Small Wars Journal

Hard Learned Lessons of Others: What the US Military Can Learn from Successful Development Groups in Today’s World

Thu, 08/01/2013 - 11:34am

Hard Learned Lessons of Others: What the US Military Can Learn from Successful Development Groups in Today’s World

Major Adam Brady

United States military operations will be dramatically impacted by the fiscal challenges facing the US government. In recognition, the US military is focusing on the development of “innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approaches to achieve [the Nation’s] security objectives [through] exercise, rotational presence, and advisory capabilities.”1 This smaller footprint creates the requirement for a more proactive stance with regard to conflict prevention. In putting more emphasis on conflict prevention, the United States can avoid going to war. The avoidance of the high costs of conflict, both human and financial, is directly in line with the guidance given for future operations. The current US Army plan of aligning units with specific geographic regions provides a unique opportunity to conduct these preventative operations.2

Unfortunately, the US military’s checkered past with regard to conducting development is evidenced by the recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.3 Though members of the military expended a large amount of effort and resources in an attempt to develop both of these countries, their relative inexperience in the area dramatically diminished their immediate effectiveness. Given this reality, the military has the opportunity to learn lessons from the actions of other successful development groups. The continent of Africa, the focus area for the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) and many development organizations, allows for some of these lessons to be learned and applied immediately.

Development in Africa

The history of development in Africa is unimpressive. Between 1960 and 2004 the continent received more than $620 billion in aid from OECD countries with few development gains to show for it.4 This aid was generally distributed without an understanding of the complex relationship between foreign aid, development, and the targeted population.5 This does not mean that successful development is impossible. Numerous governmental and non-governmental development organizations have been active in Africa since the middle of the 20th Century. These organizations have gained critical knowledge that must be understood by leaders within the military in order to successfully complete the missions we have been given. Groups such as Water For People, Oxfam, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) present lessons that can be learned by all military organizations during the conduct of stabilization operations.

A Focus on Sustainability and Exportability - Water For People

Water For People is an international organization focused on creating a “world where all people have access to safe drinking water and sanitation, and where no one suffers or dies from a water- or sanitation-related disease.”6 As an organization, Water For People works with local communities, partners, and governments to create long-term solutions to “water, sanitation, and hygiene problems in the developing world” while allowing local governments to keep “services functioning and extend [them] as the population grows [and] can be replaced without seeking the support of another external development organization or donor.”7 Along with focusing on the long-term consequences of these projects, Water For People ensures the projects can be exported to different areas. The lessons for the military are the ability to focus on a long-term plan while having the discipline to avoid short-circuiting it for near-term gain, and having the patience to determine the viability of a program prior to exporting it to other areas. By implementing these lessons into future operations, the United States will improve the chances of successfully concluding stabilization operations.

In order to accomplish these ambitious goals, Water For People works closely with communities and their local government. This process is very apparent in the work the organization is doing with its “Sanitation as a Business” program in Africa. This program is based on a single truth demonstrated throughout the history of development projects: organizations “do not have the money or human capacity [to provide a latrine] to everyone who lacks improved sanitation.”8 By creating a business model focused on providing improved sanitation, Water For People creates opportunities for the private sector to become involved in providing sanitation services.9 This pilot program, first implemented in Malawi, was successful enough to be exported to other areas in Africa. More importantly, Water For People proved that such a program could become successful and sustainable prior to exporting it.10 Only after these qualities were demonstrated did the group export the project framework to other areas of Africa. The ability to plan and execute such a long-term vision is a staple of Water For People’s efforts throughout the world. This vision allows the organization to evaluate the consequences of any project on the target population while ensuring the outcomes meet their stated goals. Without adherence to a long-term plan the chances of success for such a project will be diminished.

The U.S. military will continue to conduct stabilization operations throughout the world. Our current national focus on exit strategies and withdrawal timelines is understandable when viewed through the prism of politics and opinion polls. However, this focus can be counterproductive when conducting stabilization operations. Given that the intent of these operations is to create a self-sustaining government without any need for outside assistance, the time commitment required should be based on the conditions within the recipient state or location. This commitment should be factored into the operational planning for any future operations. The lessons learned from Water For People, combined with the definition of “sustainable development” given previously, provide military planners and commanders the long-term vision required to adequately plan and execute successful stabilization operations.

Quality Partnerships – Oxfam International

Oxfam is an international organization dedicated to finding lasting solutions to poverty and injustice throughout the world.11 According to the Oxfam Purpose and Beliefs, the group is “part of a global movement for change, one that empowers people to create a future that is secure, just, and free from poverty.”12 Oxfam believes that in order to achieve these goals and have a sustained impact, partnerships at all levels of a society and government are required.13 It is these partnerships that present the greatest lesson for the US military to learn from this group.

The word “partnership” appears in almost every piece of doctrinal writing that can be found with regard to stabilization operations. More importantly, this word is used to define the purpose of U.S. military in AFRICOM. According to a former commander, AFRICOM’s purpose is “through sustained engagement, to enable our African partners to create a security environment that promotes stability, improved governance, and continued development.”14 Unfortunately, the military does not adequately define the terms “partnership” or “partner” with regards to development and stabilization operations. The term “partner nation,” the only defined term incorporating the word partner, is defined as “those nations that the United States works with to disrupt the production, transportation, distribution, and sale of illicit drugs, as well as the money involved with this illicit activity.”15 This definition, focused on the illegal drug trade into the United States, does not give any indication for the actual expectation of partnership during stabilization operations.

For Oxfam, partnership is based on the following six principles: “1) Shared vision and values… 2) Complementarity of purpose and value added… 3) Autonomy and independence… 4) Transparency and mutual accountability… 5) Clarity on roles and responsibilities… and 6) Commitment to joint learning.”16 These principles provide the foundation for all interactions between Oxfam and other groups throughout the world. Included in these principles is an organizational understanding that partnerships are mutually beneficial relationships that are continually growing. While all six are relevant to the military, partnership principles 3 and 4 are the most applicable. These two principles also present the greatest challenge to the military. When used as the foundation for establishing partnerships, these two principles provide an opportunity to avoid significant issues created by the power imbalance inherent in stabilization operations between local stakeholders and the U.S. military. Based on Oxfam’s principles, a recommended military definition for “partnerships” is: a mutually determined agreement between the United States military and other nation(s) at any level that provides clarity on the roles for each partner, ensures mutual accountability and transparency, and demonstrates a shared vision and values between partners. By combining this definition founded on the Oxfam partnership principles with the definition of sustainability recommended above, the U.S. armed forces can create long-lasting partnerships that provide essential services to a population while creating a government structure that is self-sustaining.

