Play to Win: Report of the Post-Conflict Reconstruction Commission
January 1, 2003
One of the principal lessons of the events of September 11 is that failed states matter – for national security as well as for humanitarian reasons. If left to their own devices, such states can become sanctuaries for terrorist networks, organized crime and drug traffickers as well as posing grave humanitarian challenges and threats to regional stability.
While the United States has great interests at stake, however, U.S. institutions and ways of doing business have not kept pace with the rapidly changing environment since the end of the Cold War. Despite over a decade of recent experience in trying to address the challenges of failed states and rebuilding countries following conflict, U.S. capacity for addressing these challenges remains woefully inadequate.
The United States cannot get involved in all failed states or try to rebuild all countries following conflict, nor should it try to do so. The appropriate role for the United States will depend on the interests and values at stake, as well as the role that other international actors can and should play. Although the U.S. contribution will vary from operation to operation, decision makers will nevertheless have to make judgments about what kind of assistance options they want to be able to make available for future U.S. engagement. The notion of comparative advantage should be central to determining the portfolio of long-term capabilities and mechanisms in which the U.S. government should invest to create those options.
Some in the United States might argue that enhancing U.S. capacity to work in post-conflict environments is a recipe for automatically dragging the United States into “other people’s messes.” In fact, as a superpower with a global presence and global interests, the United States does have a large stake in remedying failed states. Far from being a recipe to force us to do more in this area, having a clear vision of our comparative advantages, objectives and strategy, as well as corresponding capacities, will give us more, not less, flexibility and leverage to determine what role we should play and what roles other international and indigenous actors should play.
This bi-partisan Commission on Post Conflict Reconstruction was convened by the Association of the U.S. Army and the Center for Strategic and International Studies to make recommendations on what the United States will have to do to enable itself to help countries successfully rebuild themselves following conflict. The commissioners – 27 distinguished individuals with extensive experience in the U.S. Congress, military, various executive branch agencies, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations – met throughout 2002 to consider recommendations that surfaced over two years of research, expert working groups, and vetting with current policy-makers and practitioners.
This report represents the Commission’s final assessment of the top priority issues that the United States needs to address. It makes 17 specific recommendations broken out by the substantive pillars of post-conflict reconstruction – security, justice and reconciliation, economic and social wellbeing, and governance and participation – as well as by the four crucial “enablers” that facilitate successful engagement: strategy and planning, implementation infrastructure, training and education, and funding.
It is our firm belief that if policy-makers take steps to implement these recommendations, the United States will dramatically improve its ability to protect itself, promote its interests and values, enhance its standing, and improve the lot of people around the globe.