Why do autocracies matter, and what can we do?
From Chile to DR Congo, from Iran to Somalia and beyond, the United States and its allies have long sought to support statebuilding in closed-order countries.
The concentration of power in the hands of a limited elite, it is argued, results in governments that are unable to discharge their basic functions. These countries are at a high risk of internal conflict, sectarian violence and some of the worst human rights abuses. While it is the citizens of these countries that suffer the most, many of these states as fragile- if not already failed -are permissive environments for the growth of extremist groups that use violence globally in the pursuit of their aims. They can be sources of regional instability, creating large-scale displacements of people, distorting regional economies and effecting power balances. These states also suck up international attention and assistance and divert it away from countries where the government is willing to be responsive to and invest in its people.
Until they no longer hold our attention.
The result of our support in statebuilding in these countries has been varied; useless at best, and counterproductive at worst. We’ve had long term military and development investments in countries that have since disintegrated into or are on the brink of civil war. At other times, we’ve propped up the wrong rulers, in the wrong ways, in our efforts to ensure stability.
What are our range of options for supporting statebuilding in these places?
Professor Stephen Krasner of Stanford releases a new Atlantic Council strategy paper tomorrow. I’ll be joining Professor Krasner and Ambassador James B. Cunningham, talking about why statebuilding in these countries matters and how we can employ a more effective approach.