Guidelines for nation builders.
The character of these undertakings has also evolved. During the Cold War, UN troops were usually deployed to separate combatants, police demilitarized zones, or monitor cease-fires. In recent years, the objectives for these missions have expanded to include reuniting divided societies, disarming adversaries, demobilizing former combatants, organizing elections, installing representative governments, and promoting democratic reform and economic growth. American-led operations have also become larger, longer, and more ambitious in scope.
Even with some notable setbacks, the overall impact of this heightened international activism has been beneficial. International military interventions have proved to be the best and, indeed, the only reliable means of preventing societies emerging from civil war from slipping back into conflict. (2) Since the end of the Cold War, the number of civil wars around the world has been more than cut in half. The number of people being killed, maimed, or driven from their homes as a result of armed conflict has also dropped even further.
Despite this wealth of experience, the American occupation of Iraq was marked by a myriad of unforeseen challenges and hastily improvised responses. Observers might be forgiven for thinking the United States had never mounted such an operation. Yet Iraq was the seventh major American-led intervention in little more than a decade, preceded by operations in Kuwait, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. Of those seven societies, six are Muslim, Haiti being the sole exception. At the commencement of the Iraq occupation, therefore, no Western military had more modern experience operating in Muslim societies than the US Army, and no country had more experience managing large nation-building enterprises than the United States of America.
Unfortunately, neither the American military nor the government as a whole had made a systematic attempt over the preceding decade to reflect upon the experience of those earlier operations and apply those lessons in preparing for what was likely to be the biggest and most difficult such challenge to date, in Iraq. This attitude has changed. In response to initial setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush and now Obama administrations have begun to put in place institutional arrangements designed to ensure a more professional approach to future such contingencies. In 2005 the Defense Department issued a directive making stability operations, its term for nation building, a core mission of the American military, on par, in principal at least, with preparation for major combat. At about the same time the State Department established the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization to oversee the civilian aspects of nation-building-type missions. More recently, President Obama released a new National Security Strategy that emphasizes the need to host security and reconstruction in the aftermath of conflict and sets out a "whole of government" approach to doing so.
Other governments, notably the British, Canadian, and German, have set up similar structures. The United Nations has established the Peace Building Commission for the same purpose. These various initiatives and new strategies are all premised on the view that nation building is still an unavoidable burden and that concepts presented here still apply. Practitioners must do a better job applying the lessons from prior missions into an evolving doctrine for future ones. They must better integrate military and civilian efforts across multiple agencies as well as across national and international lines; and build cadres of experts available to go from one operation to the next.
There are a variety of providers for nation-building missions. Since 1989, the United States has led coalitions of the willing into Somalia, Haiti, Afghanistan, and Iraq. NATO mounted its first such mission in 1995 in Bosnia, went into Kosovo in 1999, and into Afghanistan in 2004. The European Union sent its first military force abroad to Macedonia in 2003 and has since conducted larger peacekeeping operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Chad. The EU also replaced the NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia with one of its own in 2005. The African Union has become the "peacekeeper of last resort" for that continent, assuming responsibilities for operations too risky for anyone else. Finally, the UN has conducted the largest number of such missions. As of this writing, more than 100,000 blue-helmeted soldiers and police are deployed in 16 UN-led peacekeeping missions around the world.
Each of these institutions has its own strengths and weaknesses. The UN has the widest experience; NATO has the most powerful forces; the EU has the most developed array of civil competencies, and the African Union is the least risk averse. The United Nations has the most widely accepted legitimacy and the greatest formal authority. Its actions, by definition, enjoy international sanction. Alone among international organizations, it can require financial contributions even from those opposed to the intervention in question. The United Nations has the most straightforward decision-making apparatus and the most unified command and control arrangements. The UN Security Council is smaller than its NATO, EU, or AU equivalents and is the only one making all decisions by qualified majority--only five of its members have the capacity to block decisions unilaterally.
Once the Security Council determines the purpose of a mission and decides to launch it, further operational decisions are left largely to the secretary-general and his professional staff, at least until the next Security Council review, generally six months hence. In UN operations, the civilian and military chains of command are unified and integrated, with unequivocal civilian primacy and a clear line of authority from the UN secretary-general through the local civilian representative to the local force commander.
The UN is also a comparatively efficient force provider. In its specialized agencies, it possesses a broad panoply of civil as well as military capabilities needed for nation building. All UN-led operations are planned and directed by a few hundred military and civilian staffers at UN headquarters in New York. Most UN troops come from developing countries whose costs per deployed soldier are a small fraction of those of any Western army.
NATO, by contrast, is capable of deploying powerful, heavily equipped, highly mobile forces and of using them to force entry where necessary. But NATO has no capacity to implement civilian activities; it depends on the United Nations, the European Union, and other institutions and nations to perform all the nonmilitary functions essential to the success of any nation-building operation. NATO decisions are by consensus; consequently, all members have a veto. Whereas the UN Security Council normally makes one decision with respect to any particular operation every six months and leaves the secretary-general relatively unconstrained to carry out that mandate during the intervals, the NATO Council's oversight is more continuous, its decision making more incremental. Member governments consequently have a greater voice in operational matters, and the NATO civilian and military staffs and local commanders have correspondingly less.
Like NATO, and unlike the UN, EU decision making in the security and defense sector is by consensus. The European Union has a much leaner military and political staff than NATO, in part because it can call on NATO if it chooses for planning or other staff functions. The EU, like the UN but unlike NATO, can draw upon a wide array of civilian assets essential to any nation-building operation. Like NATO soldiers, EU soldiers are much more expensive than their UN counterparts. EU decisionmaking mechanisms, like those of NATO, offer troop-contributing governments more scope for micromanaging military operations on a day-to-day basis than do the UN's.
The African Union disposes of the least-capable military forces and the least-developed capacity for its command, control, and sustainment. The organization is completely reliant on non-African donors to finance its peacekeeping activities. In practice this means that while the United States and Europe foot about half the bill for UN peacekeeping, they end up paying nearly 100 percent of the AU's peacekeeping costs.
