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Thread: Is the United States learning from prior attempts at nation-building?

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    Default Is the United States learning from prior attempts at nation-building?

    The following blog was a project for a college course on insurgency, counterinsurgency, and nation-building:

    The Afghanistan surge and AFPAK plan suggests that policymakers in Washington have, at the very least, cracked a history textbook or two. When we take into account every major attempt the U.S. has made at nation-building since World War II, a few trends become strikingly obvious.

    First, the amount of security (military and/or police) present in the country correlates with the speed and durability of the nation-building. Generally speaking, a greater security personnel-to-indigenous population ratio results in a more successful operation. For example, post-WWII rebuilding in Germany and post-intervention Kosovo and Bosnia (each considered successful nation-building operations) had security-population ratios of 100, 20, and 18.6 military personnel to 1,000 civilians (respectively). On the other hand, failed attempts in Haiti and Somalia only netted 3.5: 1000 and 5: 1000 ratios at their peaks (Dobbins, 2009).

    At the end of 2007, the total U.S. deployments in Afghanistan (combat and non-combat) fell just under .9 personnel per 1000 Afghans—the lowest of any U.S. nation-building attempt since World War II. In 2008, the Bush administration shifted focus from Iraq to Afghanistan. By June of that year, security-population ratios jumped to 1.5: 1000 (O’Bryant, 2008). Under the Obama administration’s strategy, initial estimated troop increases in Afghanistan would grow the ratio to at least 2: 1000. While these numbers still fall short of the historical ideal, bolstering U.S. troop presence should carry a notable effect on security over the next year.

    The second major historical trend expanded on under the AFPAK plan is external assistance per capita. U.S. nation-building assistance to Bosnia (1996-1997) totaled $1400 and Kosovo (2000-2001) totaled $800 per capita. Both countries held democratic elections within three years, and Kosovo witnessed the quickest GDP recovery following conflict of any nation-building operation since World War II (Dobbins, 2009). U.S. nation-building assistance in Haiti (1995-1996) fell below $200 per capita, and Haitian GDP experienced little growth since intervention. Based on these examples, assistance per capita directly correlates with the level of success of nation-building. In 2002, approximate assistance to Afghanistan ranked below Haiti at $100 per capita (Dobbins, 2009). This year, $1.5 billion in development assistance under the Obama administration’s AFPAK strategy is already pledged to tribal regions of Afghanistan. The package alone will increase assistance by $45 per capita.

    Obviously, there are countless other factors (geography, socio-political differences, sources of conflict, history, etc.) to consider when engaging in and measuring the success of nation-building-- and all vary on a case-by-case basis. Thus, a “one size fits all” nation-building strategy built around security and assistance per capita ratios is no assurance of success. I believe that at the end of the day, more is certainly better—but the biggest guarantee of success is how effectively security personnel is used and development assistance is spent rather than the actual quantities dumped into a given country.


    Sources:
    Dobbins, James. America's Role in Nation-Building; From German to Iraq. RAND. 2009.
    O’Bryant, JoAnne. CRS Report to Congress; U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. 15 July, 2008.
    White Paper of the Interagency Policy Group's Report on U.S. Policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan. March 2009.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default A wider view reveals more?

    I appreciate you've written from an American viewpoint. Is there no mileage or any lessons learnt from other places in recent times, particularly where the UN has played a major role?

    Particularly thinking of countries that have emerged from a troubled past, just a few examples: Mozambique, Cambodia and Namibia. Would your principles apply just as well there?

    Why have some former colonies made progress and others not?

    Another thread has reminded me that at a non-policy level Americans have served in troubled places, e.g. Darfur and returned to the USA to impart their experience. SWC has two prominient members who were in Zaire and Rwanda, who regularly impart their wisdom.

    From this "armchair" it is sometimes not the lessons learned that matter, but who brings the lessons to attention.

    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Post Just a quick side note

    Quote Originally Posted by ridek View Post
    The Afghanistan surge and AFPAK plan suggests that policymakers in Washington have, at the very least, cracked a history textbook or two. When we take into account every major attempt the U.S. has made at nation-building since World War II, a few trends become strikingly obvious. (emphasis Ron)
    I note you used the term AFPAK. Exactly where did that come from. Have heard the concerns with using such a shorthand and not sure I completely disagree that it might not be a good idea to in a verbal sense inextricably link the two very seperate countries as if they were one. It may tend to conflate that which should not be while not necessarily providing the linkage it proportadly seeks to.

