Strategic Insights: Fragile States Cannot Be Fixed With State-Building   [open pdf - 76KB]

"The problem with the way the international community thinks about and responds to fragile states is not that we do not understand 'fragility,' its causes, and its cures, but that we think of them as 'states,' as coherent units of analysis. As a result of this strategic level mistake, efforts to build state capacity to contain violence and reduce poverty are at least as likely to destabilize the country as they are to help. The U.S. military should consider the destabilizing potential of its efforts to build capacity, train and equip security forces, and provide support to diplomacy and development when its partners and beneficiaries are officials of fragile states. State formation has always been an exceedingly bloody endeavor. Most stable countries worthy of the term 'state' that are stable, including wealthy, Western, liberal, or democratic nation-states, came into being through complicated social processes, including war, ethnic cleansing, or genocide. That violence was followed by an institutionalization of the values and social priorities of the victors, combined with some degree of accommodation for the vanquished across and within the new state's borders. State formation, in other words, has always been a matter of violent exclusion followed by pragmatic inclusion. In all successful states today, those processes have resulted in stable formal political systems, with a significant degree of internal consensus over how those systems should be governed."

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