Institutional Change - USAID

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), subordinate to the DOS, is the principal U.S. government agency responsible for providing development assistance to countries “recovering from disaster, trying to escape poverty, and engaging in democratic reforms.”17 According to the 2010 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) published by the DOS and USAID:

Development stands alongside diplomacy as the twin pillar of America’s civilian power. Through development, we seek to invest in countries’ efforts to achieve sustained and broad-based economic growth, which creates opportunities for people to lift themselves, their families, and their societies out of poverty, away from violent extremism and instability, and toward a more prosperous future. Ultimately, development helps countries become more capable of solving their own problems and sharing in solving common global problems.18

Given that USAID is the primary agency responsible for development, its importance in America’s foreign policy is apparent. However, USAID’s ability to execute such a monumental responsibility had diminished over many years.19 According to USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah, the organization had become satisfied with measuring success based on the amount of funds spent and number of projects underway without focusing on the actual results. Under the banner USAID Forward, Administrator Shah has begun to create fundamental change within the organization.20 It is this agenda of change that presents the greatest lesson for the U.S. military.

USAID Forward is focused on reform in seven areas: “1) Implementation and Procurement Reform, 2) Talent Management, 3) Rebuilding Policy Capacity, 4) Strengthening Monitoring and Evaluation, 5) Rebuilding Budget Management, 6) Science and Technology, and 7) Innovation.”21 These areas represent a concerted effort to create a modern, efficient government agency focused on long term sustainable development.22 While military commanders and staffs at all levels can learn from these reforms, areas 1 and 3 are the most applicable to military commanders conducting stabilization operations.

In accordance with USAID Forward, the organization is changing its implementation and procurement procedures while building up its knowledge management system in order to leverage the full potential of the organization, its technology, and its partners.23 The Implementation and Procurement Reforms are focused on providing the most efficient, cost effective, and sustainable methods of development.24 Additionally, in an attempt to leverage the full capabilities of the organization, USAID formed the Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning (PPL) to create a functional knowledge management system while giving its personnel on the ground the flexibility to make decisions and take risks.25 These changes reflect the ability of a government organization, with its inherent bureaucracy, to rapidly and effectively make institutional corrections without a disruption in operations.

The partnership between the U.S. military and DOS, to include USAID, is important in every country with which the United States has diplomatic relations. The U.S. Ambassador is responsible for all USG operations conducted within a country’s borders. Therefore, the partnerships between the military and State Department are paramount in every country in the world.

Within AFRICOM, the military objectives of the command are subordinate to the overall USG objectives on the continent.26 The two USAID Forward reform areas, coupled with the institutional decisions to measure success outside of suspect metrics and amount of money being spent, provides a USG example to the military of streamlining the development process while creating more sustainable development throughout the world.


The flexibility of the U.S. military has been on display over the past 10 years during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The ability of the institution to recognize pitfalls, evaluate their consequences, and change direction to avoid them in the future is well established. The need to reevaluate the doctrine of development using the lessons learned during recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan is also apparent. As illustrated above, the application of lessons learned from non-governmental organizations represents an opportunity to gain a large amount of information from the success and failure of others without assuming the risks and costs of “on-the-job” training. By ignoring such groups, the military is disregarding a wealth of knowledge that can be applied during current and future military operations. The US military must continually review and evaluate the performance of development organization throughout the world in order to gain lessons learned and insight into the successful implementation of development throughout the world.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the United States Military Academy, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

End Notes

1. U.S. Department of Defense, “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,”, (accessed October 24, 2012), 3.

2. GEN Raymond Odierno “Regionally Aligned Forces: A New Model for Building Partnerships,” Army Live: The Official Blog of the United States Army, posted March 22, 2012, (accessed December 6, 2012).

3. Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, “Changing the Army for Counterinsurgency Operations,” Military Review (2005), (accessed 6 December 2012).

4. Mark Sundberg and Alan Gelb, "Making Aid Work," Finance and Development: A quarterly magazine of the IMF (Dec 2006).

5. Ibid.

6. Water for People, Mission (2012), (accessed April 3, 2012).

7. Ibid.

8. Water for People, Sanitation Innovation (2010), (accessed April 8, 2012).

9. Ibid.

10. Water For People, "Sanitation as a Business" (n.d.), (accessed April 8, 2012).

11. Oxfam International, About Us (2012), (accessed April 3, 2012).

12. Oxfam International, Purpose and Beliefs (2012), (accessed April 3, 2012).

13. Oxfam International, Working Together: Oxfam's Partnership Principles (February 2012), (accessed April 3, 2012).

14. Headquarters, U.S. Africa Command, AFRICOM Commander's Intent (August 2011),'s%20Intent.pdf (accessed April 5, 2012).

15. U.S. Department of Defense, Joint Publication 1-02: Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (Washington, D.C.: United States Joint Staff, 2011), 259.

16. Oxfam, Purpose and Beliefs.

17. U.S. Agency for International Development, About USAID (November 18, 2011), (accessed April 5, 2012).

18. U.S. Department of State, Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review: Leading Through Civilian Power (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government, 2010), ix.

19. Rajiv Shah, "The Modern Development Enterprise," USAID – Speeches (USAID, January 19, 2011), (accessed April 5, 2012).

20. Ibid.

21. U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID Forward (April 8, 2012), (accessed April 8, 2012).

22. Rajiv Shah, "Reinventing USAID to Meet 21st Century Development and Security Challenges," USAID – Speeches (June 18, 2010), (accessed April 5, 2012).

23. USAID, USAID Forward.

24. Shah, “Reinventing USAID.”

25. Ibid.

26. AFRICOM, Commander's Intent.

About the Author(s)

Major Adam Brady, U.S. Army, is currently an Instructor of Environmental Science and Engineering at the United States Military Academy. He holds a B.S. from USMA and an M.S. from the Colorado School of Mines. MAJ Brady, an armor officer, has served in the 4th Infantry Division and 25th Infantry Division, including three deployments to Iraq. Prior to attending graduate school, MAJ Brady served as the Troop Commander of B/3-4 CAV from DEC08 – MAY10 in Iraq and Schofield Barracks, HI.



Tue, 08/20/2013 - 4:23pm

In reply to by Dayuhan

The beauty of this forum is that people from all different backgrounds can be involved in the conversation. You bring up some very good points based on your significant experience in this area. I could make a similar disclaimer saying that I don't have experience in this area outside of what I've gained through the military. Personally, I'm wrestling with trying to make people understand there is more to development/stabilization operations/nation-building than throwing money at the problem. You bring up many of the issues in your comment.