The AU does possess one advantage. Its members are those most affected by the conflicts in what is the world's most conflict-prone region. Proximity means these states get the bulk of refugees, criminality, terrorism, disease, and commercial disruption that comes from having a failed state on their doorstep. As a result of this vulnerability, AU member governments are often ready to move faster and under more discouraging conditions than are those who dominate the more capable but more distant organizations like the EU, NATO, or the UN. This willingness to go where others fear to tread has led to a rather perverse division of labor in which the most powerful peacekeeping provider (NATO) is completely unengaged in Africa; the second most powerful (the EU) does only the easiest of missions, most recently in Chad; and the UN does most of the rest, leaving the least-capable organization to deal with the most hopelessly difficult situations--to wit Somalia and, until recently, Darfur.
The US and UN Ways of Nation Building
The American approach to these missions differs considerably from that of the United Nations, reflecting its different character and capabilities. The United Nations is an international organization entirely dependent upon its members for the wherewithal to conduct nation building. The United States is the world's only superpower, commanding abundant resources of its own and having access to those of many other nations and institutions.
When compared to US-organized efforts, UN operations have almost always been undermanned and underresourced. This is not because UN managers believe smaller is better, although some do, but because member states are rarely willing to commit the manpower or the money any prudent military commander would desire. As a result, small, weak UN forces are routinely deployed into what they hope, on the basis of best-case assumptions, will prove to be postconflict situations. Where such assumptions prove ill founded, UN forces have had to be reinforced, withdrawn, or, in extreme cases, rescued.
Throughout the 1990s the United States adopted the opposite approach to sizing its nation-building deployments, basing its plans on worst-case assumptions and relying upon an overwhelming force to quickly establish a stable environment and deter resistance from forming. In Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo, US-led coalitions originally intervened in numbers and with capabilities that discouraged even the thought of resistance. When American force was quickly drawn down in Somalia, the resultant casualties reinforced the Clinton administration's determination to establish and retain a substantial overmatch in its future nation-building operations.
Unfortunately, George W. Bush's administration did not initially follow this precedent. In the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks, US tolerance of military casualties significantly increased. In sizing its stabilization operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the new American leadership abandoned the strategy of overwhelming preponderance (sometimes labeled the Powell Doctrine after former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff" Gen Colin Powell) in favor of the "small footprint" or "low profile" force posture that had previously characterized UN operations.
The United States slowly improved at nation building throughout the 1990s. The Haitian operation was better managed than Somalia, Bosnia better than Haiti, and Kosovo better than Bosnia. This learning curve was not sustained into the current decade. The Bush administration was initially disdainful of nation building, viewing it as an unsuitable activity for US forces. When compelled to engage in such missions, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, the administration sought to break with the strategies and institutional responses that had been honed throughout the 1990s to deal with these challenges. The result, in both cases, was a failure to translate rapid and overwhelming conventional military victories into enduring peace. (3)
In both cases the initially small American-led forces proved unable to establish a secure environment. Spoiler elements were not deterred; they were instead given time and space to organize violent resistance movements. In both cases the original US force levels have had to be significantly increased, but not before what might have been conducted as robust peace-enforcement missions evolved into full-scale counterinsurgency operations.
The United Nations has largely avoided the institutional discontinuities that have marred US performance. UN nation-building missions have been run over the past 20 years by an increasingly experienced cadre of international civil servants. Similarly in the field, many peacekeeping operations are headed and staffed by veterans of earlier operations. Only in the last couple of years has the US government begun to establish its own doc trine for the conduct of nation-building endeavors (labeled stabilization and reconstruction missions in official USG jargon) and started to build a cadre of professionals prepared to serve in one such endeavor after another.
It would appear that the low-profile, small-footprint approach to nation building is much better suited to UN-style peacekeeping--where there is a preexisting peace settlement and an invitation by the parties for third-party intervention--than to the more demanding US-style peace enforcement. The United Nations has an ability to compensate, to some degree at least, for its "hard power" deficit with "soft power" attributes of international legitimacy and local impartiality. The United States does not have such advantages in situations where it is a party to the conflict being terminated or where it has acted without an international mandate. Military reversals also have greater consequences for the United States than the United Nations. To the extent that UN influence depends more upon the moral than the physical, more upon its legitimacy than its combat prowess, military rebuffs do not fatally undermine its credibility. To the extent that America leans more on hard rather than soft power to achieve its objectives, military reverses strike at the very heart of its potential influence.
The United Nations and the United States also tend to enunciate their nation-building objectives very differently. UN mandates are highly negotiated, densely bureaucratic documents. UN spokespersons tend toward understatement in expressing their goals. Restraint of this sort is more difficult for US officials, who must build congressional and public support for costly and sometimes dangerous missions in distant and unfamiliar places. As a result, American nation building rhetoric tends toward the grandiloquent. The United States often becomes the victim of its own rhetoric when its higher standards are not met.
Thus UN-led nation-building missions tend to be smaller than American, take place in less-demanding circumstances, are more frequent and therefore more numerous, and define their objectives more circumspectly. By contrast, American-led nation building has taken place in more-demanding circumstances, has required larger forces and more robust mandates, has received more economic support, has espoused more ambitious objectives, and has sometimes encountered greater resistance.
Whether a UN-led peacekeeping mission or a US-led peace enforcement operation, there are certain broad guidelines, or best practices, which the experience of the past 20 years strongly suggests be adopted. (4)
Planning is a routine military activity, but one less developed among civilian authorities. The lead up to most nation-building missions affords ample time for detailed planning, and this should involve both the civilian as well as military components of the mission. Among the first issues to be addressed are the mission's objective, the intended scale of commitment, and the institution arrangements for managing the intervention.
Setting the mission objective requires looking beyond its immediate purposes to appreciate the impact an external military intervention will have both upon the society in question and the surrounding region. It also requires plotting an outcome commensurate with the likely scale of commitment.
Most interventions are launched for some immediate, usually negative purpose, such as to halt aggression, civil war, famine, genocide, or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This purpose may be achieved quite quickly, but the intervening authorities will then be left with the more difficult, time-consuming, and expensive task of refashioning the society in which it has intervened. The intervention itself will change power relationships within that society and among its neighbors. Those advantaged by the intervention may begin to abuse their positions. Those disadvantaged may move to frustrate the intervening authorities' purposes.
