition by other states as a sovereign power.1 The lack of one or more of these criteria determines a lack of statehood, but there is a difference between ?not a state? and a ?failed state.? Certain territories are not considered a state because they lack only the international recognition criteria. The international community, for example, does not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state. This is despite the existence of a population, a territory, and a government; rather, it has more to do with political alignment and national interests.2 Taiwan is very different, however, from a state that is not recognized by the international community (or worse- is recognized) despite the existence of a government that cannot or does not provide basic public goods to its citizens, which constitutes a failed state. It is vital to United States security that this difference be understood.

The best benchmark to assessing the strength of a state is its level of legitimacy.3 When the citizens of a country do not consider their government to possess legitimate authority over them, the stability of that state quickly becomes fragile. When states exhibit the following qualities they are considered to be weak4 or fragile states: significant extent of political violence or constant threat of violence, significant control of police over citizens, major political conflict over what ideology will govern the state, lack of coherent national identity, lack of a transparent hierarchy for political authority and decision making, and large extent of control over the media.5 Even before tensions become violent, these characteristics should serve as red flags to the international community that the government lacks legitimate authority of its territory. When the lack of legitimacy leads to insurgencies or civil war, a weak state can pose a threat to stability far beyond its borders. …

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