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Walter C. Ladwig III

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Book Review Roundtable: Building Militaries in Fragile States

Book Review Roundtable: Building Militaries in Fragile States

In our latest roundtable, our contributors review Mara Karlin's book, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States.

Book Review Roundtable: Lost Opportunities in Vietnam

Book Review Roundtable: Lost Opportunities in Vietnam

1. Max Boot’s Revisionist Look at Vietnam By Mark Atwood Lawrence Could the United States have won in Vietnam if only Americans had made different decisions about how to fight the war there? For the most part, academic historians have said no. The South…

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1. Introduction: The Pitfalls of Seeking Security on the Cheap

By Jason Fritz   In the years since the United States deployed massive amounts of troops to Iraq and Afghanistan beginning in the early to late 2000s, it has changed tactics, relying upon local security forces to fight its enemies abroad in order to avoid the costs of large-scale military commitments. The United States provides security assistance on every continent except Antarctica, and to every country in the bottom quartile of fragile states, except for Eritrea and Syria.[1] Support to these local forces takes many forms, from simple train-and-equip missions, to acting in an advisory role, to training and educating foreign armies, to institutional and ministerial reform. The U.S. government has invested heavily in building the military capacity of fragile states because it is much cheaper to support developing militaries than it is for the United States to stabilize these countries itself. Yet, these efforts have produced mixed results at best. Mara Karlin, in her excellent new book, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States, proposes to explain under what conditions efforts to build partner capacity succeed and fail when the United States is attempting to stabilize a fragile state undergoing civil conflict — specifically, conflict that challenges the government’s monopoly on the use of force. Offering an elegant and parsimonious model, Karlin argues that there are two overarching variables that help a partner military achieve sustainable control over the state: the nature of U.S. involvement and the external threat environment. The former is determined by how the United States organizes the foreign military (for internal or external defense), the U.S. role in selecting key partner military leaders, and the ability of the United States to limit its involvement to assistance only and not become a party to the conflict. The external threat environment describes the role of external actors in the conflict. According to Karlin’s model, building a partner’s military capacity is more likely to be successful — measured as the partner’s monopoly of force within its borders — when American involvement is greater and the role of antagonistic external actors is decreased. Thus, when U.S. involvement is low and external antagonism is high, building partner capacity is expected to be a complete failure. The remaining two combinations lead to two different varieties of partial failure: When there is limited antagonistic influence but U.S. efforts are not fully engaged, insufficient progress is made toward securing a monopoly of force for the local government. Conversely, heavy U.S. involvement alongside significant external antagonism result in a spoiler effect where both actors — the United States and and the external antagonistic actor — cancel out the effect of the other. Karlin draws her empirical evidence from a number of historical case studies, relying on unique archival research and interviews. The exemplar case of building partner capacity is Greece in the late 1940s, an intervention in which U.S. military officers wielded great power over the personnel decisions and force structuring in the Greek military as a condition of assistance. Coupled with limited external support for the communist rebels, the U.S. assistance was extremely effective in defeating the insurgency. Alternatively, complete failure in such efforts is exemplified by U.S. intervention in South Vietnam in the late 1950s. South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem refused to allow American interference in military leadership decisions. Instead, his paranoia led him to only appoint officers whose personal loyalty to him was unquestionable. American advisors continued to structure, equip, and train the South Vietnamese military to face external threats, while the insurgency — increasingly backed by North Vietnam — surged to unmanageable levels of capability. The assistance mission was a disaster, leading the United States to become more and more involved with direct military action, the consequences of which need no further discussion here. Karlin illustrates her model’s predictions of partial failure by examining two assistance programs in Lebanon. The first example was during Lebanon’s civil war in the early 1980s, when the United States was significantly involved in leadership decisions and force structuring in the country but was ultimately defeated by the destabilizing effects of proxy forces supported by Israel, Iran, and Syria. In this case, antagonistic external actors were able to overcome American attempts to improve the Lebanese military. The second example is from the subsequent U.S. efforts in the late 2000s after the withdrawal of the Syrian military from Lebanon. In this example, there were fewer outside actors pushing against U.S. efforts, but America failed to affect leadership decisions in the Lebanese military, which was unable to gain or maintain control over all of the state’s territory. Karlin’s model is not meant to apply to cases where the United States is a direct co-combatant in a civil conflict. As she notes, these are rare events, most notably Vietnam (post-1961), Afghanistan (post-2001), and Iraq (post-2003). Karlin explains, “the nature of U.S. programs to strengthen militaries during a massive occupation is harder to disentangle given the numerous other variables that exist.”[2] Nor is her model meant to apply to assistance that is focused on external defense. The measure of success in Karlin’s model is the ability to control the state’s territory, an outcome which does not apply in cases of state-on-state conflict. How Much Involvement Is Enough, and for Whom? In addition to the great explanatory power that Karlin’s two-dimensional model provides and the key questions she raises for any policymaker considering embarking on a partner capacity mission, her study provides a great starting point for a suite of additional studies, including exploring how much assistance is enough and how the recipient country’s legitimacy affects U.S. effectiveness. First, given that assistance recipients are often concerned about how much U.S. involvement to accept, it would be invaluable to explore how much U.S. involvement is enough — and no more. There is ample research on the reticence of countries receiving U.S. assistance in appearing to be clients of the American hegemon,[3] a point made by each of the reviewers below. A government seen as too cozy with the United States could easily be viewed as not legitimate by its people, endangering its ability to expand and maintain control over the entirety of the state. Understanding the effective limits of U.S. involvement — and how much antagonistic external meddling can be tolerated — is also important to the United States as it would help frame the challenges for individual assistance programs and create expectations about costs for decision-makers, Congress, and the public. It is also important to set expectations with partner governments so they can gauge how much involvement to expect, which, if communicated well, could limit accusations of clientelism to a foreign power. A second potential path for future research is the addition of a third dimension to Karlin’s model, also discussed by Walter Ladwig below: the recipient government’s legitimacy. While measuring legitimacy remains a squishy endeavor, the reality is that some governments cannot be helped regardless of how much involvement the United States may offer or how little outside assistance insurgencies receive. Autocratic regimes that undertake coup-proofing measures with their military will not accept American influence on leadership decisions no matter what the United States does: the weakness of their military is essential in maintaining their rule. Karlin’s case study in South Vietnam illustrates just this; however, Karlin identified the American advisors as the explanatory variable, not the very nature of Diem’s rule, which precluded any serious U.S. involvement. Moreover, in fragile states the government is often created by divvying public goods among warlords or other powerful elites, who would otherwise be in conflict with one another, in order to create a coalition.[4] Such coalitions are sensitive to changes in the power dynamics resulting from U.S. involvement. Replacing key military leaders may make the military a more capable force, but it degrades the political power structures that undergird the existence of the government. Assistance in this case is doomed to fail, as is the case in Afghanistan. And while some governments may or may not engage in coup-proofing or in efforts to maintain shaky political coalitions, their actions nevertheless prevent them from building legitimacy despite U.S. involvement in leadership decisions and force structuring. Such actions typically entail political exclusion or repression, both of which were on display in Iraq after the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2011. Instances where the recipient government seeking stability may be a major source of fragility warrant the inclusion of a third dimension that considers the nature and actions of the recipient government. The Unlikelihood of Success Karlin, an exceptional academic who was also a senior official in the Department of Defense, examines security assistance deftly, with the rigor of a scholar and the practicality of a practitioner. The three reviewers in this roundtable — Walter Ladwig, Tommy Ross, and Loren DeJonge Shulman — each express agreement with Karlin’s model, but remain skeptical in the entire endeavor of building partner militaries. They focus on different points of failure for these missions, but think policymakers would be well served if America’s leaders in the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom analyzed each case according to the questions posed in Karlin’s conclusion. However, if policymakers were to rigorously analyze each mission as Karlin suggests, the reviewers are skeptical that U.S. partners would be up to the task, that the U.S. government is organized to build partner militaries, or that exogenous forces can be adequately deterred. In any of these cases, they expect the United States to be more likely to fail in these missions than not. Ladwig focuses his review on the recipient government and its propensity to accept outside involvement. He cites a number of studies that identify the partner government itself as the greatest obstacle to achieving state control and subsequent stability. Ladwig identifies that the country offering assistance and the recipient governments may have differing objectives that preclude the unity of effort necessary for deep outside involvement. Additionally, Ladwig points out that because assistance is an inherently political act, it may upset the political coalitions of the state, using the second Lebanon case as an example. Ultimately, Ladwig argues that although Karlin’s book is an excellent start, additional dimensions should also be explored when considering what makes for a successful foray into building partner capacity. Ross and DeJonge Schulman both acknowledge that building partner capacity has become America’s default response to fragile states, largely because it is cheaper than direct combat involvement. However, they also question whether the U.S. government is organized to conduct such assistance operations effectively. Ross notes that within the military, foreign assistance is marginalized — the U.S. government has invested little to create the capacity to conduct partner capacity missions at a scale commensurate with demand. Similarly, DeJonge Schulman doubts the ability of policymakers to fully analyze any specific mission adequately, per Karlin’s conclusion, in an environment where the operational tempo often precludes obtaining a rigorous understanding of the political conditions in the country in question. Furthermore, she is concerned about the existence of expertise at the country level, something that is necessary in order for the United States to make deep involvement effective (a point also made by Ross). Finally, Ross focuses in on the role of external actors more deeply. In his analysis, Karlin’s model treats antagonistic external actors as exogenous to the internal conflict and U.S. influence. This is undoubtedly for the sake of parsimony. But Ross argues that U.S. actions can both limit and inspire external actions, a point that is underexplored in Karlin’s model and case analysis. He notes that the United States has “an underdeveloped suite of tools available to confront the activities of adversarial actors in a third country” and that U.S. planners may not be aware of the few tools that do exist. Ross ultimately proposes this as an additional area of exploration in future research. Each of the reviewers acknowledges that assistance to foreign militaries has been a key aspect of U.S. security efforts in fragile states for nearly 20 years, and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. And yet, the United States has not had a great record in using that assistance to create stability in states of great strategic interest, particularly in the Middle East and throughout Africa. Karlin’s book provides a practical analytical path to predict the success of such assistance efforts. While scholars can enjoy the elegant model she presents and the lines of research the model uncovers, policymakers would be well advised to read and abide by the principles she lays out.   Jason Fritz is a senior research analyst and project manager in the Brookings Institution’s Foreign Policy program, a senior editor at War on the Rocks, and a lecturer at Johns Hopkins University’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences’ Advanced Academic Programs.  

