The Value and Limitations of Minimalist Stabilization Efforts
Oct 1, 2012
The authors assess the utility and limitations of "minimalist stabilization" — small-scale interventions designed to stabilize a partner government engaged in violent conflict — and propose policy recommendations concerning when minimalist stabilization missions may be appropriate and the strategies most likely to make such interventions successful, as well as the implications for U.S. Army force structure debates and partnership strategies.
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The authors assess the utility and limitations of "minimalist stabilization" — small-scale interventions designed to stabilize a partner government engaged in violent conflict. They propose policy recommendations concerning when minimalist stabilization missions may be appropriate and the strategies most likely to make such interventions successful, as well as the implications for U.S. Army force structure debates and partnership strategies. Minimalist stabilization missions do not significantly increase a partner government's odds of victory in a counterinsurgency campaign, but they do dramatically reduce the probability of defeat. Minimalist stabilization typically yields operational successes that degrade rebel capabilities and make it unlikely that the insurgents can topple the government. Such missions typically do not, however, alter the underlying structure of the conflict. They usually do not help foster significant political reforms in the partner government. Nor are they typically able to cut insurgents off from their resource bases. These dynamics suggest that the operational gains attributable to minimalist stabilization can usually be converted into strategic success only if the underlying political or international structure of the conflict can be altered. Military power plays a role, but the infrequency of victory suggests that the role of force is more about creating the framework within which a political process can operate successfully rather than winning per se. These findings do not yield simple policy prescriptions. These findings do, however, caution against viewing minimalist stabilization as a panacea. Modest resource commitments generally yield modest results. In some circumstances, such modest results will be adequate to secure important U.S. interests. In other cases they will not, and in some cases the under-resourcing of interventions may have catastrophic results.
Arguments For and Against Minimalist Stabilization
Overview of the Results of Minimalist Stabilization
Cases and Coding Notes
The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by the RAND Arroyo Center.
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