Preparing for the Third Generation of Conflict, Stabilization, and Reconstruction Operations

Preparing for the Third Generation of Conflict, Stabilization, and Reconstruction Operations - A Center for Strategic and International Studies report by Johanna Mendelson Forman and Liora Danan; project lead Robert D. Lamb.

The content of this report has been informed by two workshops convened by CSIS in the spring of 2012, 10 years after the creation of the joint CSIS/Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) Post-Conflict Reconstruction (PCR) Commission. In March 2012, a group of 22 experts met for a half-day meeting at CSIS, “Politics and Prospects for Stabilization and Reconstruction: PCR Ten Years Later.” Those experts discussed the PCR Commission’s influences and the continuing challenges—substantive, political, and economic—that the field faces in the wake of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other conflicts. A second half-day roundtable in May 2012, “The Case for Conflict and Stabilization Operations Today,” brought together 41 leading and emerging experts to discuss how the case for helping to stabilize foreign countries has changed in the past 10 years and to consider what case can be made for engaging in conflict and stabilization operations today. The event opened with reflections from the original PCR Commission’s cochairs, Dr. John Hamre and General Gordon Sullivan, followed by an overview of the changes over the past decade and the significance of the commission by former codirectors Robert Orr and Johanna Mendelson Forman; featured former commissioners and both established and emerging thinkers in the field; and finished with a working lunch with Ambassador Rick Barton, assistant secretary for the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations.

The first two sections of this report briefly review the first two generations of U.S. engagement in what was then called “post-conflict reconstruction” and later termed “stabilization and reconstruction.” The first generation, from the end of the Cold War to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, was characterized by strong interplay between the United States and multilateral organizations in coordinating to help countries in conflict. The second generation, from 9/11 to the end of the “surges” in Iraq and Afghanistan, was influenced by the PCR Commission’s work on the essential tasks needed for reconstruction and, later, by new doctrine for counterinsurgency. We have now entered a third generation in which skepticism about the value of and capabilities for doing this work is on the upswing. After a decade of conflict, the public is tired and resources are declining. The report’s third section, therefore, considers the current state of the field in light of the political and economic mood of the United States today. The final section of this report offers broad recommendations based on the lessons of the past decade.

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Interesting statement:

"There is a growing recognition of the need to move from a sole emphasis on state building and institution building toward a more pragmatic engagement with de facto authority structures, including nonstate actors and hybrid political institutions on the ground. This is particularly relevant in conflict-affected countries, where significant territory is often controlled by a nonstate actor or a rogue government official."

Maybe someone is coming to the realization that we cannot change a society's culture ... probably not.