2. The Politics of Security Assistance to Fragile States

By Walter C. Ladwig III   Reflecting the change in U.S. security strategy from direct intervention in internal conflicts to working “by, with, and through” local partners to manage internal security challenges, in recent years there has been a marked increase in the academic literature on security force assistance. Mara Karlin’s recent book, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States, makes a significant contribution to this growing field of study, as well as our understanding of the conditions necessary for American military assistance programs to achieve their objectives. Specifically, the book seeks to understand when, why, and under what circumstances U.S. programs to strengthen partner militaries for internal defense have succeeded. Both during the Cold War and today, military assistance has been a key tool in America’s diplomatic tool kit, yet as Karlin notes, “the U.S. track record for building militaries in fragile state is uneven at best.”[5] What accounts for this outcome? Blending a scholar’s detachment with the real-world insights of a senior Pentagon official, Karlin concludes that the limited impact of most security assistance programs is the result of a failure to properly conceive of the true scope of the undertaking. All too often, the task of strengthening a partner’s military is seen as a narrow technical undertaking focused on the provision of equipment and training. When these efforts fail to achieve the desired results, the answer is to simply provide more equipment and more training. Instead, Building Militaries in Fragile States contends that training and equipment on their own will only contribute marginally to military effectiveness if the armed forces receiving assistance suffer from poor organization and dysfunctional leadership. Consequently, Karlin argues that efforts to transform the recipient military, rather than simply supplying it with material and instruction, are the hallmark of efficacious security assistance missions. Success in this endeavor will be determined by the actions taken by the United States as well as by those of external powers that seek to destabilize the fragile state. In particular, efforts to strengthen the militaries of fragile states will succeed in achieving a monopoly on violence within the country’s borders when the following conditions are met: 1) American officials involve themselves in the partner’s “sensitive military matters,” such as the appointment of senior personnel and the organizational structure of the armed forces; and 2) The efforts of hostile external powers to bolster insurgents or undermine the fragile state are deterred or moderated. Conversely, when the United States shies away from trying to influence a state’s higher-level defense policies and antagonistic external actors run rampant, security assistance missions are poised for catastrophic failure. Karlin tests the explanatory power of this two-variable formulation by examining four case studies: U.S. involvement in the Greek Civil War (1947–1949); assistance to the armed forces of South Vietnam between 1956 and 1960; and two distinct efforts to strengthen the Lebanese army, from 1982 to 1984 (Lebanon I) and again from 2005 to 2009 (Lebanon II). She utilizes extensive archival research and copious interviews with senior policymakers to provide an impressive depth of insight into American efforts in each of the cases. In the most successful of the four assistance efforts examined in Karlin’s book, the Joint U.S. Military Assistance and Planning Group under Gen. James Van Fleet exercised considerable influence over the personnel policy and structure of the Greek armed forces. This occurred alongside internecine struggles in the communist world that led Yugoslavia to cut off support for the Communist Party of Greece (Κομμουνιστικό Κόμμα Ελλάδας) and deny their guerrillas sanctuary. The end result was a Greek military that was highly capable of carrying out the foreign internal defense mission and wielded uncontested sovereignty throughout the country’s territory. Vietnam sits at the opposite end of the spectrum where the U.S. Military Assistance Group under Gen. Samuel “Hanging Sam” Williams steadfastly focused on the technical aspects of rendering assistance to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam and purposely avoided attempts to influence personnel policy or organizational structures of the South Vietnamese military. Moreover, a misplaced focus on preparing South Vietnam’s army for interstate warfare did little to develop its capacity to respond to North Vietnam’s increasing support for armed guerrillas in the south. The failure of this early security assistance effort set the stage for the subsequent U.S. intervention to bolster a succession of fledgling governments in Saigon. The two cases out of Lebanon demonstrate partial failures, with American efforts to reform the local armed forces countered by external support for opposition armed groups in one case (Lebanon I), and America’s failure to capitalize on the diminishing role of antagonistic external actors by intrusively intervening in the sensitive military affairs of the country generating sub-optimal results in the other (Lebanon II). Not all Countries Are Interested in Cooperation The real strength of Karlin’s contribution is in advancing an analytical framework that focuses on the agency and the actions of the supporting and opposing external powers. In this manner, politics takes center stage in determining the efficacy of security assistance efforts, rather than more mundane technical aspects of the undertaking. Karlin makes a convincing case that American policymakers tend to err by viewing the task of building partner militaries narrowly through the lens of training and equipping the forces, rather than engaging with broader questions of organizational structure and leadership that are so critical to enhancing military effectiveness.[6] In calling for security assistance efforts to be conceived more broadly, Building Militaries in Fragile States makes an important argument. At the same time, however, in privileging the politics and agency of external actors this approach neglects those same factors when it comes to the local partner. Although governments of weak states are sometimes portrayed as being puppets or pawns of major powers, they often prove to be savvy and strategic political actors who can, at times, succeed in advancing their own interests at the expense of their more powerful partners. Consequently, the mere willingness on the part of the United States to involve itself in a partner state’s sensitive military affairs is only part of the issue. The local partner’s willingness to allow such an intrusion and to accept American guidance is just as important, if not more so. The history of U.S. efforts to train and equip foreign militaries suggests that such compliance cannot be taken for granted. Indeed, there is a strand of literature dating back to the 1970s that identifies America’s partner governments as the principal obstacle to developing local militaries for internal security missions.[7] Although willing to accept U.S. military aid and training, local governments can be resistant to undertaking the kinds of transformational re-organizations that would improve military effectiveness, in part, because they often mistrust their own military. Governments that do not exercise a monopoly on violence within their territory and need significant external assistance to build military capacity typically suffer from a myriad of problems, like economic stagnation, incompetence, lack of legitimacy, abusive treatment of the population, or all of the above. The particular terrorist or insurgent group motivating U.S. involvement in a country’s internal security may be just one potential threat to the local regime’s hold on power, with additional challenges posed by rival elites or even the armed forces themselves. These different threat perceptions can lead the United States and a partner government to have different policy priorities, which can, in turn, undermine the effectiveness of U.S. security assistance. Consequently, advice to streamline the military chain of command or to appoint senior leaders on the basis of ability rather than political allegiance makes sense in terms of improving military effectiveness, but such actions can also appear reckless, if not downright suicidal, to the government in question. Instead, savvy leaders will ensure that the military is too divided to mount a coup, employ patronage to buy off rival elites, and centralize power in the hands of trusted loyalists, all of which is likely to diminish military effectiveness.[8] The potential for divergent preferences is amply illustrated in Karlin’s “Lebanon II” case, where the United States wanted the Lebanese government to be able to exert control over all of its territory, but the administration in Beirut prioritized maintaining its modus vivendi with Hezbollah over exercising complete sovereignty. When attempting to build military capacity in a fragile state, how likely is it that Washington’s preferences and those of a partner government will diverge? Available evidence suggests this will be a fairly common occurrence. As Stephen Biddle, Julia Macdonald, and Ryan Baker have noted, many of the largest recipients of U.S. security assistance, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sudan, are plagued by corruption, dalliances with terrorist groups, or gross human rights abuses, while other U.S. partners are among the most significant sources of foreign fighters for the so-called Islamic State.[9] Barbara Elias’ study of the demands the United States made to the Iraqi and Afghan governments it was supporting in counterinsurgency efforts found that 50 percent of American requests for military reforms in Iraq went unfulfilled and that the Afghan government’s compliance rate with U.S. suggestions regarding its military strategy was below 25 percent.[10] Indeed, in these two cases local partners pursued domestic policies that subverted U.S. security objectives. An inability to restrain Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s sectarian agenda, for example, prevented the military gains from the 2007 surge from being translated into positive political outcomes and laid the foundation for the rise of the Islamic State. In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai’s use of patronage politics was seen as a form of corruption, undercutting public support for the very government that U.S. and NATO forces were trying to assist. As commander of the U.S. military advisory group, Gen. Van Fleet was clearly right to push the Greek government to cashier ineffective senior officers, restructure its armed forces, and adjust its military doctrines. It is less clear, however, that the United States will often find a government as receptive as the Greeks were to their patron’s interventions. Not only did Van Fleet forge a close working relationship with his counterparts, as Karlin recounts, “the Greek government sought to wholly cooperate with the Americans.”[11] It goes far beyond the remit of Karlin’s book to determine why the Greek government was so willing to countenance American intrusion in sensitive military affairs, however, perceptions of the communist insurgency as the primary threat to the regime, coupled with a trust in the loyalty of the armed forces and unity among Greek elites would seem to be likely explanations. In any event, the situation was far different in South Vietnam where — despite the worsening internal security situation — the Diem government took active steps to limit the effectiveness of the army and ensured that the primary target of the intelligence services was not the growing insurgency, but rather non-communist political dissidents. Why? Because the army and political rivals were seen to be as great a threat to South Vietnam’s government as the Viet Cong. Even if Gen. Williams and his group of military advisors had wished to involve themselves in South Vietnam’s sensitive military affairs, would a government that had tightly centralized control over all aspects of defense, security, and economic policy in the office of the president readily welcome the council of American interlocutors? The rich historical detail in the Vietnam case study suggests that Ngo Dinh Diem would have exerted significant energy to thwart such efforts, as he did in fact do in the early 1960s.[12] It may be the case that some future American partners will be as welcoming as the Greeks, however, the history of U.S. security assistance efforts in Vietnam and Lebanon reviewed in this book should disabuse anyone of the expectation that unconditional cooperation will be the norm. Questions About U.S. Partners In the conclusion, Karlin outlines eight questions a policymaker should consider before initiating an effort to strengthen the military of a fragile state. Pondering these issues before commencing any security assistance mission will indeed help ensure that such an undertaking takes account of broader political military matters affecting military effectiveness, rather than concentrating narrowly on training and equipping foreign forces. The majority of these questions, however, focus on either the U.S. government or the antagonistic external actor. As the preceding discussion indicates, it is necessary to subject the local partner to the same type of scrutiny. What does the partner government see as its primary security threat? Does it trust the armed forces or see them as a potential rival? Is enhancing the military’s effectiveness a key goal for the local regime? Will American involvement in sensitive military affairs be welcomed or resisted? If the answers to these questions point to significant divergences in priorities or preferences between the United States and a partner, should the United States attempt to compel changes in the local government’s behavior through rewards or punishments or should it simply walk away? The answer to this latter question will vary from situation to situation, nevertheless, policymakers should give it real consideration before rendering security assistance to a fragile state. That such issues go beyond Karlin’s analytical framework is not a critique of Building Militaries in Fragile States, but rather an indication of the multi-dimensional challenges posed by security force assistance. Building effective military organizations can be difficult enough in one’s own state. These challenges are only compounded when seeking to enhance the effectiveness of another country’s armed forces. Mara Karlin makes an extremely valuable contribution to the growing literature on security force assistance by articulating a two-dimensional framework that can help assess when an effort to build a partner’s military is likely to be successful. Well written, deeply researched, and incorporating the perspectives of both a scholar and a practitioner, Building Militaries in Fragile States should be widely read by those in the Pentagon, Foggy Bottom, and on Capitol Hill who fund, execute, and oversee America’s extensive military assistance programs.   Walter C. Ladwig III is an associate professor of international relations in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London and the author of The Forgotten Front: Patron-Client Relations in Counterinsurgency (Cambridge University Press, 2017).  