Co-option versus Deconstruction
Broadly speaking, there are two alternative approaches to instigating reforms that can turn a violent society into one at peace with itself and its neighbors. One might be labeled co-option, under which the intervening authorities try to work within existing institutions and to deal, more or less impartially, with all social forces and power centers to redirect their ongoing competition for power and wealth from violent to peaceful channels. The alternative approach might be labeled deconstruction, under which the intervening authorities first dismantle an existing state apparatus and then build a new one, in the process consciously disempowering some elements of society and empowering others.
Most UN peacekeeping operations aspire to the first approach. Most American-led peace enforcement missions are compelled to adopt something closer to the second. A near-perfect exemplar of the co-option strategy would be the UN mission in El Salvador in the early 1990s. The embodiment of deconstruction would be the American-led occupation of Germany in the late 1940s. Most missions fall somewhere between these poles. Peacekeeping, impartiality, and co-option are clearly the less-costly approach. But peacekeeping alone will not halt aggression, civil war, genocide, or nuclear proliferation. At best, it can prevent their reoccurrence. Nor can the intervening power remain impartial in conflicts to which it has become party.
Where to position any given intervention along this spectrum from deconstruction to co-option depends not just upon the needs of the society being refashioned but also on the resources the intervening authorities are willing to commit to that task. The more sweeping a mission's objectives, the more resistance it is likely to inspire. Resistance can be overcome, but only through a well-considered application of manpower and money over extended periods of time. In planning any mission, therefore, it is essential to ensure a match between ends and means. Missions that aim to impose peace upon unwilling parties and alter long-standing power relationships are likely to require much greater resources than operations designed to perpetuate existing truces while drawing contending factions into peaceful, but potentially mutually advantageous, power-sharing relationships.
Mismatches between inputs, as measured in manpower and money, and desired outcomes, as measured in imposed social transformation, are the most common causes for nation building to fail. In estimating the resource demands of such operations, this study provides ranges that encompass both approaches. The intent is to allow those planning the missions to increase the necessary manpower and money if committed to promoting sweeping change, or to dial down the objective if resources are likely to be limited.
Institutional Frameworks and Consultative Forums
All nation-building missions involve a mix of national, multinational, and international actors. The nature of that mix is largely determined by the purpose and scope of the operation. Even nationally led interventions, such as the American invasion of Iraq or the Australian intervention in the Solomons, quickly find roles for other national partners, for the United Nations, and for other organizations. At the other end of the spectrum, no UN-led mission is likely to get very far without the cooperation of regional states and the backing of major powers.
The United Nations provides the most suitable institutional framework for most nation-building missions, one with a comparatively low cost structure, a comparatively high success rate, and the greatest degree of international legitimacy. (5) The United Nations does not do invasions, however, and seldom deploys more than about 20,000 troops in any given operation. For missions which require forced entry or demand more than a reinforced division of troops, a coalition led by a nation or alliance such as NATO will probably be necessary, at least for the first phase of the operation. Although NATO is militarily much more potent than the United Nations, it possesses none of the other attributes needed for successful nation building. Thus NATO-led military operations will always require the United Nations or other national and international actors to provide the various civil components without which no nation-building mission can succeed.
Nation building always requires the integration of national and international efforts. Larger missions require several layers of consultative machinery to operate effectively. The first inner circle should include the major powers that care most about the success of the enterprise and are prepared to commit troops and money to it. The second circle should involve the major financial donors. The third should involve the neighboring powers. Without such coordination, international efforts are likely to be disjointed, with the various organizations concerned competing for turf while shirking the riskier or less-rewarding tasks.
When nations disintegrate, the competing contenders for power inevitably turn to external sponsors for support. Faced with the prospect of a neighboring state's failure, the governments of adjoining states seek to develop local clientele and back rival aspirants to power. It is, therefore, practically impossible to put a broken state back together if its neighbors are committed to frustrating that effort. Much as one may regret and deplore such activity, neighbors can neither be safely ignored nor effectively barred from exercising their considerable influence. It is the adjacent states, after all, that suffer the consequences of state failure and civil conflict most directly. It is they that must shelter the refugees and cope with the endemic diseases, increased criminality, spreading terrorism, and disruptions to their commerce generated by such conflicts. They cannot afford to remain uninvolved. It has always proved wise, therefore, to find ways to engage them constructively, no matter how unhelpful their activities may have been in the past. Failure to do so can condemn even the most generously resourced operation to failure.
The prime objective of any nation-building operation is to make violent societies peaceful, not to make poor ones prosperous or authoritarian ones democratic. Economic development and political reform are important instruments for effecting this transformation but will not themselves assure it. Rather, such efforts need to be pursued within a broader framework, the aim of which is to redirect the competition for wealth and power which takes place within any society from violent into peaceful channels.
The first-order priorities for any nation-building mission are public security and humanitarian assistance. If the most basic human needs for safety, food, and shelter are not being met, any money spent on political or economic development is likely to be wasted. Accordingly, these missions should be organized around a hierarchy of nation-building tasks, which flow in the following order:
* security--peacekeeping, law enforcement, rule of law, and security-sector reform;
* humanitarian relief--return of refugees and response to potential epidemics, hunger, and lack of shelter;
* governance--resuming public services and restoring public administration;
* economic stabilization--establishing a stable currency and providing a legal and regulatory framework in which local and international commerce can resume;
* democratization--building political parties, a free press, civil society, and a legal and constitutional framework for elections; and
* development--fostering economic growth, poverty reduction, and infrastructure improvements.
This is not to suggest that the above activities should necessarily be initiated sequentially. If adequate funding is available, they can and should proceed in tandem. But if higher-order priorities are not adequately resourced, anything spent upon lower-order ones is likely to be wasted.
Seizing the Moment
The weeks immediately following the arrival of foreign troops tend to be a time of maximum possibility. The appearance of an intervening force normally produces a combination of shock and relief in the local population. Resistance is unorganized, spoilers unsure of their future. The situation is highly malleable, but the capacity of intervening authorities to capitalize on these opportunities is usually limited by the absence of many mission components. If one is to take advantage of what has been called the "golden hour" that follows the end of major combat operations, the intervening authorities need to have at their disposal upon arrival a minimum set of assets: enough troops, police, civil administrators, and humanitarian supplies to secure and supply at least the capital. These can then be followed quickly by judicial and penal experts with funded plans for the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former combatants and training or retraining of the police force.
