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In recent decades, the United States' overwhelming military superiority has allowed it to “overawe” or overrun adversaries with comparative ease. However, consolidating victory and preventing a renewal of conflict has usually taken more time, energy, and resources than originally foreseen. Few recent efforts of this sort can be regarded as unqualified successes, and one or two must be accounted as clear failures. Prior RAND research examined the factors that contribute to this success or failure, including the natures of the society being reformed and of the conflict being terminated, as well as the quality and quantity of the military and civil assets of external actors. This volume addresses the manner in which U.S. policy toward postconflict reconstruction has been created and implemented and the effect that these processes have had on mission outcomes. Through the lens of presidential decisionmaking style and administrative structure, from the post-World War II era through the Cold War, post-Cold War era, and current war on terrorism, it is both possible and necessary to reassess how these elements can work in favor of, as well as against, the nation-building goals of the U.S. government and military and those of its coalition partners and allies.

"When asked about his plans for post-war Germany, Winston Churchill frequently cited an old recipe for jugged hare: ‘First, catch your hare.’ Winning the war was the most important task; once caught, the hare could be cooked at leisure. This study of U.S. nation-building efforts in Germany, Japan, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq both challenges and confirms Churchill’s approach…. The most important lesson of history seems to be that the only thing more vital than catching your hare is catching the right one…. The astonishingly poor quality of the planning processes for Afghanistan, and, even less excusably, Iraq exacerbated the difficulties of what would have been difficult missions anyway."

- Foreign Affairs, November/December 2009

The research described in this report was sponsored primarily by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and was conducted under the auspices of the International Security and Defense Policy Center within the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD). NSRD conducts research and analysis for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Commands, the defense agencies, the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Intelligence Community, allied foreign governments, and foundations.

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