The Foreign Service Journal - January/February 2017
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The Larger Challenges in

the Post-Westphalian World

Getting the Westphalian part of the globe back on track is a tall

order. But the work will only be complete if you are able to restore

some order to the failed and fragile states that make up the post-

Westphalian world. We need a return address for threats, and we

need partners.

Americans have developed a love-hate relationship with

nation-building, with the result that we have never developed the

tools to address the “fragile state” phenomenon adequately. In

reality, there have been more successes than most Americans are

aware of—some a result of United Nations action (Mozambique,

El Salvador, South Africa), some from regional actors (Australia in

East Timor), some bilateral (the United States in Colombia or the

United Kingdom in Sierra Leone) and some hybrid (the United

States, U.N. and E.U. in the Balkans).

What they all have in common is a focus on the political

structure that makes up a nation and the institution-building

that strengthens the supporting state. Both are essential. The

U.S. government has little to offer either in terms of developing

political structure or building institutions that is not simply an

ad hoc application of people and resources pulled from various


You might consider developing the means to more actively

influence political transitions and democratic consolidations,

and a more systematic means of delivering civilian security assis-

tance and institution-building (e.g., police, courts, ministries and

anti-corruption measures). Some of this would come from fully

implementing and further evolving the recommendations of the

2010 Quadrennial Defense and Development Review



Through Civilian Power

), while drawing from the many other

ideas out there. You could start with the U.S. Institute of Peace,

the Center for a New American Security and the Carnegie Insti-


U.S. Leadership and the Challenge of State Fragility.


work of Rufus Phillips at the National Strategy Information Cen-


Fostering Positive Political Change,

is also worth your time.)

There may be states that are destined to fail, but there are a

host of others that can avoid failure. And there are some failed

states that can undoubtedly be brought back to health.

Your Partners at State

Through all of this, your Department of State employees will

remain on the front lines. Here are some of the places where we

can actively support your work on this daunting agenda:

Calling Mr./Ms. X:

The originator of the containment doc-

trine, Foreign Service Officer George Kennan, had an unusual