Soldiers are among the first elements of any nation-building mission to arrive. They are often called upon initially to perform many functions that would be better fulfilled by civilian experts, were such available in sufficient numbers. Their first priority, however, should be to establish a modicum of security in what may be a chaotic situation. Success in this task will be key to obtaining support of the population and introducing the civilian components of the mission in adequate numbers. Unless individuals feel safer by reason of the external military presence, they will not collaborate in reporting on criminals, terrorists, or other "spoilers." Unless goods, services, and people can again circulate normally, political and economic reforms cannot begin to take hold. Intervening forces will normally require help from the local police and at least the passive cooperation of the local military to establish a secure environment. Even when available, however, indigenous security services will usually prove incompetent, corrupt, and abusive, requiring close oversight, mentoring, and institutional change.
Once a minimal level of security has been established, the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former combatants should normally become the next priority. Agreement among the contending parties to take part in such a process is often a prerequisite for deployment of an international force. In heavily armed societies with a long tradition of gun ownership, depriving individuals of their small arms may prove impractical. At a minimum, heavy arms should be gathered, stored, or destroyed, and the display of small arms by anyone except state security forces should be banned. Armed units should be broken up and individuals offered alternative livelihoods. It is important the mission arrive with a plan and adequate funding to perform these tasks.
In societies with little formal employment, it will not be possible to find long-term positions for all former combatants. At a minimum, the reintegration program should occupy and support these individuals for a period long enough to allow units to be broken up and the ties among their members to be loosened. (6)
The military component should establish extensive links with the civilian population. One avenue is through active intelligence collection, surveillance, and reconnaissance. The second is a program of civic action, through which military units support humanitarian and reconstruction assistance. Such tasks fall primarily to the civilian agencies, but the military can often supplement those efforts in useful and visible ways. This needs to be done with some sensitivity, recognizing that humanitarian organizations attach great importance to maintaining their impartiality in conflict environments and will resist close association with an intervening military force, even one operating on behalf of the United Nations.
While most postconflict societies will have more of their own soldiers than they need, they will probably have fewer police. Even as local armies need to be scaled back and reformed, police forces need to be bolstered and also reformed. The military contingent of the mission is often involved in the former process and sometimes in the latter, although the police training function is better assigned to civilian police where available.
Forced entries are often the prelude to demanding peace enforcement operations. The entries themselves may not prove particularly difficult--indeed, in recent decades these have invariably been achieved rapidly and with minimal loss to the entering force. By contrast, the postcombat stabilization and reconstruction phase has been much more time-consuming and costly.
Stabilizing an internally divided society without significant indigenous capacity for security can require an external military force of 10 to 20 soldiers per 1,000 inhabitants. In circumstances where the parties to the conflict have jointly sought external intervention and are prepared to collaborate with it, that requirement can be reduced on occasion to less than one soldier per 1,000 inhabitants. Where only this lower force ratio is likely to be achieved, deployment should normally be conditioned upon prior agreement among the contending parties to disarm and collaborate with the intervening force.
The cost for fielding an American or NATO force is about $200,000 per soldier per year. The cost of fielding the normal UN peacekeeping force is about $45,000 per soldier per year. High-end peace enforcement operations require, on average, 10 times more military manpower per inhabitment is appropriately a last rather than first resort, to be employed only where the stakes are great and the intervening powers highly committed.
Public security is the first responsibility of any intervening authorities. That security is sometimes imperiled by contending armies and always threatened by criminals, gangs, and violence-prone political groups. International military forces are best suited for dealing with the first sort of threat, police with the rest.
Military police are better than standard infantry for some public security functions--such as crowd control--but less suited than civilian police for criminal investigations or community policing. On the other hand, most international civilian police are not well equipped to deal with well-organized crime or large-scale violence. In many ways the ideal police for nation-building missions are gendarmerie-type units that combine military discipline with a high level of investigative, forensic, and intelligence collection skills. Unfortunately, only a few countries maintain such forces. Consequently, they are always in short supply.
UN peacekeeping forces typically deploy about one policeman for every 10 soldiers. These international police monitor, mentor, and train local police forces. Where the local police have disintegrated entirely, international police may need to undertake law enforcement functions themselves. This requires a much larger contingent of international police, something only really feasible for extremely well-resourced operations in smaller countries.
Local police will need to be quickly vetted and closely supervised. In the medium term, they will need to be thoroughly reformed or replaced entirely. In the longer term, the new or retrained police will need to be mentored, supported, and held accountable. Intervening authorities should arrive with plans, funding, and personnel to begin performing at least the first two functions immediately.
In addition to the United Nations, the European Union has developed the capacity to deploy significant numbers of international police. The UN currently deploys over 7,000 police in postconflict situations; the EU has set a goal of being able to deploy up to 5,000. The United States currently deploys some 300 international police officers, mostly in Kosovo. It continues to rely on private contractors for this purpose. This arrangement is clearly inferior to a system wherein the deployed police would be US government employees rather than contractors, with the greater reciprocal degree of loyalty, discipline, and commitment that relationship implies. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States has failed to deploy any civilian police whatsoever. (7)
Most postconflict societies require at least two of their own policemen for every 1,000 inhabitants. The intervening authorities should anticipate the need to rebuild, reequip, and, for the first several years at least, pay a police force of this magnitude. The annual cost per local police officer will be approximately three times that country's per capita GDP. International police, by contrast, cost about $150,000 per person per year. Where the responsibilities of international police are limited to oversight, mentoring, and training of local police, one for every 10,000 inhabitants may be adequate. Where they assume a direct law enforcement role, one for every 1,000 inhabitants may be needed.
Rule of Law
In most nation-building operations, efforts to rebuild the judiciary and corrections systems have taken second place to police reform. This is unfortunate and counterproductive. Police who lack prisons in which to put criminals and judges before whom to bring them will inevitably be left with the invidious choice of either punishing miscreants themselves or letting them go. Either alternative will corrupt and demoralize the best-trained force.