3. To Remind You of My Love: Reforming the Impulsive Affection of U.S. Efforts to Build Partner Militaries

By Loren DeJonge Schulman   The movie Downfall, about the final days of Adolf Hitler, contains a scene that has been turned into countless memes with various subtitles. In the original, Hitler learns that the defeat of Germany is imminent and explodes at his senior generals. My favorite meme is titled, “Hitler Learns About Sequestration”: The madman is informed of the imminence of the enormous budget cut and laments the loss of military superiority, crying “What are we going to do, build partner capacity?”[13] In her recent book, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States, Mara Karlin explores America’s history with capacity building missions and considers how it fits a world of limited defense resources. In the eyes of policymakers I have worked with, efforts to build partner capacity lie somewhere between a magical antidote to all of America’s security problems and an inevitable — and less expensive — back-up date. Respected leaders have hailed building the security capacity of U.S. allies and partners as “a key and enduring test of America’s global leadership in the 21st century,”[14] consistent with its history and ideological underpinnings. Put more bluntly, Karlin notes up front that “[t]he United States faces a long-term decline in defense spending going forward” and “U.S. direct military intervention [to bolster fragile states] is politically unacceptable.” Thus, America needs a way to pursue its security interests on the cheap, and “building partner militaries is one key way to do so.”[15] Karlin goes on to make the case that the United States needs to learn from how it has pursued this form of security assistance in the past and examine what factors contribute to and take away from its mid-term success. Her takeaways are clear and approachable: “If the United States gets deeply involved in a partner state’s sensitive military affairs and if antagonist external actors play a diminishing role, then the partner state military is more likely to establish internal defense.[16] Her checklist of questions for policymakers to consider before they engage in such operations in the future are sensible and to the point: What is the purpose of the program, what is the potential for the United States holding influence over the partner military, and how unified is the U.S. vision of the program?[17] Policymakers reading Karlin’s book may feel reassured that this is the how-to guide for intelligently building partner militaries that they have been waiting for, and it is, no doubt, the best and simplest advice I have seen in the literature. Just Say "No" However, having spent many of the same years as Karlin in the Pentagon and Situation Room considering how to support partner militaries and how to establish a U.S. policy framework for doing so, I have an alternative takeaway from Karlin’s sophisticated research and analysis: Don’t do it. Don’t build partner military capacity in vulnerable states. Don’t even think about it unless you are willing to spend an immense amount of time directly involved in a foreign military’s most sensitive decisions. And don’t do it unless you are painfully honest about the goals of the program. However, if you must engage in such an effort, policymakers should lower their expectations substantially regarding the scope and timeframe that the U.S. program is expected to have. Karlin is candid about the high barriers to success in her recommended approach and explores in detail how the United States does not typically pursue capacity-building missions how it ought to: with leaders who are highly invested and who give the necessary time to establish deep involvement in the effort. She takes it as a given, however, that these programs will continue and, thus, should be radically altered or pursued with much less optimistic outlooks than in the past — a logical assessment. But having seen firsthand how policymakers initiate and oversee such programs, I have grown deeply skeptical that they can ever set themselves up for success. Rather than seeing it as a simple handbook, I would rather policymakers view Karlin’s research as a cautionary tale with a high price tag. Karlin’s lead finding is that programs that aim to build partner militaries in fragile states require that the United States get deeply involved in the partner’s sensitive military affairs — this includes who is appointed within the security apparatus, what those leaders do, how they organize, and more.[18] Intimate involvement, time commitment, deep and ongoing participation by the right senior U.S. personnel, these are all prerequisites to an effective program based on her analysis of the case studies. The cases themselves make for compelling storytelling and Karlin’s extensive personal experience in the policy field shines through in the nuances she identifies as critical learning points for her readers. The importance of persistent, intensive, and even intrusive participation by the United States in these programs is clear in each chapter. The problem is that such commitment is effectively what U.S. policymakers are hoping to avoid by pursuing such capacity-building programs. “Building partner capacity ... remains important. Whenever possible,” the 2012 Defense Strategy reads, “we will develop innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approaches to achieve our strategy objectives.”[19] While policymakers are drawn to capacity-building missions as a way to avoid putting U.S. forces at risk, in my experience, they are also attracted to solutions that minimize their own intellectual and calendar resources. Put bluntly: Policymakers often like capacity building because it feels like a press release-worthy way to kick the “risk can” down the road without a lot of wrangling on their part. What Karlin proposes is not easily delegable by senior policymakers, diplomats, and service-members in the way that a standard train-and-equip program typically is. Nor would it be a cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all approach. Such efforts, particularly if America were to engage in personnel management of the partner country, would regularly demand uncomfortable conversations and negotiations. That may be possible, but serious policymakers should ask themselves if such efforts are realistic or reasonable. U.S. security sector assistance programs are already hindered by inadequate investment in or distribution of relevant expertise. When such expertise is available, personnel rotations limit the necessary investment in in building relationships and intimate familiarity with the partner government that Karlin’s suggestions would require.[20] Recent reforms — such as the decades-late security force assistance brigades and the regionally aligned forces model introduced by the Army in 2013[21] — make a small dent in an overwhelming demand for expert personnel, yet they were strongly resisted by the institutional military. Under Karlin’s approach, leaders and forces with regional expertise would be under even higher demand because of the high level of sophistication needed to engage partner countries on all elements of their leadership, force structure, and operations. She acknowledges this approach is unsettling because it smacks of colonialism.[22] It also requires a partner country with the willingness to tolerate inevitable tensions in this relationship. Karlin writes that “healthy skepticism about the U.S. ability to do all these things is warranted.”[23] Yet, understanding what is required to produce a successful capacity-building mission is often at odds with how the United States goes about deciding to build partner militaries. While such programs have a thousand fathers and mothers, in my experience in government, they are often born out of a crisis in which the U.S. government feels under pressure to do something — anything — to assist or respond, but not overly commit or risk U.S. personnel. In such instances, U.S. senior policymakers expediting these decisions are not spending a lot of time trying to understand the scope of their overall commitment, the long-term costs, and the availability of the right personnel. Nor are they even designing long-term goals. Too often, deputies around the table in the Situation Room are clamoring to just announce some kind of program and show a transport plane offloading brigades and pallets to remind the partner of America’s love. Swimming Against the Tide Karlin is, of course, right that the U.S. government can and should do better. Her checklist of questions that senior policymakers must ask before initiating such a program is well aligned with the presidential policy directive on U.S. security sector assistance developed over many years (including by the author of this review) in the Obama administration.[24] In producing this document, many earnest wonks, such as myself, attempted to apply a systematic logic to initiating, overseeing, evaluating, and ending capacity-building programs — starting with understanding why, exactly, anyone would want to embark on one given the mixed track record. Karlin establishes the broad desired outcome of such missions as the partner state having a more enforced and sustainable monopoly on violence — a logical and sound proposal.[25] Realistically, although they do not always admit to it, policymakers consider several reasons for initiating such programs, from building capacity as Karlin proposes, to maintaining and strengthening U.S. access and influence, to enhancing U.S.-partner interoperability, to promoting partner support for U.S. interests.[26] Such objectives may align in implementing a capacity-building effort or may wildly diverge as time goes on. They may also contradict with the objectives of other national security institutions at the outset — typically, the Department of State seeks a long-term, placating effort while the Department of Defense drives a short-term, self-interested program. Policymakers may also lean too heavily on near-term objectives that suit urgent U.S. security interests. Or they may demand the kind of long-term attention that is rare in U.S. foreign policy contexts. While Karlin — and the drafters of the security assistance policy directive — are right to insist on unity of vision at the outset, it must be acknowledged that in practice that does not often happen in U.S. security sector assistance today.[27] Karlin closes her book by stating that there are times when it will not be possible to transform a partner’s security sector, and in such cases, the United States should either pursue train-and-equip programs while significantly lowering expectations or avoid such programs altogether.[28] This is necessary medicine. But the rhetoric around building partner capacity and the urgent need for more train-and-equip programs across the globe over the last two decades suggests this will not be an easy pill to swallow. While I am hopeful Karlin’s lessons on the real need for humility in any effort to transform another state will sink in, I recall the eagerness and desperation that surrounded initiating these programs and expanding them over the last two decades. Every year I served in government, the combatant commanders complained to the president or the secretary of defense that they needed to train-and-equip partners more and that the State Department was getting in the way.[29] Every month, a partner complained that U.S. efforts were too slow, too underwhelming, too unrelated to their security needs, too bureaucratic. Every year, the solution to these challenges was more, faster, and even more yet — rarely with a consideration of why and to what end. Few considered that there was a reason why the U.S. government built in hurdles to sharing weapons systems and tactical knowledge with other countries. I remain concerned that the United States will not lower its expectations and raise its standards for these capacity-building missions, but rather will drive an increasingly hectic pace. Karlin offers thoughtful ideas for future research that deserve attention, to which I would add two.[30] First, in her book she emphasizes the need for the United States to carefully and regularly consider under what conditions it might become a co-combatant with a partner military to address the original security challenge. Reading this book in light of U.S. operations in Yemen and Niger made me wonder: Where does one cross the line from typical assistance to co-combatancy?[31] U.S. advise and accompany missions surely come close. Put another way, what is the line between providing enablers — logistics, intelligence, fuel — and co-combatancy? And most importantly, does traditional American security assistance, often aimed at short-term U.S. security interests, in any way incentivize these steps toward co-combatancy? Secondly, it’s worth exploring whether some of the most desirable elements of building partner capacity — its relative low cost and small U.S. footprint — have lent themselves to a commensurate level of oversight at both the executive and legislative levels. Each branch has pursued more effective monitoring and evaluation efforts, though it’s yet unclear whether this has resulted in fundamental changes to these programs. The true test will be, to paraphrase my old boss Bob Gates, when, if ever, America stops a program due to low return on investment.[32] Building partner military capacity is, at its heart, an optimistic mission set, filled with the American can-do spirit that, with hard work, things can get markedly better. This optimism is well intended, but should be governed by experience. Karlin’s book provides those lessons and adds enormously to a literature on capacity building that is far too small, given the place of this mission in U.S. security strategy. With her personal experience, relatable storytelling, and blunt assessments, her study punches above its concise and readable weight in a way that is approachable to policymakers and vital to scholars.   Loren DeJonge Schulman is the deputy director of studies at the Center for a New American Security. She held senior staff positions at the White House National Security Council and Department of Defense.  