The statement that you made which resonates the most is: "My own suggestion on trying to use development as a means to stability would be, for the most part, don't. By all means fix whatever was broken in the course of conflict. By all means assure stability and peace, to the extent possible. Accept that there are likely to be serious conflicts among local parties and between local parties and central government, and that any aid may be seen as favoring or supporting some factions over others. From there... well, it's messy. That's the nature of it." You are exactly right. The sticking point is communicating this to those who decide when/where the military will operate. That is a very different discussion that doesn't really belong here. As I've mentioned on other comments, I try to balance my agreement with you and the knowledge that I will have to be involved in development for stability regardless of my personal opinions. Therefore, I'm trying to see how to minimize the negative impacts.

Thanks for the well thought out comments. I really appreciate the discussion about a subject that I feel passionate about.



Sat, 08/10/2013 - 8:50pm

In reply to by abrady

A few things need to be remembered when we talk about what works and what doesn't in development.

First, every NGO or agency in the aid industry, public or private, serves two clients: the recipients of aid, and their funders. The needs and expectations of these two groups often vary widely. Aid funding trends are capricious and heavily fashion-driven, and aid groups often have little choice but to follow the trend and satisfy the demands of the financing sector, whether or not these are consistent with the needs of the aid recipients.

Second, because the aid funding world is so competitive, there's a huge reluctance to honestly confront and analyze failure. Admitting that something didn't work is seen as a potential funding catastrophe, so every project tends to be recorded and presented as a success. Often the reality on the ground is totally unrecognizable to anyone who has only read the official record of the project. Unfortunately, that provides an environment that wildly distorts understanding of what fails and why: it's hard to analyze failure when you won't admit it. I've noticed (admittedly based almost entirely on SWJ) that the military seems much more open to confronting and analyzing failure than the aid industry has ever been.

Third, "success" is relative to goals. If the goal is simply to provide a village with potable water, that's attainable. If the goal is to provide "stability" or discourage insurgency, that's a lot more complicated. My own observation is that the link between underdevelopment and insurgency is not so clear as it is sometimes assumed to be. People don't fight the government because they don't get services: in the environments we're discussing expectations of government tend to be very low. They fight the government because they see the government as a threat. That's not something that will be changed by a few wells or bridges. It's critical to determine why people are fighting, at the local level (the guys who carry the rifles, not the leaders) and address those issues... but sometimes addressing those issues may put us in conflict with the government we're supposed to be supporting.

Fourth, development can actually create instability. Economic conditions often are the way they are because somebody has a stake in keeping them that way. Often that somebody is a member of a local elite caste, and we may often need those local elite castes to sustain stability. We talk about "empowerment" as a universal good, but in many countries the elites see "empowerment" as a potentially terminal threat to their own status and prerogatives. They may oppose it directly, or they may tell us what we want to hear and try to subvert the programs or turn them to their own uses. They will not simply sit still and watch us undermine their status by "empowering the people".

Fifth, once it becomes clear that we are willing to spend for "development", everybody - and I do mean everybody - will be trying to work us. Some of them will do it very well. They will learn our jargon and our mantras and parrot them back at us with utmost sincerity. It is not easy for a newcomer to sort out who's who and what the intentions really are. As a general rule the best people to work with will be suspicious of you at first: you have to identify them, seek them out, and convince them. The people who approach you with ideas are trying to work you... but like all general rules, that will often be wrong.

Anyone trying to use development aid as a component of a stability operation needs to be sure they have a really complete understanding of local micropolitics before slinging money around. Unfortunately, that understanding may take years to develop.

My own suggestion on trying to use development as a means to stability would be, for the most part, don't. By all means fix whatever was broken in the course of conflict. By all means assure stability and peace, to the extent possible. Accept that there are likely to be serious conflicts among local parties and between local parties and central government, and that any aid may be seen as favoring or supporting some factions over others. From there... well, it's messy. That's the nature of it.

Disclaimer: I have no military experience at all. These perspectives come from 30+ years on the ground in the developing world, much of it in insurgency-affected areas, and field observation of more aid projects than I can count.

Bill C.

Tue, 08/06/2013 - 10:58am

In reply to by abrady

Modern western states and societies, when compared to others, are seen as being much more safe, much more stable and much more peaceful.

The goal then becomes to transform these other states and societies along modern western lines; this, so as to cause these other states and societies to, likewise, become more safe, more stable and more peaceful.

It is critically important to understand, however, that conflict prevention, along these lines, is achieved only after -- and not before --the adequate transformation of these other states and societies.

In the interim period, conflict and strife -- of every variety -- is expected to become much more prevalent (the "era of persistent conflict"); this, due to the difficulties that these other states and societies experience as they are constantly buffeted by internal and external transformational requirements (such as development).

It is within the context of this interim period of less safety, less stability, less peacefulness and persistent conflict -- brought on by internal and external efforts to radically change the political, economic and social orders of these other states and societies -- that we might better understand:

a. Why the military might be placed in charge of these transformational activities (they are best suited to deal with those who would resist) and

b. Why the military might look, as the author suggests, to such agencies as NGOs and IGOs for lessons on how to make the transformational medicine go down more quickly, more easily and more smoothly.


Tue, 08/06/2013 - 9:16am

In reply to by Dayuhan

Unfortunately, the term "successful development groups" carries a very different meaning as you delve deeper into the subject. The goal of this paper was to "expand" the breadth of organizations members of the military look to for lessons learned. In doing so, I decided to choose a small organization that I knew and was impressed by (Water for People), a large organization that many people have heard of (OxFam), and a government organization that is attempting to deal with the bureacratic malaise many military members bemoan (USAID). I focused on the three points that I made because, in an opinion based solely my personal experience and reflection, these were three of the most relevent lessons that the military needed to learn.

"On a purely tactical level, it may do some good: used wisely, a few attractive projects here and there can cause people to take a more mild view of our presence... though used unwisely, it can blow up in our faces. That's potentially useful, but anyone who dreams of ending conflict by bringing 'development' to conflict-ridden areas is probably in the grip of fantasy." -I agree with your statement partially quoted above. There are some significant questions about the ability of an outside organization to conduct "development." To me, these questions are both moral and practical. While I am willing to question the functionality of it academically, I have to balance that with the understanding that I will be conducting stabilization operations (development) in the future regardless of my opinion. Therefore, I have taken the view that I must try to understand the negative impacts of such a mission in order to minimize them. My passion for this subject, and research to back it up, is continuing.

Thanks for the comments. I'm learning quite a lot.

Adam (author)


Mon, 08/12/2013 - 2:53am

In reply to by Bill C.