A first-order issue to be addressed in most nation-building missions is what law to enforce. The usual answer is to take the country's most recently promulgated criminal code, purge it of obviously abusive statutes, and employ it as the law of the land. In some cases, intervening authorities may have to go further into the past to find a criminal code acceptable to the population. Occasionally, it may have to promulgate laws of its own. These are decisions that should be made as part of the preparation for the mission so newly arriving troops and police have a clear idea of what rules are to be enforced.
In societies emerging from prolonged civil war, the legal system will likely have ceased to function. There will be an absence of judges, and those available may be unqualified. Courts and prisons may have been destroyed, and those which survive will be stripped of essentials. As with the police, the short-term objective will be to vet the judiciary and corrections staff" and oversee their activities; in the medium term to reform and rebuild both these institutions; and in the long term to foster the development of a rule of law culture. These activities should proceed in parallel with police reform.
Establishing the balance between retribution and reconciliation in societies emerging from conflict or tyranny presents a particular challenge. Who to punish and who to forgive, who to exclude from the new dispensation and who to co-opt into it, are choices that cannot be entirely avoided.
War crimes tribunals provide a judicial vehicle for holding accountable those most responsible for past atrocities. The local society will seldom be capable of mounting a credible legal process. International tribunals, on the other hand, are hugely expensive and may lack legitimacy in the eyes of the affected populations. Mixed tribunals, in which international and local judges sit together, can help address some of these difficulties.
Lustration represents an administrative approach to the same problem. Here the intention is to assess group rather than personal responsibility. The objective is not so much to punish as to exclude the affected group from future influence, usually by barring members from public employment and sometimes stripping them of other civil rights. Denazification in post-WWII Germany, demilitarization in Japan, and debaathification in Iraq are examples of this process.
Truth commissions lie near the opposite end of the retribution/reconciliation spectrum. These are nonjudicial inquiries into past abuses with a view to assessing blame but not levying penalties. In going this route, society is saying, "We are prepared to forgive but not forget."
It is clearly easier to exact retribution in circumstances where the conflict has produced clear winners and losers, particularly if the losers have lost so badly as to preclude any further resistance. This is seldom the case. In other circumstances, any effort to impose accountability for crimes committed in the course of conflict, whether through judicial or administrative processes, may occasion more resistance than the intervening authority is capable of suppressing.
War crimes tribunals are sometimes employed by the international community as an alternative to intervention rather than as an adjunct. In such instances, tribunals serve principally as a means of assuaging the international community's conscience without requiring it to commit the troops and money needed to actually stop the crimes it abhors and punish the perpetrators. Proponents argue that the simple threat of judicial action at some indefinite point in the future will curb abusive behavior. As yet, there is scant empirical support for this thesis.
In the context of nation building, war crimes tribunals and lustration should be employed only in those rare situations where the intervening authority is equipped to enforce the outcome and ready to deal effectively with the resultant resistance. Applied in any other circumstances, the effect is likely to be increased polarization of the society in question and may make an eventual resumption of violence more, rather than less, likely.
Humanitarian operations often precede nation-building missions, having been initiated in response to the conflict and sustained in many cases throughout its course. Thus, while the arrival of peacekeepers may signal the opening of an operation for most of its constituent elements, it can signal the beginning of the end for those engaged in lifesaving humanitarian relief efforts, as displaced persons are helped to return to their homes, refugee camps are closed, and public services restored.
Most major humanitarian relief agencies are professionally staffed, highly experienced, and comparatively well resourced. While funding for nation building is almost always in short supply, humanitarian relief is that aspect donors are most inclined to fund, thus relief efforts are usually among the least problematic of any nation-building mission. We have found no mission whose overall success was compromised by inadequacies in this aspect of its operations. On the other hand, there are many examples of situations in which the intervening authorities' failure to establish a modicum of public security has made it impossible for humanitarian agencies to complete their tasks or even to sustain lifesaving assistance to threatened populations.
In cases where the intervening authorities quickly establish a reasonably secure environment, relief operations usually proceed smoothly. Refugees return, sometimes with surprising rapidity. Public services are gradually restored, including public health services. The economy revives, and within a year or two, most humanitarian agencies move on to another emergency or shift their emphasis from lifesaving to developmental activities.
Coordination between military and humanitarian organizations is never easy. The number of such organizations has grown vastly in recent years; not all are of the highest quality. All humanitarian organizations seek to remain impartial, even when the United Nations is lined up on one side and local outlaws on the other. This may seem anomalous, as it is often the same donor governments who are funding the humanitarian efforts and manning the intervening military force. Humanitarian organizations feel strongly, however, that their ability to gain access to exposed populations depends upon maintaining strict impartiality. Accordingly, representatives of such organizations carefully limit their interactions with international peacekeepers, even when they look to these forces for security.
Coordination becomes particularly difficult when intervening authorities have failed to establish a secure environment. The usual division of labor between international military forces and humanitarian organizations is then difficult to maintain. Humanitarian organizations may find themselves unable to provide relief in very dangerous areas. International military units may feel compelled to step into this void and begin delivering relief supplies, in the process blurring the distinction between combatant and humanitarian worker. While such arrangements are preferable to a complete absence of humanitarian relief, it is generally best if the military and the humanitarian organizations each concentrate upon their respective primary tasks: maintaining security and delivering assistance.
Societies emerging from conflict may be able to wait for democracy, but they need a government immediately if there is to be any law enforcement, education, or health care. National governments are usually responsible for regulating and in some instances providing electricity and telecommunications. In most cases, municipal governments provide water and sanitation.
While the intervening authorities may initially serve as the government, they will never be in a position to deliver these services long-term. They must rely on host country nationals and, in most cases, local institutions to provide public services. The intervening authorities may provide funding, guidance, and oversight, but teachers, health care workers, and most of the police force must be drawn from the host country.
Intervening authorities select people and organizations to deliver these services. These individuals and organizations are provided funds and power. The intervening authorities must be attentive from the start to ensure that their choices do not discriminate against groups, especially those that were party to the conflict. They need to choose partners carefully with a view to creating a government and distribution of power that will be sustainable when they leave.
Many services can best be provided at the local level. Rebuilding government from the bottom up allows new leadership to emerge, including individuals unassociated with the recent conflict. On the other hand, empowering local officials before the national government has been reconstituted can feed sectional conflict in circumstances where the relationship between the center and the periphery is unsettled.