4. When Building Militaries Goes Wrong: A Look at Yemen

By Tommy Ross   In September 2014, thousands of Houthi insurgents poured into the streets of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, winning a decisive victory over the Yemeni military they had fought for years in the country’s northern provinces. Up to that point, Yemen’s government and military had been challenged on two main fronts: by Iranian-backed Houthi militias in the north and by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists to the east. As the Houthis swept through Sanaa, the United States government — the Yemeni military’s chief backer — saw its strategy against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp’s valued proxies and al Qaeda’s most effective offshoot crumble in the wreckage. Yemen’s collapse left the United States scrambling to pick up the pieces: Yemen represented a battleground against two threats — al Qaeda and Iran — that topped America’s list of national security priorities. Seeing few other options, the United States quickly cast its lot with a coalition of Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, that were mounting a military campaign against the Houthis that is ongoing. In shifting its efforts from building the capacity of the Yemeni military to providing aid and operational support to the Saudi-led coalition, the United States remained engaged, but at a cost to both its objectives and its principles:[33] The coalition’s poor tactics and disregard for civilian lives have “exacerbated the terrible conditions of Yemen’s civil war, characterized as the ‘worst humanitarian disaster’ in nearly 50 years.”[34] America had invested robustly in Yemen’s military leading up to its collapse: Yemen had become the leading recipient of the Defense Department’s “1206” counterterrorism capacity-building assistance program.[35] U.S. security assistance programs collectively spent over half a billion dollars to enhance Yemen’s military capacity in the five years (Fiscal Years 2010–2014) leading up to the Houthi victory.[36] The U.S. government had also pursued robust diplomatic engagement with Yemeni leaders to drive its national political dialogue and urge military restructuring, so much so that the U.S. ambassador during the period, Gerald Feierstein, was commonly referred to as “Sheikh Feierstein” in Yemeni political circles[37]. And the United States maintained a substantial military presence in Yemen, with over 100 troops based in the country to pursue counter-terrorism operations and train Yemeni forces.[38] On paper, the U.S. effort in Yemen seemed sound: It invested substantial capacity-building resources, sustained diplomatic attention to, and military engagement with, key Yemeni counterparts, maintained consistent effort over several years, and even sought to ground its approach in a whole-of-government strategy that designed military assistance in concert with civilian capacity-building and humanitarian aid initiatives.[39] And yet, the Yemeni military floundered, unable to make meaningful gains against al Qaeda before succumbing to the Houthi advance. So what went wrong? Building Militaries in Fragile States, the excellent new volume by Mara Karlin, offers an important analytical lens through which to view efforts like the U.S. military capacity-building initiative in Yemen, as well as a framework to help policymakers avoid similar outcomes in the future. It examines historical cases studies — in post-World War II Greece, 1950s South Vietnam, and two separate periods of engagement in Lebanon — to draw lessons about where U.S. assistance initiatives have failed, what elements have been vital ingredients of success, and what lessons may be most relevant to future initiatives. “When, why, and under what circumstances,” her book asks, “have U.S. efforts to build partner militaries for internal defense succeeded?”[40] The timeliness and relevance of such a book should be immediately apparent but, in an era of growing unilateralist sentiments and declining aid budgets, perhaps it deserves emphasizing. Even as U.S. national security strategies have shifted focus toward lofty ideas about prevailing in great-power competitions with China and Russia through the development of break-through technologies and the adoption of new ways of warfighting, the fact remains that partner military capacity-building is the go-to strategic option for confronting myriad national security threats around the world. Some form of capacity building occupies a central position in U.S. approaches to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan, Islamic State militants in both Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region of Africa, and al Shabaab in Somalia, as well as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Iranian proxies in Yemen. It is an essential element in the U.S. strategy in Ukraine, and plays an important role in countering Chinese aggression in the South China Sea region. In fact, it is hard to find a single going concern in the current U.S. security landscape in which capacity building does not feature prominently. And this picture represents a trend, not an aberration. As Karlin notes,
the United States will surely continue attempting to strengthen partner militaries. The increasingly decentralized international environment and America’s weakening global economic position coupled with the proliferation of fragile states and transnational threats will further ensure its reliance on this approach.[41]
And yet, despite America’s strategic dependence on capacity-building, there is scant evidence that it understands how to do it effectively. Numerous recent studies have highlighted the mixed track record of U.S. capacity-building initiatives, and many have underscored substantial gaps in the policies, doctrine, and best practices shaping these initiatives.[42] “The theory on strengthening partner militaries in weak states,” as Karlin puts it, “can best be described as an ‘undeveloped’ concept whose history is less positive than its vision.”[43] Karlin’s work makes a valuable contribution toward strengthening the underpinnings of this theory. She argues that two factors will most determine the success or failure of a capacity-building effort: “if the United States gets deeply involved in the partner state’s sensitive military affairs, and if antagonistic external actors play a diminishing role, then the partner state military is more likely to establish internal defense.”[44] Unquestionably, other variables — level of effort, duration and consistency, partner stability, program execution — will influence an initiative’s outcome, but Karlin’s two factors are indeed critical, and deserve closer scrutiny. The Politics of Building Military Capacity One of the more important insights of Karlin’s work is that building military capacity is fundamentally a political activity: “by emphasizing training and equipment and by distancing itself from key political issues,” the United States “wastes time, effort, and resources.”[45] In her view, the remedy is for America to become “deeply involved in the partner state military’s sensitive affairs — influencing personnel and organization.” One might conceive of this deep political engagement along two lines: exerting influence on individual partner decisions, such as those relating to personnel assignments, and exhorting or facilitating systemic reforms of the institutional processes, policies, and structures that organize a partner’s defense enterprise. Karlin’s strong emphasis is on the former, and she carefully documents how U.S. involvement in personnel decisions shaped the outcomes of interventions in Greece, South Vietnam, and Lebanon. For anyone who has observed the success of U.S. military initiatives fluctuate as top leaders in key roles have changed, her observation is intuitively compelling. Yet, a heavy-handed focus on personnel decisions brings risk. As Karlin herself acknowledges, “Such involvement is rife with colonial undertones,” adding that “Sovereign backlash and resentment on the part of the partner state over the intrusive U.S. role may be a challenge.”[46] Her account of the selection of Gen. Alexander Papagos to lead Greece’s military offers one such example, illustrated by his refusal to accept the job unless the United States committed to taking a diminished role in Greek affairs. Moreover, when the United States is overly involved in personnel decisions, a partner’s responsibility for and accountability to its own chain of command can be undermined, as top leaders risk being seen as U.S. puppets. These risks should not suggest that America avoid opining on personnel assignments, but its approach must be carefully calibrated based on the broader context of the relationship. Perhaps a more promising area for the kind of deep engagement Karlin advocates is institutional reform. As her study highlights, institutional reform played a key role in each case study she presents: The United States drove force restructuring, supported operational planning, provided professional military education, and built systemic logistics capacity as ways of building the capabilities of defense institutions to steer, support, and sustain military operations in the field. Bad decisions about how to approach institutional reforms were as consequential in South Vietnam and Lebanon as were good decisions in Greece. While Karlin often challenges the conceptual foundations and practical outcomes of security sector reform, her views on the importance of organizational considerations converge with lessons emerging from the community of practitioners over the last several years. Practitioners have increasingly recognized the importance of strong political institutions to the success of capacity-building. For example, the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness asserted that, for aid recipients, “The capacity to plan, manage, implement, and account for results of policies and programmes, is critical” to achieving aid objectives — a principle confirmed three years later in the Accra Agenda for Action.[47] The U.S. Department of Defense has embraced institutional capacity-building as a key element of its own capacity-building activities, at least in theory, in recently issued policy and doctrine.[48] Yet, while some progress has been made in expanding U.S. attention to strengthening institutions in practice, as a discipline, it remains at the margins of the government’s security sector capacity-building activities. Indeed, the failure to invest in strengthening institutions was a key contributor to the failure of broader capacity-building efforts in Yemen, an example that illustrates the distinction between influencing sensitive military decisions and driving institutional reform. Without question, the United States engaged on personnel issues, persistently advocating for the removal of ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s family members, who remained in key defense posts. However, while America welcomed institutional reform efforts to the military made by Saleh’s successor, President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, it avoided providing any substantial technical support for those reforms. Moreover, the focus on ousting undesirable personnel crowded out necessary institutional reforms, such as addressing “retirement and rotation of generals, the ghost soldier issue [wherein personnel rosters were inflated with imaginary soldiers to facilitate corruption], and the balancing of units in terms of both size and equipment,” leaving Yemen’s military “a side-lined shell of an institution.”