    I also tend to agree with David in that the most effective lessons have not been found in historical statistics(although they do help) but rather through those who have actually performed the mental and physical gymnastics sharing the knowledge and wisdom they gained through those experiences.
    Any man can destroy that which is around him, The rare man is he who can find beauty even in the darkest hours

    Cogitationis poenam nemo patitur

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    Default

    The focus on this particular entry for my class was on the United States' role in nation-building. Even within these limitations, post-WWII Japan stands out as a bit of an enigma. I omitted it from the first post because it was a major outlier from the rest of the examples I had available (and my post was running a bit long). U.S. troop deployments in 1945 Japan were roughly the same proportion to the intervention in Somalia, and per capita assistance was half of what was spent in Haiti.

    There is a major factor to consider with Japan's success though-- Japanese as a whole no longer had the political will to keep fighting. Nation-building efforts were certainly aided by the extra stability.

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Sociology mixed with Anthropology...

    Quote Originally Posted by ridek View Post
    The focus on this particular entry for my class was on the United States' role in nation-building. Even within these limitations, post-WWII Japan stands out as a bit of an enigma. I omitted it from the first post because it was a major outlier from the rest of the examples I had available (and my post was running a bit long). U.S. troop deployments in 1945 Japan were roughly the same proportion to the intervention in Somalia, and per capita assistance was half of what was spent in Haiti.

    There is a major factor to consider with Japan's success though-- Japanese as a whole no longer had the political will to keep fighting. Nation-building efforts were certainly aided by the extra stability.
    RideK, in regards to japan, you may want to consider Roosevelt's great white fleet impact on Japan society and the eventually submital to western thought.

    v/r

    Mike

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    I am under the impression that "AFPAK" is the actual name of the plan (or at least how the Obama administration refers to the strategy). I personally do not agree with lumping Afghanistan and Pakistan together in a single plan, and the name "AFPAK" is misleading. However, it appears that Pakistan and Afghanistan are addressed largely independently under "AFPAK" in terms of development assistance (and possibly security). A lot of the finer details of the plan are still unclear to me at this time. I will look into it and get back to you.

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    Council Member Surferbeetle's Avatar
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    Default References...

    Ridek,

    Appreciate your analysis, and I too am a fan of Ambassador Dobbins work. One of these Saturdays I am interested in looking at essential infrastructure/population ratios and comparing them with security ratios such as the ones you developed. I think kluging the security and infrastructure numbers together in a graph might make for a telling picture.

    Reference the term AFPAK Robert D. Kaplan has a book entitled Soldiers of God With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan and Pakistan which you might find to be of interest as a data point in your research. His book was originally published in 1990. One of England's finest steered me towards an author by the name of Greg Mills and his book 'From Africa to Afghanistan: With Richards and NATO to Kabul'...haven't read it yet but I will before the year is out...perhaps you are familiar with it?

    Regards.

    Steve
    Last edited by Surferbeetle; 04-09-2009 at 03:32 AM.
    Sapere Aude

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default References: a link

    Ridek,

    This thread: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=6543 is an earlier discussion on Afghanistan prompted by Greg Mills book. His book was commended in the What are you reading thread. Not everyone on SWC was impressed on his ten commandmants. Good book though IMHO.

    davidbfpo

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    Default The most successful

    US military "occupation" and nation building operation since WWII was Panama. As the chief planner for OPORD Blind Logic from 18 May 89 until 16 Dec 89 and later having conducted research (and published - THE FOG OF PEACE, SSI 1992 and CIVIL MILITARY OPERATIONS IN A NEW WORLD, Praeger, 1997 (incorpoating FOG) I followed how we in the USFLG and Military Support Group executed and modified the plan during Operation Promote Liberty. Two points to make: (1) As planners, my predecessors and I used the occupations of Japan and Germany as points of reference; (2) the force ratio during the "occupation" (after Jan 90) was never higher than 5 to 1000 HN civilians.

    I am not convinced that force ratios, themselves, have much meaning.The nature of the threat, degree of resistance, and nature of support for the occupiers weigh a lot more heavily. There is also a certain minimum number of forces required to effectively occupy territory regardless of the size of the population.