The intervening authorities will have to meet much, perhaps all, of the initial costs of restoring basic government services. The requirement for financing for public health, education, and general government administration can be expected to run about 10 percent of the country's preconflict GDP.
The resumption of commerce requires the availability of a reasonably stable medium of exchange. Sustained growth is virtually impossible in periods of very high inflation. While donors may initially finance the resumption of government services, it is important to quickly reconstruct the host state's capability to allocate that funding and oversee its expenditure and to expand its capacity to collect its own sources of revenue. As more money is pumped into government, there are greater opportunities for corruption, which will require institutions for auditing and accountability and the creation of a professional civil service for control.
Early attention should be given to creating or strengthening a central bank, ministry of finance, and civil service commission to meet these needs. Occasionally a foreign currency is adopted as the medium of exchange, but more often a national currency is preferred to preserve the option of adjusting the exchange rate to better manage economic activity. Among the most difficult tasks facing the central bank will be ensuring that commercial banks become and remain solvent.
Donor budget support will be required to keep government expenditures and revenue in balance, avoiding the need to print more money. Donor conferences are the usual vehicle for assuring an adequate flow of funding. It is usually best to hold at least two such meetings, the first for immediate humanitarian, security, and economic stabilization needs; the second, a year or two later, to focus upon longer-term development. The World Bank and the UN Development Program should be asked to prepare a needs assessment for these conferences. The International Monetary Fund should take the lead in establishing or reforming the central bank and providing it the wherewithal to manage the currency.
Neither the United States nor the United Nations deploys military forces to make poor nations rich or even to make authoritarian states democratic. They do employ armed force to transform violent societies into peaceful ones. Democratization alone will not ensure this outcome. On the contrary, elections may be polarizing events in already divided societies. Thus, in the context of nation building, the process of democratization should be seen, not as an end in itself, but as a practical means of redirecting the ongoing competition for wealth and power that exists in all human societies from violent into peaceful channels.
With most international interventions, the preexisting forms of government will have been irremediably disrupted or discredited in the preceding conflict. The sole modern exception to this rule was Kuwait in 1991, where the United States was able to liberate the country and immediately turn it back over to its hereditary ruling house. In most cases this option will not be available, and the establishment of representative institutions based on popular sovereignty will offer the only viable basis for reconstituting state authority in a manner likely to be acceptable to most of the population.
In considering constitutional design, a first step is to analyze the sources of violent conflict in the society. An exceptionally strong and committed intervening authority may be able to dispossess one group and empower another in an enduring fashion. In most circumstances, however, success in nation building will depend more upon co-option than exclusion of potential spoilers. In societies divided by sectarian strife, it may be necessary to craft power-sharing arrangements that limit the authority of the majority and provide guarantees to the minorities beyond those found in more developed democracies.
Democracies come in many shapes and sizes. Left to their own devices, intervening powers will tend toward replicating their own institutions, while local populations will be inclined to opt for a system with which they are familiar, even if that system has served them poorly in the past. In most cases, it will be better to adapt the locally familiar to new circumstances, rather than import wholly new arrangements unfamiliar to host country citizens. Nevertheless, some degree of innovation will be necessary, since the forms of government with which the society is fully familiar will have usually failed them in the past and would likely do so in the future if resurrected.
Ideally, national elections should be preceded by the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former combatants, the growth of civil society, the establishment of independent media, the development of political parties, and the holding of local elections. This sequence may not always be fully achievable. In some instances the intervening authorities may be too weak to resist the call from dominant elements in the society for early elections or to administer the society without the support of a government legitimized through the electoral process.
The United Nations is the best source of expertise on the development of transitional and permanent political systems. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has developed considerable expertise in the promotion of civil society, the establishment of independent media, and the development of political parties, although its activities have so far been limited to Eurasia. Several nations, including the United States and Germany, maintain publicly financed party-based organizations that specialize in helping foster the development of political parties in emerging democracies. The International Federation for Election Systems (IFES) has organized elections in dozens of countries around the world under the most challenging of conditions.
Infrastructure and Development
Postconflict societies are attractive candidates for development assistance. Dollar-for-dollar aid to nations emerging from war will result in much higher levels of growth than the same amount provided to more-settled societies. Postconflict societies also can use more assistance, as measured as a share of GDP, than more-settled societies. Whereas most
developing societies cannot usefully absorb assistance representing more than about 20 percent of their annual GDP, postconflict nations can make good use of aid representing up to 40 percent of their GDP, and in the first year following conflict, up to 70 percent.
The quality of policies adopted by the intervening authorities and the host government will be as important as the volume of assistance in determining the latter's utility. Controlling inflation, balancing the government budget (in the early years via large transfer payments from international donors), creating regulatory and tax systems conducive to growth, reducing or eliminating subsidies, attracting investment, and operating utilities and state-owned enterprises on a sound market-oriented basis will be essential to fostering sustained growth. Reforms of this nature will necessarily occasion resistance. The process needs to be managed in ways that draw the society's major contending factions into a process of peaceful competition and away from a return to violent conflict.
The term reconstruction, when used to describe the reform of postconflict societies, conveys the sense that physical rebuilding of homes, factories, roads, and power plants destroyed in the war is the prime need. This is misleading. Even more than infrastructure, nations emerging from conflict need better institutions. In most cases, these institutions need to be refashioned, not just rebuilt, since it is the old institutions that will have failed in the first place. This is as true in the economic sphere as in the political. Novelty, however, is not necessarily a virtue. Institutions should be refashioned with an eye to local history and culture as well as to efficiency if the changes are to secure broad and enduring acceptance.
As regards physical infrastructure, the intervening authorities should give priority to fixing those related to security, health care, education, power, water, and sanitation in an effort to raise these services to something approaching prewar levels. The focus should be on emergency repair, not new investment. The improvement as opposed to the repair of infrastructure should be funded through project finance by international financial institutions like the World Bank or other lenders rather than through bilateral grant assistance. Project finance imposes disciplines that are too frequently absent from schemes funded with grant assistance, requiring as the former does all the parties to address issues of size, cost, and repayment in light of demand, anticipated revenues, and rate setting.