[49] When it comes to institutional capacity building and influencing partner decision making alike, the United States is unlikely to achieve successful outcomes through phone calls and fly-in meetings. Rather, as Karlin’s case studies demonstrate, boots on the ground are essential. A 400-person strong Joint U.S. Military Advisory and Planning Group oversaw engagement in Greece; in South Vietnam, a Military Assistance Advisory Group of nearly 350 personnel was augmented by a Temporary Equipment Recovery Mission of another 350 personnel; in Lebanon, over 100 military personnel were deployed in support of capacity-building efforts at their 1983 peak. The U.S. military conducted the mid-2000s effort in Lebanon, on the other hand, with only a small permanent detachment and without a dedicated senior officer overseeing the effort, leading to a limited effort with limited impact. This history underscores a key question: How should the United States organize and deploy personnel to guide high-priority capacity-building missions? Currently, outside of contingency environments, the U.S. approach is incoherent and insufficient. The military is neither structured nor paced to meet the demands of deep engagement with partner militaries. Among military services, only the U.S. Army has organized itself to maintain a meaningful contingent dedicated to capacity-building missions despite a consistent global demand. Other services meet requirements on an ad hoc basis with personnel who generally lack training for the mission. Even the Army’s Security Force Assistance Brigades are poorly suited to address the institutional concerns Karlin prioritizes. They are composed of junior personnel with limited exposure to institutional processes, and are designed to carry out tactical-level, small unit training activities. Reconsidering how the military is structured to meet demands of high-stakes capacity-building efforts should be an urgent priority for the Defense Department. Military forces have been stretched in recent years by the demands of sustaining two contingency operations while downsizing, and services have sought to streamline their structures rather than take on what they view as new missions or responsibilities. Yet, as discussed above, the capacity-building mission is not new and it is not going away. Approaching this mission with ad hoc force-management decisions and insufficient training is a recipe for repeated failure. Mitigating the Effects of Outside Actors Karlin also postulates that the success of a capacity-building effort will depend on diminishing external influences, and makes a convincing argument about the importance of this variable in examining her four case studies. This is a point so intuitive as to be almost self-evident: Who could argue that the degree to which U.S. capacity-building efforts are successful will vary according to the degree to which other actors seek to impede them? And yet, it is a point routinely neglected in the planning and execution of capacity-building initiatives. It is tempting to regard the activity of external actors as a variable beyond America’s control. Indeed, Karlin’s case studies present little evidence of any actions by America that decreased outside influences, though in some instances U.S. actions may have provoked deeper third-party involvement. Yet, given the importance of this variable in shaping capacity-building outcomes, the United States can hardly afford to ignore it. No case better illustrates this imperative than Yemen, where America’s inability to mitigate the influence of third-party actors, including both allies and antagonists, has condemned capacity-building efforts to failure. Iran has been able to maintain steady support for its Houthi allies that has been robust enough to help them beat back the Yemeni military and withstand the onslaught of the Gulf coalition. Meanwhile, prior to the state’s collapse, the U.S. government was never able to effectively coordinate the efforts of other donors and stakeholders with similar objectives, particularly Saudi Arabia. That challenge has become even more acute as the Saudis have undertaken a sustained, and sometimes indiscriminate, military campaign with the help of U.S. equipment and logistical support. Unfortunately, Yemen looks more like the rule than the exception. The U.S. security assistance enterprise is poorly positioned to address the activities of third-party actors, for two reasons. First, it has historically neglected to invest in understanding the identities, motivations, and tactics of external actors. And second, it lacks sufficient tools to shape their behavior. Security assistance efforts, historically, have often been planned and executed without adequately assessing the context in which they are to be implemented, to their great detriment. As the Defense Department has recently begun to acknowledge, it is essential that capacity-building efforts begin with detailed assessments of the partner’s security environment, including a political economy analysis that identifies external influences and how they operate. Such analysis should not only assess potentially antagonistic influences, but also perceived allies. It is often the case that perceived allies can undermine a capacity-building effort through miscoordination and misunderstanding as much as an antagonist can through more nefarious means. Grounding capacity-building initiatives in detailed assessments of the partner’s security environment creates opportunities to build mitigation measures that address external influences into the initiative’s design. Such measures might range from donor coordination strategies to ensure actors with shared interests are on the same page, to concerted efforts to drive out antagonists. Identifying and addressing these concerns from an initiative’s inception will substantially improve its prospects for overcoming the challenges Karlin’s book identifies. A more challenging question is how to diminish antagonistic influences once they are understood. The United States has an underdeveloped suite of tools available to confront the activities of adversarial actors in a third country. Moreover, planners of capacity-building initiatives may lack access to or awareness of those tools that do exist. Karlin’s conclusions thus point to an important area for further research: namely, what strategies for mitigating antagonistic external influences have the potential to be successful, what tools are needed to support those strategies, and how can they be integrated into the planning of capacity-building initiatives? Conclusion Conditions for building military capacity in a fragile state are rarely ideal, and often cannot be overcome. Karlin’s book offers a useful framework for approaching these initiatives in a way that identifies potential challenges from the outset and addresses some of the most common spoilers. Moreover, it suggests the United States would profit from being cautious about engaging in capacity-building missions at all. When there is little room to exert the necessary influence over a partner, for example, Karlin counsels, “the United States must either recognize that it is pursuing light security sector reform or avoid launching such programs altogether.”[50] Likewise, there is great wisdom in recognizing when positive conditions have changed, cutting one’s losses, and walking away. Two of Karlin’s case studies — 1950s South Vietnam and 1980s Lebanon — serve as cautionary tales of the risk to American lives posed by an inability to acknowledge failure and an insistence in doubling down. One important contribution of Karlin’s work is to offer a straightforward litmus test to help policymakers assess whether and when it is wise to walk away. Her two leading variables should be posed as questions to policymakers: Is the United States able to sufficiently influence partner military decisions and institutional reforms, and can it sufficiently mitigate the hazards posed by external actors? To these can be added Karlin’s warning to avoid being drawn in as a co-belligerent. There are sometimes good strategic reasons to overlook these tests, but they should at least provoke a reassessment of policy. One wonders what it will take to prompt such a reassessment in Yemen. The United States has become a co-belligerent there in a deeply troubling way, enabling massive human rights violations with little apparent ability to influence operational plans or tactics. It remains in close cooperation with Saudi Arabia despite strong evidence pointing to the Saudi leadership’s involvement in journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder,[51] continuing indications of widespread civilian casualties caused by coalition operations,[52] and congressional exhortations that such support be terminated.[53] The deep engagement Karlin’s book advocates is implausible in Yemen, and external actors are prevalent, diverse, and, in many ways, antagonistic to U.S. interests. As is so often the case, a chorus of voices would meet any policy reassessment with an impassioned warning of threats from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Iran that might be left behind were America to extricate itself from the conflict. Yet, at some point, as Karlin persistently argues, policies must factor in actual results. And surely the results of the current U.S. policy approach in Yemen cry out for another way.   Tommy Ross is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Security Cooperation at the Pentagon and was the senior defense and intelligence adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He has also held other senior positions in the House and Senate.   Image: U.S. Africa Command [post_title] => Book Review Roundtable: Building Militaries in Fragile States [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => book-review-roundtable-building-militaries-in-fragile-states [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-27 14:46:03 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-27 18:46:03 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tnsr.org/?post_type=roundtable&p=1261 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => roundtable [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => In our latest roundtable, our contributors review Mara Karlin's book, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States. [pubinfo] => [issue] => [quotes] => [style] => roundtable [type] => Book [style_label] => Roundtable [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 162 [1] => 239 [2] => 226 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] “Fragile States Index: The Fund for Peace,” Fund for Peace, accessed March 14, 2019, http://fundforpeace.org/. See the “Security Assistance Monitor: A Citizen’s Guide to U.S. Security and Defense Assistance,” at http://www.securityassistance.org/, accessed 14 March 2019. [2] Mara E. Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), 17. [3] David A. Lake, The Statebuilder's Dilemma: On the Limits of Foreign Intervention (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2016). Stephen Biddle, Julia Macdonald, and Ryan Baker, “Small Footprint, Small Payoff: The Military Effectiveness of Security Force Assistance,” Journal of Strategic Studies 41, no. 1–2, (2018): 89-142, https://doi.org/10.1080/01402390.2017.1307745. [4] Jesse Driscoll, Warlords and Coalition Politics in Post-Soviet States (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015). [5] Mara E. Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), 1. [6] For recent works linking these factors and others to military effectiveness, see Stephen Biddle, Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004.); Risa Brooks and Elizabeth Stanley, eds., Creating Military Power: The Sources of Military Effectiveness (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007); Caitlin Talmadge, The Dictator’s Army: Battlefield Effectiveness in Authoritarian Regimes (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2015); Austin Long, The Soul of Armies: Counterinsurgency Doctrine and Military Culture in the US and UK (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2016); Vipin Narang and Caitlin Talmadge, “Civil-military Pathologies and Defeat in War: Tests Using New Data,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 62, no. 7 (August 2018): 1379–1405, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0022002716684627; Dan Reiter and William A. Wagstaff, “Leadership and Military Effectiveness,” Foreign Policy Analysis 14, no. 4 (October 2018): 490–511, https://doi.org/10.1093/fpa/orx003. [7] Douglas S. Blaufarb, The Counterinsurgency Era: U.S. Doctrine and Performance, 1950 to the Present (New York: Free Press, 1977); D. Michael Shafer, Deadly Paradigms: The Failure of U.S. Counterinsurgency Policy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988); Benjamin Schwarz, American Counterinsurgency Doctrine and El Salvador: The Frustrations of Reform and Illusions of Nation Building (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1991); William E. Odom, On Internal War: American and Soviet Approaches to Third World Clients and Insurgents (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991); Walter C. Ladwig, III, The Forgotten Front: Patron-Client Relationships in Counterinsurgency (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017). [8] Daniel L. Byman, “Friends Like These: Counterinsurgency and the War on Terrorism,” International Security 31, no. 2 (Fall 2006): 79–115, https://www.jstor.org/stable/4137517. [9] Stephen Biddle, Julia Macdonald, and Ryan Baker, “Small Footprint, Small Payoff: The Military Effectiveness of Security Force Assistance,” Journal of Strategic Studies 41, no. 1–2 (2018): 89–142, https://doi.org/10.1080/01402390.2017.1307745. [10] Barbara Elias, “The Big Problem of Small Allies: New Data and Theory on Defiant Local Counterinsurgency Partners in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Security Studies 27, no. 2 (2018): 249, https://doi.org/10.1080/09636412.2017.1386935. [11] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 36. [12] For more on Ngo Dinh Diem’s difficult relationship with his American patrons, see Edward Miller, Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and the Fate of South Vietnam (Harvard, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013). [13] “Hitler Finds Out About Sequestration,” Youtube, Fiscal Cliff, Nov. 28, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zCDDYVTjLI. [14] Robert M. Gates, “Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates,” Nixon Center, Washington, DC, Feb. 24, 2019, http://archive.defense.gov/speeches/speech.aspx?speechid=1425. [15] Mara E. Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), 4. [16] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States,12. [17] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 201. [18] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 198. [19] “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” Department of Defense, January 2012, http://archive.defense.gov/news/defense_strategic_guidance.pdf. [20] Noah B. Cooper, “Will the Army’s New Advisory Brigades Get Manning and Intel Right?” War on the Rocks, Sept. 5, 2017, https://warontherocks.com/2017/09/will-the-armys-new-advisory-brigades-get-manning-and-intel-right/. [21] Brian Hamilton, “Army Moves Closer to Establishing First Security Force Assistance Brigade,” U.S. Army, May 18, 2017, https://www.army.mil/article/187991/army_moves_closer_to_establishing_first_security_force_assistance_brigade. [22] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 199. [23] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 200. [24] “Presidential Policy Directive 23: U.S. Security Sector Assistance Policy [Fact Sheet],” White House, 2013, https://www.hsdl.org/?abstract&did=747214. [25] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 11. [26] Dafna H. Rand and Stephen Tankel, “Security Cooperation & Assistance: Rethinking the Return on Investment,” Center for a New American Security, August 2015, https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.cnas.org/documents/CNAS-Report_Security-Cooperation_FINAL.pdf?mtime=20160906081917. [27] Ilan Goldenberg, Alice Hunt Friend, Stephen Tankel, and Nicholas A. Heras, “Remodeling Partner Capacity: Maximizing the Effectiveness of U.S. Counterterrorism Security Assistance,” Center for a New American Security, November 2016, https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.cnas.org/documents/CNAS-Report-RemodelingPartnerCapacity-Final.pdf?mtime=20161107141028. [28] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 202. [29] Thomas K. Livingston, “Building the Capacity of Partner States through Security Force Assistance,” Congressional Research Service, May 5, 2011, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R41817.pdf. [30] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 197. [31] Loren DeJonge Schulman, “Washington Is Never Quite Sure Where It Is at War,” Atlantic, Nov. 1, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/11/niger-aumf-war-terrorism/544652/. [32] Robert M. Gates, “Speech as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates,” American Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC, May 24, 2011, http://archive.defense.gov/Speeches/Speech.aspx?SpeechID=1570. [33] Nicholas Niarchos, “How the U.S. Is Making the War in Yemen Worse,” New Yorker, Jan. 22, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/01/22/how-the-us-is-making-the-war-in-yemen-worse. [34] Melissa Dalton and Hijah Shah, “U.S. Support for Saudi Military Operations in Yemen,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 23, 2018, https://www.csis.org/analysis/us-support-saudi-military-operations-yemen. [35] Nina Serafino, “Security Assistance Reform: ‘Section 1206’ Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, RS22855, Dec. 8, 2014, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RS22855.pdf. [36] “Security Aid Pivot Table: Yemen, 2010-2014,” Security Assistance Monitor, http://securityassistance.org/data/program/military/Yemen/2010/2014/all/Global/. [37] Tom Finn, “A New President and an ‘American Sheikh’ Deal With Post-Saleh Yemen,” Time, Feb. 29, 2012, http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2107926-1,00.html. [38] See Jane Ferguson, “U.S. Military Picks, Trains Yemeni Fighters,” CNN, July 14, 2010, http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/07/13/yemen.training/index.html. See also Eric Schmitt, “Out of Yemen, U.S. is Hobbled in Terror Fight,” New York Times, March 22, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/23/us/politics/out-of-yemen-us-is-hobbled-in-terror-fight.html. [39] “Uncertain Political and Security Situation Challenges U.S. Efforts to Implement a Comprehensive Strategy in Yemen,” Government Accountability Office, GAO-12-432R, Feb. 29, 2012, https://www.gao.gov/assets/590/588955.pdf. [40] Mara E. Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), 1. [41] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 9. [42] See, for example, Dafna Rand and Stephen Tankel, “Security Cooperation and Assistance: Rethinking the Return on Investment,” Center for a New American Security, August 2015, https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.cnas.org/documents/CNAS-Report_Security-Cooperation_FINAL.pdf?mtime=20160906081917. See also Rose Jackson, “Untangling the Web: A Blueprint for Reforming American Security Sector Assistance,” Open Society Foundations, January 2017, https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.cnas.org/documents/CNAS-Report_Security-Cooperation_FINAL.pdf?mtime=20160906081917. [43] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 10. [44] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 12, emphasis removed. [45] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 193. [46] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 199. [47] The Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, 2005, and The Accra Agenda for Action, 2009 are available at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation: http://www.oecd.org/dac/effectiveness/34428351.pdf. [48] See, for example, “Department of Defense Directive 5205.82: Defense Institution Building,” United States Department of Defense, issued Jan. 27, 2016 and updated May 3, 2017, https://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/DD/issuances/dodd/520582p.pdf. See also, “Joint Publication 3-20: Security Cooperation,” United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, May 23, 2017, https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/jp3_20_20172305.pdf. [49] Florence Gaub, “Whatever Happened to Yemen’s Military?” European Institute for Security Studies, Issue Brief 9, April 2015, https://www.iss.europa.eu/sites/default/files/EUISSFiles/Brief_9_Yemen.pdf. [50] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 202. [51] Mark Mazetti, “Years Before Killing, Saudi Prince Told Aide He Would Use ‘a Bullet’ on Jamal Khashoggi,” New York Times, Feb. 7, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/07/us/politics/khashoggi-mohammed-bin-salman.html. [52] Lee Keath, “Civilian death toll in Yemen mounting despite US assurances,” Associated Press, Nov. 10, 2018, https://www.apnews.com/24ee4b33373a41d389e2599c5aa7bbfa. [53] See Catie Edmondson and Charlie Savage, “House Votes to Halt Aid to Saudi Arabia’s War in Yemen,” New York Times, Feb. 13, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/13/us/politics/yemen-war-saudi-arabia.html. See also Scott Detrow, “Senate Votes To End U.S. Support for War in Yemen, Rebuking Trump and Saudi Arabia,” NPR, Dec. 12, 2018, https://www.npr.org/2018/12/12/676152310/senate-poised-to-vote-to-end-u-s-military-support-for-war-in-yemen. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => Table of Contents [contents] => 1. "Introduction: The Pitfalls of Seeking Security on the Cheap," by Jason Fritz 2. "The Politics of Security Assistance to Fragile States," by Walter C. Ladwig, III 3. "To Remind You of My Love: Reforming the Impulsive Affection of U.S. Efforts to Build Partner Militaries," by Loren DeJonge Schulman 4. "When Building Militaries Goes Wrong: A Look at Yemen," by Tommy Ross ) ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 544 [post_author] => 161 [post_date] => 2018-04-10 06:00:41 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-10 10:00:41 [post_content] =>