I don't see any connection at all between ongoing events in Egypt and "resistance to development/modernization". Again, I think you're imposing an artificial construct and trying to wedge events into your assumption.

Bill C.

Sun, 08/11/2013 - 11:05am

In reply to by Dayuhan

Should we not see the need for a significant military presence within the context of resistance to development/modernization initiatives (and, more importantly, as resistance to the massive state and societal changes that these initiatives bring with them) and not, as you suggest, as an aversion to foreign intervention?

Cases in point: The American Civil War, the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the present on-going events in Egypt?

As to lack of social infrastructure and again pointing to the three examples provided above, how long could the American and the Iranian national leaders, and the Egyptian military leaders, wait for an accommodating "social infrastructure" to develop within their respective lands (in the case of Egypt, with things looking to be going the wrong way)? The further development/modernization of these states and societies being seen, by each of these leaders, as a national security imperative?


Sat, 08/10/2013 - 8:13pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Nations can and do develop, but they cannot "be developed" by outside intervention. Outside help seems to work best in environments where development is already occurring in locally directed forms, and outsiders can help it along. When outsiders try to initiate development and dictate the form it will take, it generally doesn't go so well. That's the premise behind the Millennium Development Corp: work with states where the preconditions for development already exist and locally generated development is taking place. That can sound a bit heartless, as it excludes the most needy, but the reality is that in most cases the most needy live in environments where development aid is not likely to be productive. Relief aid, of course, is an entirely different thing.

From the standpoint of "stability operations", the hitch of course is that if locally directed development is already in progress, it's not likely that there's any need or desire for military involvement. If the military is involved in "stability operations", it's likely that the social and physical infrastructure needed for locally generated development is simply not in place.

Bill M.

Tue, 08/06/2013 - 1:22am

In reply to by Dayuhan

How you dare you take us back to topic, don't you realize thread has been hijacked by those pushing global conspiracy theory? Regardless if there is no evidence for it.

Back to your question, I agree most U.S. government development programs have been close to complete failures, but not all. As for NGOs, as you know there are a wide variety with mixed results, but overall the development trend globally is moving in a positive direction. I doubt we can attribute that solely to government development programs and NGOs, but perhaps they made contribution?

I know it's a fearful breach of precedent, but to get back on topic...

I'm curious about what exactly is meant by "successful development groups". The actual track record of development efforts has precious little success to boast about. Many organizations claim successful projects, though these claims are often exaggerated, and what an actual site visit reveals on the ground often bears little resemblance to what is announced. As far as actually generating "development" on a significant scale in the developing world, I don't think any private or public organization can claim to have done it. Development happens, but it does not happen as a consequence of outside intervention.

The development aid industry is a strange place. Public and private organizations are involved in a never-ending and utterly ruthless battle for donor funds. That situation is not at all conducive to honest discussion of what works and what doesn't, because organizations feel compelled to conceal or gloss over programs that fail, and proclaim anything short of failure as overwhelming success. "Success", in the aid industry, is keeping or expanding your funding.

A number of times on this site I've talked to people from the military side who made comments to the effect that if we could just "fix the economy", or provide everyone with jobs, we could stop shooting people and go home. This is very likely true, but the blunt fact is that we can't fix an economy. We don't know how. We have no reliable method or recipe even for consistently producing "development". That's no reason not to try, but it suggests strongly that the idea of applying "development" to serve a strategic aim is not likely to produce much in the way of results. On a purely tactical level, it may do some good: used wisely, a few attractive projects here and there can cause people to take a more mild view of our presence... though uised unwisely, it can blow up in our faces. That's potentially useful, but anyone who dreams of ending conflict by bringing "development" to conflict-ridden areas is probably in the grip of fantasy.


Mon, 08/05/2013 - 4:06am

In reply to by Bill C.

Again, that's a huge "if", and I think you're postulating a policy that doesn't exist. As in comments below... there will always be rhetorical flourishes about spreading democracy and development in speeches and documents, but if you look at where the rubber hits the road, there's just no interest. Nobody gives a rat's a$$ about whether the populace of Yemen or Somalia or Haiti or the DRC etc change their present way of life. Nobody ever will, unless they annoy us. Even the rather annoying piracy issue out of Somalia wasn't enough to get anyone to try and transform the place: there's just no interest. The politics of it are miserable, and the cost far exceeds any possible benefit.

Bill C.

Sun, 08/04/2013 - 11:44pm

If enemy whole-of-government forces -- before and/or after a conflict -- descended upon a smaller, less powerful and decidedly "different" nation under the pretext of "development in the service of conflict prevention,"

Then might we, and the local people, see the enemy's such actions in a decidedly different light? (As follows:)

Herein, might we and the local people suggest that the enemy's actual purpose was to:

a. Cause the indigenous population to move away from their present way of life and to

b. Cause the local people to adopt the enemy's way of life. This, so that the enemy might:

1. Make the local people become dependent upon its (the enemy's) political, economic and social systems and, thereby,

2. Gain better control over and greater utilization of the both the local people themselves and their resources.

Thus, in the circumstances that I have described above, should we say that we, and these local populations, might see the activities undertaken by the enemy -- in the name of "development in the service of conflict prevention" -- as, indeed, a most belligerent and hostile act?

This likely to result in, not conflict prevention but, rather, conflict promotion?

(Lessons learned from NGOs/IGOs re: development to be of little help to the enemy in these circumstances?)

Food for thought?


Fri, 08/02/2013 - 10:05am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M.,

I agree with your comments. I don't think the military is the best USG organization for conducting development. It would be much better to leave this "task" to the experts in USAID and NGOs/IGOs/etc. Unfortunately, that will not be the case in the near term. As you said, "the military will have to be prepared to take the lead and/or assist in select locations."

I firmly believe that you are correct when you say many don't "understand the importance of enabling those we’re helping to do it themselves, which means providing the 'least' support possible to enable the locals to do it themselves." This article, and one that I previously published here, are aimed at those individuals. I think that this is a conversation that we as an organization need to have.

Thanks for the great comment and I look forward to a discussion on this.

Adam (author)

Bill C. I agree with you that a number of officers in the military have this factually unfounded notion that development will win over the population and that will result in defeating an insurgency. It is hubris and there are no examples in history where approach has worked to include Iraq and Afghanistan. On the other hand I didn't see where the MAJ Brady made this argument? Instead he appears to be focused on conflict prevention, and economic development/assistance in some cases can contribute to that effort in a meaningful way in many cases (IMO). I actually think this was a good article.