Security is an essential precondition for productive investment. Money spent on infrastructure and development will be largely wasted if people, goods, and services are subject to high levels of kidnapping or attack.
The Cost of Nation Building
Most historical nation-building operations have fallen into one of two categories. The first is peacekeeping missions mounted on the basis of prior agreement among the warring parties. The second is peace enforcement operations launched over the opposition of one or more of the indigenous factions. Interventions of the first type have typically been led by the United Nations; those of the second by a major global or regional power or alliance of such powers. Peace enforcement actions have proved much more expensive than peacekeeping operations and particularly so for the leading participants. (8)
The chart below looks at the requirements for the two types of operations in the same hypothetical country. The nation in question is rather small and very poor, with a population of 5 million and a per capita income of $500, thus similar in size and level of development to Haiti, Sierra Leone, or Liberia. The light peacekeeping operation assumes a permissive entry, acquiescent population, and some level of remaining local capacity for governance and security. The heavy peace enforcement mission assumes a forced entry, a more hostile or divided population, and little or no immediately available indigenous capacity for governance and security. In both cases the society is assumed to be generating no significant government revenue, thus requiring that nearly all public services be initially funded by the intervening authorities. More prosperous postconflict societies are usually able to fund some appreciable share of their own government operations themselves, but their reconstruction may nevertheless pose a larger burden on external donors because public services in such societies are more expensive to provide due to higher wage rates. Thus, somewhat counterintuitively, nation building can be more expensive in relatively developed societies, like Bosnia or Iraq, than in highly underdeveloped ones like Afghanistan or Sierra Leone.
A light peacekeeping operation in this hypothetical society is estimated to require 9,000 international soldiers and police at a total cost of $1.5 billion per year. A heavy peace enforcement mission could require up to 80,000 troops and cost $15 billion per year. (9) These figures are consistent with the actual costs and manning levels of UN-led peacekeeping and US--led peace enforcement operations over the past several decades. Over this period, heavy nationally or alliance-led peace enforcement missions have proved, on average, to require approximately 10 times more manpower and money, on a per capita basis, than lighter, UN--led peacekeeping missions.
The expense of any nation-building mission is shared among troop contributors, aid donors, and the international community as a whole according to various burden-sharing formulae. The costs for UN--led operations are spread most widely. Those for nationally led peace enforcement missions fall more heavily upon the lead nation and its principal allies.
Is Nation Building Cost Effective?
Even the lighter, more consensual, less ambitious approach to nation building epitomized by UN peacekeeping operations represents an expensive enterprise, although not more expensive than allowing a conflict, once halted, to be renewed. Put differently, conflicts generally impose greater costs upon the international community than the expense necessary to ensure that the cycle of violence, once halted for whatever reason, is not renewed. While it may be prohibitively expensive to forcefully halt a civil war in full swing, experience has shown that interventions intended to consolidate and perpetuate tentative peace are cost effective.
In addition to the horrendous human costs, war inflicts extraordinary economic costs on societies. And no wars inflict such damage as civil wars. The destruction of homes and facilities, the disruption of commerce, and the killing and maiming of citizens have impoverished all the states we have analyzed. Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler have attempted to quantify some of the economic costs of civil war. They find that on average civil wars reduce prospective economic output by 2.2 percent per year for the duration of the conflict. However, once peace is restored, economic activity resumes, and in a number of cases, the economies grow.
Collier and Hoeffler examine various policy options to reduce the incidence and duration of civil wars. They find postconflict military intervention to be highly cost effective, in fact, the most cost-effective option they analyze. (10) The historical record demonstrates that unless peacekeeping forces are deployed as part of the international community's overall response, most societies emerging from conflict return to it within a few years, no matter how much money, advice, or other forms of assistance they may receive. By contrast, the majority of postconflict societies where peacekeepers have been deployed remain at peace after the international troops are finally withdrawn.
The effects of successful interventions may also be measured in a sharp overall decline in deaths from armed conflict around the world over the past decade. During the 1990s, deaths from armed conflict were averaging over 200,000 per year. In 2003, this number had come down to 27,000, a fivefold decrease in deaths from civil and international conflict. Since 2003, the numbers of civil conflicts and resultant casualties have continued to drop, although more slowly. (11)
The cost of UN nation building tends to look quite modest when compared to the cost of larger and more demanding US-led operations. Over the past several years the United States has been spending some $4 billion per month to support its military operations in Iraq. This is approximately what the United Nations will spend to run all 16 of its current peacekeeping missions for a year. Therefore, the cost for one year of US operations in Iraq could approach the cost for all UN peacekeeping from 1945 to the present day. The United States pays only one-quarter of the UN peacekeeping budget; thus, the annual US contribution for all UN peacekeeping is less than the cost of one week's operations in Iraq.
This is not to suggest that the United Nations could perform the US mission in Iraq more cheaply--or perform it at all--but simply to underline that there are 16 other places where the United States will probably not have to intervene because UN troops are already doing so at a tiny fraction of the cost.
The ultimate objective of any nation-building mission is to leave behind a society likely to remain at peace with itself and its neighbors once external security forces are removed and full sovereignty is restored. This will likely require some level of democratization and economic development. Neither endeavor, however, can assure peace, and either, if pushed injudiciously, can exacerbate rather than ameliorate the tendency toward renewed violence so prevalent in societies emerging from conflict. If peace is to be created, security is key. Only when a modicum of security has been restored do prospects for democracy and sustained economic growth brighten.
As a practical matter, full-scale peace enforcement actions are feasible only when the intervening authorities care a great deal about the outcome and, even then, only in relatively small societies. Thus, the effort needed to stabilize Bosnia and Kosovo has proved difficult to replicate in Afghanistan or Iraq, nations that are eight to 12 times more populous. It would be even more difficult to mount a peace enforcement mission in Iran, which is three times more populous than Iraq, and nearly impossible to do so in Pakistan, which is three times again more populous than Iran. Considerations of scale therefore suggest that the transformational objectives for intervention in larger societies need to be sharply restrained on account of the much more modest resources, relative to the population, likely to be available.
