Jul 18, 2005
Comparing nine nation-building efforts in terms of how successful they were at establishing internal security, we found that, with two exceptions, most efforts were either unsuccessful or mixed. These findings were driven by differences in initial conditions in each country, as well by the inputs (e.g., the amount of financial assistance provided) and outputs (e.g., training). Based on these findings, we highlight six overall lessons learned that can help policymakers in current and future nation-building efforts.
Nation-building operations have become more frequent in the post–Cold War era, as the two ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq highlight. While nation-building has many components—including the reconstruction of public health, economic, and education systems—establishing police, courts, border control, and other elements of internal security should be the most important objective of policymakers immediately after major combat. This raises two questions: How successful have United States and allied efforts been in reconstructing internal security institutions? What are the most important lessons for current and future operations?
RAND Corporation researchers sought to answer these questions, using a comparative case study approach to examine nine efforts in the post–Cold War era: Panama, El Salvador, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, East Timor, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The researchers assessed how successful the United States and its allies were at reducing the level of violence and establishing a functioning rule of law—the ultimate outcomes of interest in the study.
The matrix in the next column shows the results of the assessment and summarizes how successful the cases were in establishing a viable rule of law and level of violence over the first five years of reconstruction. (Because reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq have not yet lasted five years, change was measured through the most recent year.)
As the matrix shows, only two of the cases—East Timor and Kosovo—were deemed successful by the researchers' criteria, with both the level of violence and rule of law improving over the course of reconstruction. Three of the cases—Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq—had the opposite result and were considered unsuccessful. The remaining four cases—El Salvador, Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia—achieved a mixed result, regarded as successful in establishing a better rule of law but unsuccessful on the level of violence.
RAND researchers found that success was largely a function of initial conditions in the country (e.g., whether a functioning central government or peace treaty existed), inputs (e.g., the amount of financial assistance provided), and outputs (e.g., training, infrastructure, and institutional development). Those outputs influenced such outcomes as crime rates and levels of political violence.
For Kosovo and East Timor, the data and case studies show that the amount of financial assistance, duration of assistance, size of international military and police, size of national police, and proportion of personnel trained were consistently high. These two countries also had the highest levels of civilian police forces, which were armed and given arrest authority. In Kosovo, for example, law enforcement was placed under civilian, not military, authority.
Reconstruction efforts in Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan have not been successful by the researchers' measures, although it is still too early to tell for the latter two. Panama experienced a reduction in the perception of the rule of law and an increase in homicide rates. Unlike Kosovo and East Timor, Panama received significantly less international assistance. The level of financial assistance was the lowest of all the cases, except for Afghanistan. Also in Panama, the United States deployed medium levels of military forces and no international civilian police.
The mixed outcomes in the remaining four countries were partly attributable to low inputs and outputs. All these cases, except for Bosnia, received lower levels of international aid than did Kosovo and East Timor. In El Salvador and Somalia, the least successful of the mixed cases, the perception of the rule of law and civil liberties did not change over time. Homicide became more problematic in El Salvador, and insurgency levels increased in Iraq and Somalia.
And while initial conditions tended to be poor across the board, one condition—the existence of a peace agreement or formal surrender—was particularly noteworthy. All the successful and mixed cases (except Somalia) had one or the other. All three unsuccessful cases, including Iraq and Afghanistan, did not.
Six cross-cutting lessons emerge from the case studies:
The study has three key implications. First, establishing security during the "golden hour" after combat operations conclude is critical to prevent further unrest. The golden hour is the short time frame of several weeks to several months when external intervention may enjoy some popular support and international legitimacy and when potential opposition may not have enough time to organize.
Second, past cases demonstrate that creating a secure environment and protecting civil liberties requires not just reforming the police and security forces but also ensuring a functioning justice system.
Third, the case study analysis indicates some very rough guidelines for success. In the more successful cases examined, international troop and police levels were at least 1,000 soldiers and 150 police per 100,000 inhabitants, respectively; after five years, domestic police levels were more than 200 police per 100,000 inhabitants; total financial assistance was at least $250 per capita for the first two years of reconstruction; and the duration of security assistance lasted at least five years.