This may come as a surprise to many who have seen my critical responses on our development efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but my attacks were not against development assistance, but against the false logic that this assistance would defeat our adversary (we’re were well past the prevention phase in those locations). Post conflict development I think is critical to consolidating our gains (Germany, Japan, etc., but interestingly enough our post conflict development in the South largely fell flat and it was still reasonably stable), and it may play a role in conflict prevention in some locations (it won't mitigate all the factors that drive people to fight).

Since the military will remain involved in development to some extent as we engage in Phase 0 activities to hopefully prevent conflict, it only makes since to modify our doctrine to incorporate the effective practices from NGOs and others in the business. I do have my doubts that the military culture will ever be good at this, because our culture strives on metrics (often pushed by Congress and the GAO) demanding quick and tangible progress, plus we have a "Kodak moment" culture where we want to pose for a picture next to some project and put it in an article and a PowerPoint brief so we can tell the world what we did (which had nothing to do with enabling the local population to lift “themselves” out of poverty), and finally our compelling need to do it for them. If USAID was as good as the military with generating meaningless metrics, they would probably be better funded (but less effective). USAID is our best organization for providing the leadership for development, but they until we figure out how to do whole of government approaches (beyond the rhetoric) the military will have to be prepared to take the lead and/or assist in select locations. This is unfortunate, because very few in the military outside of some in Special Forces and Civil Affairs understand the importance of enabling those we’re helping to do it themselves, which means providing the "least" support possible to enable the locals to do it themselves.

I agree with the comment below that the military and USAID can contract NGOs and other professionals to conduct development where it is appropriate to do so to help people lift "themselves" out of poverty (not to defeat an insurgency). The fact that the military is cutting its budget and others are more effective at doing this indicates to me we shouldn't invest in developing the capability, but rewriting our doctrine doesn't cost much, and our civil affairs personnel are trained on how to integrate/deconflict NGOs and other aid organizations in an area where the military is operating.

The White House comment on our development policy is wise, “Where leaders govern responsibly, set in place good policies, and make investments conducive to development, sustainable outcomes can be achieved. Where those conditions are absent, it is difficult to engineer sustained progress, no matter how good our intentions or the extent of our engagement.”

That is why our national policy is focused on supporting select countries and sub-regions where it will likely work, and it includes integrating a wide range of partners including NGOs.…


Tue, 08/20/2013 - 4:28pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Some universities do. One example is STS (Science and Technology Studies, VA Tech has the best known department). Another is a course called Engineering and Social Justice that I took at the Colorado School of Mines. Either way, some universities are looking at the impacts of outside entities (probably have to extrapolate from small scale to societal scale) on societies.

Bill M.

Fri, 08/02/2013 - 1:54pm

In reply to by abrady

Grappling with the impacts of outside influence on societies is a great topic for study, and I wonder if any universities offer a course on this?

Plenty of examples, the USSR throughout Eastern Europe (and beyond), the European colonialists, U.S. colonialists (Philippines), Napoleon, Rome, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, etc. The list is endless, so it is clear that much of history is the result of outside influence (peaceful and not so peaceful) on societies and how they adapted/responded over time. This may be beyond our comprehension, but I suspect if we studied reality instead of blindly embracing some of the extremely idealist (definitely not evil in intent, but often result in considerable bloodshed) theories on modernization we would develop policies that actually moved the ball forward instead of the resulting blow back we usually seem to get.

Bill M.

Sun, 08/04/2013 - 12:12am

In reply to by Dayuhan

Dayuhan, Bill C. is partially correct, but he attempts to put in conspiratorial and mercantilism language. Our policy promotes and supports democracy, human rights, and rule of law. We also support development efforts, and have done so for decades.

The following link takes you to our National Security Strategy (it is still current). It is well written, and accurately describes our support to democracy and development. Note this is post-Bush Administration which had a much more assertive policy in pushing versus supporting the development of democracies.

Our development objectives are page 15.…


Mon, 08/05/2013 - 4:00am

In reply to by Bill C.

Agaim "containment" was never intended to transform. It was intended to contain. I don't believe there will be any substantial increas in resources to AFRICOM, and I see no reason at all to suspect that any US leader has any particular interest in "transforming" any of Africa's marginal states, or any marginal state elsewhere.

There is certainly an effort to contain outlier states, meaning to try and keep the chaos of a Somalia, Yemen, the DRC etc from spilling over and affecting other countries. There's nothing even remotely transformative about these efforts, they are simply aimed at keeping the mess inside. Even that receives a very minimal allocation of resources.

Of course grand comments about spreading democracy and development will always be present in speeches and documents, but if you look at actual policy on the ground, there's simply no interest in transforming anyone, and there's no reason for any such interest: the cost would far exceed any proposed benefit. Unless these countries overtly annoy us, they will simply be left alone. Nobody wants the bother of trying to do anything about them.

Bill C.

Sun, 08/04/2013 - 2:41pm

In reply to by Dayuhan

As Afghanistan winds down, look for AFRICOM et. al (our screwed-up finances allowing) to get more resources. And the reason for AFRICOM's headquarters being in Stuttgart has nothing to do with a lack of US commitment to it and the states and societies that make up Africa.

One probably should not confuse handling priority cases first (outlying great powers) with a desire to "contain and ignor." Given the law of priorities, we certainly may have had to contain and ignor certain of the lesser outlying states and societies during the Cold War -- as we went about the process of "fixing" Russia and China first.

"Besides, it never seems to work." Our national leaders do not agree. They believe that our efforts have resulted in the beginnings of favorable change in Russia and China. And they believe that this success can and must be replicated in the lesser and remaining outlier states and societies; this to preclude such things as another 9/11. Thus, the decision -- based on this understanding of "success" re: Russia and China -- and of perceived failure re: 9/11 -- to move forward in the less-developed world.

Regarding our development and transformational inititiaves: If we look, as you suggest, to what our national leaders have done -- rather than to only what they have said -- then I believe you will see a massive and decades-long undertaking:

a. During the Cold War and via proxy war, containment, etc. -- to begin to bring about the favorable development, transformation and incorporation of such outlier great powers as Russia and China. And

b. Post 9/11 and via war, occupation, etc. -- to attempt to bring about the favorable development, transformation and incorporation of such lesser and remaining outlier states and societies as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bottom Line: Given our perceived success re: Russia and China -- and our perceived failure re: 9/11 -- we believe that, immediately following the Cold War, we should have moved out smartly to develop and transform the lesser and remaining outlier states and societies. Thus, our decision today to "get in" as early as possible -- with as much as possible -- to help fix as many of these outlier states and societies as is possible (within their priority). Via these methods, we will hope to be able to (1) prevent future disasters/disruptions like 9/11 and (2) bring about future successes like Russia and China. Thus, fixing our outlier states and societies problems -- via development, transformation and incorporation -- before, rather than after, things blow up (the perceived more prudent and less costly way to go).