Nevertheless, the difficulties encountered and costs accrued in Iraq and Afghanistan should not lead Americans to conclude that the entire enterprise of rescuing failed states and reconstructing societies emerging from conflict is beyond them. Tens of millions of people are living in peace today, and mostly under freely elected governments, in places like Mozambique, El Salvador, Namibia, Cambodia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, East Timor, Liberia, and Sierra Leone because US, or UN, or NATO
troops came in, separated the combatants, disarmed and demobilized the contending factions, secured economic growth, organized elections, and remained long enough to ensure government survival. It is important to recognize the true costs and risks associated with such exercises, but in most cases such a careful cost/benefit analysis will favor external intervention once the parties to conflict are ready to make peace.
(1.) The US and UN experiences in modern nation building are examined and compared in two RAND volumes: Dobbins et al., America's Role in Nation Building: From Germany to Iraq (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2003); and Dobbins et al., The UN's Role in Nation Building: From the Congo to Iraq (Santa Monica: RAND, 2005). The European experience is examined in Dobbins et al., Europe's Role in Nation Building: From the Balkans to the Congo (Santa Monica: RAND, 2008).
(2.) Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler, The Challenge of Reducing the Global Incidence of Civil War, Copenhagen Challenge Paper (Oxford: Center for the Study of African Economies, Department of Economics, Oxford University, 23 April 2004).
(3.) Dobbins et al., After the War: Nation Building from FDR to George W. Bush (Santa Monica: RAND, 2008), examines the role of presidential personality, decision-making processes, and bureaucratic structure on the outcome of nation-building-type missions.
(4.) For a more extensive exploration of the necessary components for a successful nationbuilding mission, see Dobbins et al., The Beginner's Guide to Nation Building (Santa Monica: RAND, 2007).
(5.) The main criterion for success in any peacekeeping endeavor is whether, on departing, one is able to leave behind a society at peace with itself and its neighbors. The UN has achieved this objective over the past 20 years in a significant number of places, to include Namibia, El Salvador, Mozambique, Cambodia, East Timor, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. All of these once war-torn countries are today at peace, and all except Cambodia are ruled by freely elected governments.
(6.) In many low-income countries, the problem is not so much unemployment as poverty. In such societies people must work to survive. In consequence few are idle, but many make only a subsistence living by engaging in agriculture, manual day labor, or petty commerce. Employment in such societies is often equated with a government job, the only major source of a steady income. This definition leads to high unemployment statistics, which do not reflect the actual levels of gainful activity. In societies where the government is almost the only formal employer, it will not often be possible to fine long-term "employment" for large numbers of disbanded former combatants. It will be necessary in such circumstances to institute short- to medium-term programs to employ and retrain these individuals, while at the same time seeking to promote economic activity and reduce poverty in the society as a whole.
(7.) International police are uniformed police officers who monitor local police or enforce the law themselves. Civilian instructors in police training establishments, who may be former policemen, are not normally counted in this category.
(8.) For a fuller discussion of the sizing and costing of nation-building missions, see the relevant chapter in Dobbins et al., Beginner's Guide to Nation Building.
(9.) In three instances the projections differ substantially. The size, capability, and cost of the international military force that intervenes under the heavy peace enforcement operation are substantially more than in the light peacekeeping scenario, consistent with the international community's experience with these two types of operations. For the heavy peace enforcement scenario, we calculated the number of soldiers using the average number of international military personnel deployed in the first year of eight peace enforcement operations (East Timor, Eastern Slavonia, Japan, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq; we excluded the two outliers--Germany on the high end and Afghanistan on the low end--from the average). For the light peacekeeping scenario, we used the average number of soldiers in the first year of six peacekeeping operations: Congo (in the 1960s), Namibia, Cambodia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and El Salvador.
Numbers of international police also differ. For the heavy peace enforcement scenario, we computed the number of police using the average number of international police deployed in the first year in three operations: Bosnia, East Timor, and Kosovo. (The average was 161 per 100,000 inhabitants; Afghanistan, Germany, and Japan were excluded from the average because no civilian international police were deployed to these three countries.) For the light peacekeeping scenario, we used the average number of police in the first year of eight less-ambitious operations with international police components: Congo (in the 1960s), Namibia, El Salvador, Cambodia, Somalia, Mozambique, Haiti, and Sierra Leone.
Finally, we assumed that the willingness of foreign donors to fund infrastructure development was less in the peacekeeping than in the peace enforcement scenarios. For the peacekeeping scenario, we assumed that the international community would fund reconstruction to the tune of 16 percent of GDP, the level funded in Bosnia the second year after the end of the conflict. For the peace enforcement scenario, we assumed that the international community would fund reconstruction at a high level: 30 percent of GDP, the level provided Bosnia the first year after the end of the conflict.
(10.) Collier and Hoeffler, Challenge of Reducing the Global Incidence of Civil War, 3; and Dobbins et al., UN's Role in Nation Building, 247.
(11.) "Human Security Report 2005," Human Security Center, University of British Colombia, and the "Human Security Briefs" for 2006 and 2007 from the same center, http://www.hsrgroup.org/human-security-reports/human-security-report.aspx.
Amb. James F. Dobbins directs RAND's International Security and Defense Policy Center. He has held high-level posts in the State Department and in the White House, including ambassador to the European Community, and has handled a variety of crisis management assignments in the Clinton administration and as the Bush administration's first special envoy for Afghanistan. He is lead author of the three-volume RAND History of Nation-Building and Occupying Iraq: A History of the Coalition Provisional Authority.
The Costs of Nation Building (in a hypothetical country of 5 million people with a per capita GDP of $500) Light Peacekeeping PERSONNEL COST SECTOR Local Int'l (Million$) Military 8,000 360 15,000 50 Police 1,000 170 11,000 18 Rule of Law 18 Humanitarian 170 Governance 260 Economic Stabilization 30 Democratization 50 Development and 390 Infrastructure TOTAL 26,000 9,000 1,520 Heavy Peace Enforcement PERSONNEL COST SECTOR Local Int'l (Million$) Military 65,000 13,000 15,000 50 Police 8,000 1,250 11,000 18 Rule of Law 18 Humanitarian 170 Governance 260 Economic Stabilization 30 Democratization 50 Development and 750 Infrastructure TOTAL 26,000 73,000 15,600
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|Author:||Dobbins, James F.|
|Publication:||Strategic Studies Quarterly|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2010|
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