Author Topic: Getting American Security Force Assistance Right: Political Context Matters  (Read 113 times)


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Highly relevant and timely read. The opening paragraphs hit hard and deep:

If one accepts that the American military is the most powerful armed force in human history, why does it have a mixed record when it comes to building up foreign armies in weak states? With immense experience, capability, and resources, the United States should be able to train and develop competent armed forces in any host nation. Yet evidence over the past several decades has shown how difficult this task is. When a Senegalese general was asked why the United States struggled to create effective militaries throughout Africa, despite the United States (and other countries) committing tremendous resources (for example, funding, equipment, trainers/advisors, among others), he explained, “The logic of their politics will show you the quality of their military.”1 His remark should not come as surprise, yet in interviews with officials that oversee (and conduct) security force assistance (SFA), there is a massive disconnect between what is believed possible and what can actually be accomplished given the political context within each country.2 This highlights a substantial problem with Western SFA: it is too focused on building an army in the absence of a viable state that has the institutional capacity and political willpower to sustain that army.


The alternative solution is a bitter pill to swallow, but is more grounded on the harsh realities of politics in weak and fragile states. While interviewing American and British military personnel who conducted SFA in weak states, they consistently talked about their roles in helping develop tactical capabilities and how important they believed it was for these militaries to develop self-sufficiency and military effectiveness.50 However, there is substantial naiveté in believing that Western SFA can overcome deep-rooted political problems that prevent long-term defense-institution building (DIB). In fact, an overemphasis on tactical expertise and operational education and training in SFA does a disservice to most militaries in a weak state precisely because this may not be sustainable given the political context—whether for budgetary reasons, issues of civil-military relations, and/or politicization of security forces. What good is a tactically proficient military, with expensive weaponry and considerable training, in a context where state officials lack political willpower and capacity to support such a force? This is a recipe for the expensive to build, yet easy-to-break Fabergé egg army. These problems suggest that American SFA in weak states needs to be just as focused on doing politics as that of providing specific military training.


Poster's comments follows:

Political Doings in the Philippines Foreign Internal Defense (FID)? Unthinkable given the current Administration and the SocMedia scourge. The Americans would play right into the hands of the DDS Zealot crowd. End result? A Faberge Egg military already exists in the Philippines. Certain branches have pissed away aid and equipment provided under the Obama portion of the Maritime Security Initiative. One wonders what might happen five, ten years down the road when all this equipment is lying once again in a dilapidated state, or have been lost under preventable operational incidents. A lack of sufficient funding, agility and authority to reprogram funds, and a completely sloth-like and unresponsive procurement process is coming to a head. Unless someone gets rid of certain Secretaries and other key procurement related personnel, you can kiss any reasonable and sustainable decisions around Modernization goodbye.