Now to throw a monkey wrench in all this, as I believe that Dayuhan, in a way, does:

a. If containment worked back in the Cold War day (the key to success?) to begin to bring about the favorable transformation of such outlier great powers as Russia and China,

b. Then why, given its fantastic utility against very formidable opponents, wouldn't containment work today -- to begin to bring about the favorable transformation of the lesser and remaining outlier states and societies?

Stated another way:

If good containment, achieved at a reasonable cost, (1) protected us while (2) allowing the "big guys" time to come to their senses during the Cold War,

Then why wouldn't good containment of the little guys today -- likewise at a reasonable cost -- (a) protect us while, simultaneously, (b) allowing the "little guys" time to wise up?

Development? Not needed with containment. We simply wait until the little guys decide for themselves that they want to transform (much as we did with the former USSR and China) and ask us to come and help out.

Bye-bye development? Hello my old buddy containment?


Sun, 08/04/2013 - 2:13am

In reply to by Bill C.

I don't think containment was ever intended to "transform and develop" the Soviet Union or China. It was intended to contain: to restrict their ability to influence events outside their own borders.

I see no reason at all to assume that Iraq and Afghanistan were the beginning of some larger strategy to transform outlier states. More like a generic post 9-11 lashing out, rational in the case of Afghanistan, irrational in the case of Iraq.

I do no think any desire or intent to transform and modernize is "in our strategic blood". If it was, AFRICOM would have a lot more resources at its disposal, and it wouldn't be in Stuttgart. If it was, you'd be seeing a lot more attention paid to places like Haiti, Somalia, ad nauseam. When you sift out all the big words that are apparently mandatory content in speeches and documents and look at actions, all evidence indicates that our policy to outlier states is to contain and ignore, unless they actually cause trouble. There's an excellent reason for that policy: transformation costs far more than even the most optimistic predictions of benefit can justify. Besides, it never seems to work.

Don't look at what leaders say, or what we think they see. Look at what they do. Is there any visible enthusiasm for "transforming" any outlier state?

Bill C.

Sun, 08/04/2013 - 12:42am

In reply to by Bill M.


Definitely should have used something like "Our national leaders see" instead of "Many see" in sentences one and two above.

Thanks Sir.

Bill M.

Sun, 08/04/2013 - 12:15am

In reply to by Bill C.

Many say and personal opinions do not always reflect national policy, it is important to differentiate between the two.

Bill C.

Sun, 08/04/2013 - 12:13am

In reply to by Dayuhan

Many see the failure to help develop and transform Afghanistan before 9/11 as the reason for 9/11.

Many see the failure to help develop and transform Haiti, Chad, Somali and the DRC as the reason for the problems that now exist in these and other such countries.

Our job during the Cold War was to -- via containment -- bring about the favorable transformation and development of such great powers as the former USSR and China. This priority mission left, during this Cold War period, few resources to develop and transform the lesser and remaining outlier states and societies.

With the end of the Cold War, with some degree of favorable transformation and development realized in both Russia and China, and with the event of 9/11, our attention shifted to developing and transforming the lesser and remaining outlier states and societies; this, before things got further out of hand.

During the Cold War, I am not sure that we could describe as "nominal" our efforts (via containment) to begin the process of favorably transforming and developing the nations of Russia and China.

Likewise post-9/11, I am not sure that we could describe as "nominal" our efforts to begin the process of transforming and developing the lesser and remaining outlier states and societies (primary focus initially being on the priority nations Iraq and Afghanistan).

Herein, should we not acknowledge that the favorable development and transformation of outlier states and societies would seem to be in our strategic blood?

This explaining the following statement made by the author of this thread:

"Primary Assumption: the US military will continue to be executing stabilization operations in their current form (including development) for the forseeable future."


Sat, 08/03/2013 - 7:15pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Does one really see that, in anything but the most nominal terms? I don't think so. All of these topics are common subjects for rhetorical flourish, but in actual practice there's little real effort to introduce them to policy. Actual observed policy toward "outlier states" is to contain and ignore, unless the state in question has emerged as a significant problem. Nobody was trying to "transform" Afghanistan before 9/11. Nobody wants to transform Haiti, Chad, Somalia, the DRC, etc. It's just too much trouble, and the costs exceed any possible benefit.

Bill C.

Sat, 08/03/2013 - 10:38am

In reply to by Dayuhan

One sees the United States over many decades -- during peacetime, when engaged in war and following wars -- being extensively involved in, devoted to and focused on such things as:

a. On the political side: Democracy promotion in other countries.

b. On the economic side: The promotion of capitalism, free trade and the goal of having "different" states and societies become organized, ordered and configured so that they might better benefit from, and better provide for, the global economy.

c. On the social side: Expanding the rights of women.

If one sees the United States, over many decades, being consistently and extensively involved in, devoted to and focused on such matters as I have described at "a" - "c" above -- this occuring in peacetime, in war and following war -- then might one logically surmise that the enduring political objective of the United States is as I have described it, to wit: to transform outlier states and societies along modern western political, economic and social lines?

Thus, our development initiatives -- and the deployment and employment of our military forces today -- in peacetime, during war and following war -- to also, quite logically, be seen in this light.


Sat, 08/03/2013 - 4:10am

In reply to by Bill C.

Are you assuming that "transforming outlier states and societies along modern western lines" is a US political objective? If so, why?

Bill C.

Sat, 08/03/2013 - 12:31am

In reply to by abrady

If the United States political objective -- of transforming outlier states and societies along modern western lines -- if this political objective cannot be realized via peaceful means and must be achieved by war,

Then I would agree that the military would need to be in charge of these forced development projects -- this due to the resistance that will be offered by the governments and/or populations of states and societies who do not wish to be so developed and transformed.

If, however, the political objective of the United States -- to transform outlier states and societies along modern westen lines -- if this political objective can be realized without resistance or war, then I see no reason for the military to be involved in development.

This brings up a new question:

Would the lessons learned by Water for People, Oxfam, USAID, etc. -- stemming from cases of voluntary rather than forced development -- would these lessons be relevant and useful to our military personnel who are, in their case, involved in forced development/transformation projects (development/transformation at the barrel of a gun)?

Or are we looking at apples and oranges here?


Fri, 08/02/2013 - 9:35am

In reply to by Bill C.