1. Max Boot’s Revisionist Look at Vietnam

By Mark Atwood Lawrence Could the United States have won in Vietnam if only Americans had made different decisions about how to fight the war there? For the most part, academic historians have said no. The South Vietnamese state was so flawed and the reservoir of Soviet and Chinese support for the communist war effort so vast, runs the argument, that Washington had no meaningful chance of victory, no matter how adroitly it used its vast power.[1] However, a small handful of historians has long begged to differ. These “revisionists” argue that the United States could have achieved its goal — a secure, anti-communist South Vietnam capable of enduring into the indefinite future — if only it had chosen its methods more wisely. To be sure, proponents of this outlook vary widely in their assessments of precisely what went wrong and what could have been done better. Some focus on military decisions, others on the political or diplomatic realms. But the basic point is the same: American leaders stole defeat from the jaws of victory through bad choices. The “lost-victory” argument first took root in the wartime years, when Lyndon Johnson’s critics excoriated him for failing to wage the war with sufficient boldness. It gained new traction in the 1970s, when Henry Kissinger and his supporters assailed Congress for reneging on U.S. obligations to defend South Vietnam following the 1973 ceasefire, sabotaging a peace deal that would otherwise have established a secure nation.[2] Such views gained additional legitimacy a few years later when revisionism jumped from the realm of naked partisanship into the world of history writing. In America in Vietnam, the first comprehensive revisionist account of the war, political scientist Guenter Lewy contended that the war was winnable if the United States had only prioritized counterinsurgency operations. Lewy also blamed antiwar activists for creating the myth that the United States was inevitably doomed by the complexities of Vietnamese politics.[3] Retired Army Col. Harry G. Summers Jr. followed in 1982 with On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War, which took revisionism in a different direction by criticizing civilian leaders for doing too little to mobilize the American public and the U.S. military for failing to use its overwhelming conventional superiority to block the infiltration of supplies and troops from North to South Vietnam.[4] But the real heyday of Vietnam revisionism has been the last couple of decades, when a new group of authors has drawn on mountains of newly available source material to make the case in unprecedented detail. First came Lewis Sorley’s A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam, which argues that U.S. forces fought effectively in the years after the Tet Offensive and commanded the battlefield to an extent unrecognized by the politicians who pulled the plug on the American military effort.[5] A few years later, Mark Moyar published Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965, which delves into the years before the arrival of U.S. combat forces. During that time, argues Moyar, American advisers working alongside South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem made steady progress toward bolstering a viable state. But craven political leaders, abetted by self-serving journalists, torpedoed the whole enterprise by conspiring in Diem’s overthrow, an event that exacerbated South Vietnam’s problems and opened the way to disaster.[6] Now comes Max Boot’s The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam, an engaging book that, like Moyar’s study, focuses on lost opportunities in the years before the major escalation of U.S. forces. But Boot makes the case in a fresh and distinctive way — through a biography of Edward G. Lansdale, one of the most fascinating and complex figures in the pantheon of American Cold Warriors. Boot makes no effort to disguise his admiration for Lansdale. The Air-Force-officer-turned-CIA-operative possessed, in Boot’s view, a unique blend of creativity, cultural sensitivity, charisma, and doggedness that made him an exceptionally effective practitioner — indeed, a “maestro” — of counter-insurgency warfare and nation-building in far-off lands. The book focuses first on Lansdale’s work in the Philippines, where he played a key role in defeating the communist Huk insurgency and in rallying Filipinos behind the pro-Western liberal Ramon Magsaysay in the 1953 presidential election. Boot then shifts to Vietnam, where Lansdale attempted to work similar magic in the mid-1950s. This mission started off well enough: Lansdale helped Diem survive innumerable threats to his rule and then lay the foundations of a secure Vietnamese state by winning over his population and suppressing communist opponents. But all this promise evaporated when U.S. leaders abandoned Diem and scrapped Lansdale’s counterinsurgency methods in favor of a conventional war that, in Boot’s view, had no chance of succeeding. Boot writes,
The course that the United States was now embarked on was not just a mistake; it was a catastrophe that would profoundly alter American foreign policy for decades to come, and it might conceivably have been avoided if only Washington policymakers had listened to the advice of a renowned counterinsurgency strategist who had been present at the creation of the state of South Vietnam.
Nor does Boot hold anything back in offering Lansdale up as a model for the 21st century. Over the years, other revisionists — mostly, like Boot, hawkish foreign policy pundits with positions at think tanks rather than academic institutions — have aimed to influence ongoing policy debates by encouraging confidence about the efficacy of U.S. power when properly applied. But Boot, who has championed counterinsurgency tactics in earlier books, takes this presentist agenda to a whole new level.[7] In Lansdale’s story, Boot contends, lie valuable lessons about how to fight insurgencies and how to shape the behavior of unreliable allies. “His practices could be emulated by contemporary advisers in countries ranging from Mali to Mexico,” the book insists. In the reviews that follow, four eminent scholars sink their teeth into Boot’s core claims about Lansdale’s accomplishments and his relevance for our own times. Each raises serious questions about Boot’s analysis, as one might expect at a time when, despite the resurgence of revisionism in some quarters, most academic specialists remain skeptical at best. But these reviews offer far more than mere reassertion of long-standing conventional wisdom. Each delves into a different aspect of the book and raises important questions relevant not just to Boot’s study but to the larger proposition that the United States possesses the power and know-how to shape foreign societies through Lansdalean arts of persuasion. The first review comes from Gregory A. Daddis of Chapman University and author, most recently, of Withdrawal: Reassessing America’s Final Years in Vietnam (2017), which rebuts revisionist claims about the war in the early 1970s. Daddis criticizes Boot on various fronts but attaches particular importance to Boot’s thin