The Twilight of Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Stabilization

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Reporting in Government Executive suggests that the days of US planning and intervention to straighten out other countries in the Arab world may, mercifully, be coming to a close.

In Iraq, it seems the government we helped install is reluctant to invite 14-18,000 American troops to remain, despite Gen. Allen’s apparent desire to do so. It seems domestic politics prevail, and Iraqis may have had enough of a large US troop presence. Gen. Allen may think it is necessary, but perhaps the Iraqi government is now in charge and, for better or worse, prepared to handle its own affairs. As for Libya…

In Libya, where US and European post-conflict reconstructors and stabilizers are champing at the bit to fix things for the new regime, it seems the US administration is not prepared to devote large resources to the task. Although a US coordinator at State is soon to be named, he may have few resources to work with. It seems the new Libyan government has its own ideas about what it wants to do and, if the Kadafi resources are released to it, that government will also have the resources to carry out plans for which only it can be responsible.

And, most interesting, it seems the new Egyptian government and military have suggested that an American plan to provide additional funding (on top of the more than $1 billion the US already provides in military assistance) was not welcome, leading State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland to worry about a streak of “anti-Americanism” appearing in that country.

It is high time to step back and review our record in “fixing” other countries and ask ourselves if post-conflict reconstruction and stabilization is something we do well or poorly, and whether it is truly welcome in other countries who may want to run their own affairs.