The focus of this was not that we "should" help out of some sort of debt to the world as the sole superpower. I made an assumption that the military will always be conducting development at some level solely due to our nature and mission set. In my mind, lessons learned from other organizations/units/NGOs/IGOs can be applied to mil-mil contact, interaction with a local population, disaster relief, etc.

Personally, I have spent some time grappling with impacts of outside influence on a society, regardless of its modernity level. I have a hard time personally justifying intervention for the reasons that you mentioned above. However, by trying to learn from other organizations, we may be able to limit the unintended consequences that our mandated intevention causes.

Thanks for the comments and, hopefully, future discussion.
Adam (author)

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 08/04/2013 - 10:42pm

In reply to by abrady

This says it better than my previous comment (for discussion, I don't know):

<blockquote>The misguided mindset across two administrations has been that development is – as Hillary Clinton put it in January 2010 – "mutually reinforcing" to defence. Experience and commonsense suggest the opposite – aid works better where bullets are not flying. As for aid winning hearts and minds in war zones, it hasn't worked. Not in Pakistan, where despite $3.7bn in economic aid between 2003 and 2009, the US is more unpopular than ever. Not in Afghanistan, where 52% of Afghans said "foreign aid organisations are corrupt and are in the country just to get rich".

That things could be different is shown by US aid's successes in other areas since 2002. Targeted programmes that fix specific problems in places not destroyed by war and corruption have done much better than grandiose nation-building and war-ending. For example, a major American programme on Aids saved lives in places like Botswana and South Africa by putting HIV-positive patients on antiretroviral treatment (covering 3.2 million people worldwide). Previous aid successes on vaccines against childhood diseases and oral rehydration therapy to prevent fatal infant diarrhoea have continued, along with new efforts on neglected tropical diseases, malaria, and TB. Mortality rates of children under five fell globally by about one-fifth in 2000-2010.</blockquote>…

I know the military doesn't get to choose but how might this inform thinking about engagement and stability work?


Tue, 08/20/2013 - 4:36pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Thanks for the comments and reintroduction. I have a thick skin and appreciate any comments that pertain to the subject. I look forward to reading your comments and feedback.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 08/12/2013 - 8:55pm

In reply to by abrady


I've been regularly commenting here for about two years and I sometimes forget to reintroduce myself. I've never been in the military. I've never been to Afghanistan or Iraq. How I "got" here is complicated so I'll keep it simple:

A friend's brother (friend of a friend really, we met as bridesmaids, the bride being our common friend) died in Iraq. To this day I remember the email in my inbox.

And I have been a watcher of American policy toward South Asia (Afghanistan, India, Pakistan) my entire life because of my immigrant background (Indian). I'm old enough to remember the Cold War and how differently the American Army viewed the region back then.

Somehow, I stumbled into this site and I was shocked at the way in which the larger strategic environment, Afghanistan's regional neighborhood, was described. Nowhere was there any room for the narratives I had encountered growing up, reading periodicals and newspapers directed at the Indian diaspora living in Canada and the US. The conversation circled round and round on tactics, the British in Malaya, the pronouncements of South Asia Hands at think tanks like Brookings, but precious little about the complicated history of America in that region. We've "built capacity" in that part of the world before and that is why some people in the region know just how to maneuver around us in Afghanistan. Our development money supported a lot of corruption too, for decades.

While the US was caught up in its containment of the Soviet Union ( a generally good thing, they were no joke), I heard about insurgencies in Punjab, I heard about diaspora serving as overseas safe havens, I heard about lobbies and money in Western capitals shaping the overseas environment based on ideas about communism when the regional architecture had its own local reasons for disorder.

Then I just became interested and stuck around. I read everything I can here. I am not very nice sometimes, I get exasperated at what I think is a narrow and inward view of the military, I think, "why can't you read and study, why always with the doctrine and inward gaze, why don't you listen to your own citizens that might have a connection overseas, why can't you learn from them?"

But then I remember why I first came here. And I stick around. Your comments, your article, this conversation, is wonderful. It is the tolerant attitudes displayed by someone like you that keeps me coming back here.

I feel burned by every think tank buzzword and cockamamie 2000-era military intellectual theory that proved unable to handle the moment. And I've watched the development game from afar, what is remittance money but development funds? There was a village in India that got a tractor when it wanted because of our family remittance money. I just want to discuss these things thoroughly. I have no answers, but I have a lot of questions.

Excellent comments about Humanitarian vs. Development. Great comment.


Tue, 08/06/2013 - 9:41am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

To the China point: I agree they are competing with the West for influence, however the model is not without its problems. The Chinese model (provide money and infrastructure for access to resources without political/governance strings) may be showing some cracks. The issue is that the infrastructure projects are only built by Chinese companies with imported Chinese labor. In fact, very few locals are employed. I believe this has started to cause some backlash (never viewed personnally as China was not deeply involved in the areas of Uganda I've visited).

As for taking two steps back and looking at how to engage fragile states, I'm in the process of trying that. How do we shift our outlook (paradigm is a little too buzzword for me) on the subject? After doing that at a personal level, how can we make that shift occur at an organizational level? These are all great questions that will take much more thought/research/discussion to explore.

Mission Creep: You'll have to forgive me, but I've never been deployed to Afghanistan. It seems that I was meant to spend 3 years in southern Salahadin Province, Iraq. With that, I think that mission creep occurred because the military was one of the few (only?) organizations willing to operate in the security environment found in Iraq (and Afghanistan) at the beginning the missions there. Once creep occurs, it is very hard to the military to relinquish those tasks.

Humanitarian vs Development: to me, the primary difference between humanitarian assistance (HA) and development is the time-period. HA should be focused on dealing with the immediate provision of basic necessities for a short period of time. Development is more long term, focused on removing the need for HA and creating capacity for the local "government" to deal with such emergencies in the future without additional outside influence/intervention/etc. (forgive the squishy terms, this is on the fly). However, groups conducting HA need to have an understanding on how their actions will influence the future of the impacted area and should have a plan for tying their activities into the development of the area.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 08/04/2013 - 4:36pm

In reply to by abrady

Why are these successful programs? How have they contributed to stability? What evidence supports the connection to stability?

I'm glad you explained your basic assumption because I was afraid when reading the article that you were falling into the "modernization" or development trap. As you note, there is a history of spectacular failure of Western aid programs. Not failure in the strict humanitarian sense (people are helped and this is wonderful), but failure in providing any link to good or stable governance. In fact, some of the largest recipients of Western aid are some of the most problematic states for the US in terms of potentially dangerous behavior, even if from secondary or tertiary effects.