    So, I would suggest that Japan really is not an outlier in the sense that the experience there is supported by the experience in Panama.In both cases, the US as occupier was accorded legitimacy by the population and its leadership. In Japan the Emperor conferred legitimacy on MacArthur's "shogunate" while in Panama the Military Support Group provided the tools that the elected government of President Endara needed to govern,

    Nevertheless, US economic development support for Panama was far less than President Bush had promised - even by the USG's own well spun account.Without the loan guarantees - which brought the aid committment w/in $100 million of the promised $1billion, US aid to Panama was less than half that amount.

    A look at Panama today shows a vibrant multi-party electoral democracy which has alternated parties in power for 2 decades and has a strong economy even in these troubled times.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    So, I would suggest that Japan really is not an outlier in the sense that the experience there is supported by the experience in Panama.In both cases, the US as occupier was accorded legitimacy by the population and its leadership. In Japan the Emperor conferred legitimacy on MacArthur's "shogunate" while in Panama the Military Support Group provided the tools that the elected government of President Endara needed to govern,
    I think you've hit the nail on the head, John, with the term "Shogunate" for MacArthur's occupation. Contra ridek's assertion, the Japanese did not loose the will to fight, they were ordered to surrender by the Emperor.

    Apparently, there was a fight as to whether or not the Emperor should be allowed to remain after the surrender. If some of the hotheads had their way and he had been removed, I suspect that there would still be an insurgency in Japan. IMO, there is a lesson here that could have been, but was not, applied to Afghanistan.

    Cheers,

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Default Marc, what did you have in

    mind regarding Afghanistan? My sense is that we got off to a pretty good start there with the Loya Jerga creating a govt and choosing a Pashtun, Hamid Karzai, as president ratifying the choice in a more institutionalized manner later. The choices were legitimated by the King who participated in the process with significant support from the international community - at the beginning. Failure, to my mind was in follow-through.

    Cheers
    JohnT

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default

    Hi John,

    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    mind regarding Afghanistan? My sense is that we got off to a pretty good start there with the Loya Jerga creating a govt and choosing a Pashtun, Hamid Karzai, as president ratifying the choice in a more institutionalized manner later. The choices were legitimated by the King who participated in the process with significant support from the international community - at the beginning. Failure, to my mind was in follow-through.
    I'm not so sure that it really got off to a good start. From what I was hearing as the 2003 Loya Jirga was going on, there was an incredible resistance on the part of the US to re-establish the monarchy in any form. The version i heard, from someone who witnessed it, was that a certain (unnamed) US official said something to the effect of "No way will we have a king! That's barbaric and you're going to be civilized."

    The overt "legitination" by the king came afterwards as a result of that pressure. However, again from the same sources, the original idea was to have the ing's grandson ascend to the throne and re-institute a form of parliamentary democracy. That would have carried on the legitimacy that, in all honesty, Karzai never had.

    Cheers,

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Default Interesting

    because I recall a lot of discussion w/in the US about reinstating the monarchy (constituional) but no significant opposition to it. Not saying it didn't happen but I wasn't hearing about it.

    That said, I (1) understand what you were taking about and (2)have questions at to whether reinstating the monarchy would have worked. Unlike Japan, where the institution of the Emperor had never been challenged (his power yes but not the institution) and he was worshipped as a god, the king had been deposed, as, indeed, others had and was living in exile. Could restorig the King / monarchy have provided greater legitimacy? Perhaps. But it might also have created its own oppostion as it had before.

    As we all know, an analogy only gives hints of possibilities because they are not the same as the situation in question.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default

    Good points, John. On the whole, i would have to say that re-instituting the monarchy would have added legitimacy to the Afghan gov't. Would this have been enough? No idea. Still, a restored monarchy would have had more legitimacy than a brand new presidency with no historical legitimacy at all.
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Default I suppose I could make

    some stupid comment about you Canadians being more British than the Brits , but then, despite what I wasn't hearing at NDU, the policy position you heard might very well have been taken by some really anti-monarchical American in a decision making position. Marc, on the basis of everything I have read, I would be inclined to agree that a restored monarchy likely would have been both stabilizing and legitimating. Of course, we could both be wrong - however unlikely that would be.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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