And if Western development of overseas wealth via building of infrastructure and so forth solved all our problems, Saudi Arabia wouldn't be the worry that it is today.

The "Chinese Development" model is now considered serious competition given the failures of the Western model, at least, in some regions. This is not strictly about China but about the complicated evolution of various regions, culturally and economically. African and Asian economists and analysts argue these points all the time.

If the American military needs to move with the times, so too do Western development groups and State/USAID. I know they know this, but this is all a work in progress, right? So, what exactly are you learning from them?

This is an open-ended question, I am not trying to be overly negative.

In fact, in some states, given the multipolar flavor to this particular historic moment <em>and</em> world capital flows, the US is competing for development influence with many nations, globalization and black globalization, and remittance money--which is a massive influence.

What does stability mean? How is stability achieved? Does third party assistance help to achieve this? Can our system sustain such engagement given the nature of our system?

I am aware of a lot of advocacy on these subjects but what do better quality studies show? Contradictory evidence, given the nature of the subject I imagine. Yet, this should be a caution.

All this is an enormously complicated question, one of great interest and massive study.

Okay, now I'm rambling.

The military is stuck with certain tasks. Okay. You don't choose. Understood.

But, first, it might be a good thing to understand that the tasks may have no relation to the overall mission or that the overall mission cannot be accomplished by the military alone, even if you are asked to do it. Because, if we all think about it in that way, is there another way that the military should go about things? If we understand that traditional development activities may or may not improve stability, how does that affect what the military might do or how it might approach its tasks?

In Afghanistan, if this thinking had been present earlier on within the NATO mindset, might it have led to less mission creep?

Just asking to ask and to explore, that's all.

That's my question. If you step back one or two paces, what do you see? Are there other ways to engage with fragile states outside twentieth century Western NGO-centric developmental models? If you view work as humanitarian versus "development", how does that affect mission understanding?


Fri, 08/02/2013 - 9:48am

In reply to by Bill C.

I'm getting the feeling that I didn't explain my assumptions well in this article.

Primary Assumption: the US military will continue to be executing stabilization operations in their current form (including development) for the forseeable future. Therefore, we will be conducting some form of development whether we want to or not. I think we owe it to ourselves as a profession to become proficient at any task/mission that we are expected to do. Personally, I would prefer the Department of State (and USAID due to their status as the primary development agency within the DoS and USG)be responsible for anything outside of the primary military tasks of offense, defense, and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief operations. Unfortunately, that will never be the case. We are doing a disservice to our subordinates if we don't try to improve our proficiency at these tasks.

Thanks for the comments,
Adam (author)


Fri, 08/02/2013 - 2:33am

In reply to by Bill C.

I see no reason to assume that the populaces of Iraq and Afghanistan were opposed to development and modernization. More likely they opposed invasion and occupation.

Iran of course is a different story, but even there it would be simplistic to cast the revolution purely as a backlash against modernization and development.

I see no reason to assume that development and modernization promote conflict. They might, in some circumstances, but conflict can also be promoted by withholding or obstructing modernization and development. I think you'd find that a lot more insurgencies are fought by populations trying to force modernization on those who resist it than the other way around.

When one country tries to dictate outcomes for another, that I would agree promotes conflict. Fortunately there's rarely any compelling reason for us to do that.

Bill C.

Thu, 08/01/2013 - 11:45pm

In reply to by Dayuhan

If nothing else, Iraq and Afghanistan has taught us that the populace will not always welcome, with open arms, (1) development and modernization and (2) the dramatic and corresponding changes to the status quo values, attitudes and beliefs -- and the status quo political, economic and social orders -- that these initiatives bring with them. Thus, we can never again hope to "go in light."

It is in acknowledgement of this fact that, I believe, we now have determined to ramp up our efforts to build our partner nation's military, police and intelligence capabilities and capacity. (This building of partner capacity being, indeed, an acknowledgment that significantly greater capabilities may be needed to hold the population down while modernization/development is acheived.)

The Iranian Revolution should also have driven home for us that it does not take a foreign occupying army -- intent on defining and imposing development and modernization -- to set a population off. As this example dramatically illustrates, the local government's own such initiative can have very negative and far-reaching consequences.

Thus, instead of saying that:

a. Development/modernization = conflict prevention, should we say that, based on the above,

b. Development/modernization = conflict promotion?


Thu, 08/01/2013 - 7:41pm

In reply to by Bill C.

I think you'll find that in most of these cases the populaces are in no way averse to development and modernization, or the changes that they bring. I think you'd find that they are not at all fond of the status quo: they think it sucks.

Of course that doesn't mean they want "development" or "modernization" to be defined and imposed by an occupying army.

Here we go again.

What the author seems to be saying is that conflict prevention is to be achieved via development.

Development = conflict prevention. Conflict prevention = development.

This would seem to negate the idea of "self-determination."


Because we have decided that various states and societies -- due to their lack of development (or should we just go ahead and say their lack of modernity) -- are exceptionally prone to conflict. (Thus, the same old "root cause" theory.)

And this condition (lack of development/modernity = prone to conflict) we cannot allow. (Left alone, leads to, in our eyes, large-scale problems and large-scale conflicts like those that we have just been involved in.)

Thus, our job now is to:

a. Train up and dramatically expand the military, police and intelligence forces of these underdeveloped/less-modern states and societies,

b. So that these host-nation forces can be ready -- in advance (rather than after the fact like most recently) -- to deal with those members of the population who would resist such unwanted political, economic and social changes as development/modernity brings with them and requires.


Fri, 08/02/2013 - 9:40am

In reply to by Bill C.

The issue with this is that many NGOs want to avoid politicizing themselves. Therefore, many shun any view of influence by the military or outside forces. This keeps them from being willing to have direct and significant contact with the military.


Thu, 08/01/2013 - 7:46pm

In reply to by Bill C.

To this I can only say "amen". Asking an army to do development work is every bit as absurd as asking Oxfam to fight a war. The results will not be good. If you ask an engineer to perform brain surgery, the prognosis is not going to be positive.

Unfortunately the Army, through no inherent fault of its own, has been placed in positions where it is expected to do this work. That makes no sense, but still it happens. The logical course would be to tap civilian professionals, but that won't be done. So I'd say that while the Army shouldn't have to develop this expertise, and while the Army will probably never be effective at this kind of work, it can't hurt for at least some component of the Army to be familiar with the problems and the practices. If nothing else, they may be more able to convince the civilian leadership that this is an inherently inappropriate function for a military force.

Why not just hire Water for People, Oxfam, USAID et al to do the development work while we pull security?

No need for them to learn how to fight the bad guys.

And no need for us to learn how to do development.