attention to Vietnamese perspectives. The book, complains Daddis, takes an “American-centric” approach that unpersuasively casts Lansdale in the role of “enlightened imperialist” while depicting Diem as a passive and needy recipient of American advice. Daddis also contends that Boot fails to reckon with new evidence of Hanoi’s determination starting in the early 1960s to mount a major war in the South, making Lansdale’s insistence on counterinsurgency methods hopelessly ill-suited to the basic military situation. The second reviewer is Walter C. Ladwig III of the Department of War Studies at King’s College London and author of The Forgotten Front: Patron-Client Relations in Counterinsurgency (2017). While most reviewers of Boot’s book have understandably focused on the sections dealing with Vietnam, Ladwig offers fresh analysis by focusing on the parts concerning Lansdale’s time in the Philippines. Central to Boot’s argument is Lansdale’s alleged ability to promote constructive change in the Philippines through personal charm and gentle persuasion — a combination of traits that Boot suggests could also have worked in Vietnam if given a chance. Ladwig questions this whole chain of thinking by suggesting that, in fact, the United States got its way in the Philippines as much through coercion as through Lansdale’s friendly partnership with Magsaysay. Heather M. Stur of the University of Southern Mississippi and author of Beyond Combat: Women and Gender in the Vietnam War Era (2011) provides the third review. Stur zeroes in on Boot’s extensive analysis of Landsale’s relationships with the two women in his life, his wife Helen and his mistress (and eventually second wife), a Filipina known as Pat Kelly. Boot attaches huge importance to this triangle, partly because he is the first author to use Lansdale’s extensive correspondence with both women but also because Lansdale’s conflicted affections map so neatly onto his role as intermediary between America and Asia. But Stur takes Boot to task for failing to give the women authentic agency and especially for buying into orientalist clichés about the mysterious sexual allure of Asia. Like Daddis, Stur wonders whether Lansdale was, on the whole, more an old-fashioned imperialist than the tolerant, enlightened man whom Boot describes. Finally, Jon Askonas, a doctoral student at the University of Oxford, echoes Daddis by criticizing Boot for ignoring the perspectives of the Vietnamese and other peoples on the receiving end of Lansdale’s counterinsurgency projects. But he also goes in a different direction by questioning whether Lansdale was, at the end of the day, more a shrewd student of social dynamics or a delusional oddball whose skills have been wildly exaggerated by Boot and other admirers. Fortunately, Askonas concludes, Boot’s biography is so expansive and detailed that attentive readers can reach behind Boot’s enthusiastic spin on his subject and find evidence of the less attractive possibility. Mark Atwood Lawrence is Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin and Director of Graduate Studies at the Clements Center for National Security. He is author or editor of several books about the Vietnam War, including The Vietnam War: A Concise International History. He is now working on a book about U.S. policymaking toward the developing world in the Vietnam era.

2. Vietnam and the White Man’s Burden

By Gregory A. Daddis “He was there creating Vietnam in 1954.” So proclaimed journalist Max Boot during an interview moderated by a fawning Gen. (ret.) David Petraeus at the New York Historical Society in January 2018. The topic of the evening’s discussion was Boot’s latest book, The Road Not Taken, a biographical tome on former U.S. Air Force officer and CIA operative Edward Lansdale.[8] Petraeus found Boot’s biography on Lansdale “wonderful” because it “offers lessons for the present day.” “You should know,” responded Boot. “You literally wrote the manual on counterinsurgency.” The former four-star general’s adulation should not come as a surprise. Much of the 2007 surge in Iraq, overseen by Petraeus himself, was predicated on assumptions similar to those that Lansdale held about local peoples immersed in a civil war. Internal political dissension wracked both the Iraqis and South Vietnamese. Both societies were engaged in internecine war. Both apparently required outside guidance from enlightened Americans to put their countries on a path toward democracy. One might even ask if Petraeus, reading The Road Not Taken, saw himself as part of a counterinsurgency lineage that ran from T.E. Lawrence through Lansdale to the general himself. Given Boot and Petraeus’s obvious desire to fashion Edward Lansdale into a usable figure for today’s conflicts, it seems worthwhile to question a major argument in The Road Not Taken. How responsible was Lansdale for the creation of South Vietnam? For Boot, the answer is clear. Lansdale was already his “country’s most successful political warrior” of the entire Cold War era.[9] He “masterminded the election of Ramon Magsaysay” in the Philippines, according to Boot in his New York interview. The American was a decisive factor in prevailing over the 1955 sect crisis that threatened South Vietnam President Ngo Dinh Diem’s political future. Lansdale traveled extensively, taught “psywar” techniques to Vietnamese soldiers, wrote a counterinsurgency strategy, and “took on the herculean challenge of trying to consolidate Diem’s power.”[10] Moreover, Boot argues, Lansdale was “right to doubt Diem’s political acumen.”[11] Thus, throughout The Road Not Taken, Lansdale is portrayed as an enlightened imperialist who uses his charm and empathy to befriend local leaders and then gently guide them, as would a tolerant parent, through the tribulations of political adolescence. This American-centric view of the Cold War surely is not without precedent. Many U.S. policymakers came out of World War II with a deep-seated faith in their ability to transform societies abroad and inoculate them from the contamination of communist influence. Modernization theorist Walt Rostow argued in The Stages of Economic Growth, that “traditional” societies too could mature into modern nations if only they followed the developmental model of the United States.[12] It is no surprise that the American experience served as the model for such philosophers. Yet what if we take Boot’s claims about Lansdale and shift the lens of analysis to the Vietnamese themselves? How did local leaders view this supposedly modern-day Lawrence of Arabia? Perhaps unsurprisingly, these local leaders did not revere Lansdale in the same way Boot does. The endnotes of The Road Not Taken contain few, if any, materials from Vietnamese sources. Readers rarely hear local voices in this story except for those filtered through Americans. Like Lansdale, Boot has no fluency in the Vietnamese language (nor did Lansdale even speak French which makes one question how much insight he truly could have gained during his two-year stint in Vietnam from 1954 to 1956). A new generation of scholars on Vietnam, however, are far better equipped than Boot to judge Lansdale’s accomplishments, and they are less reverential of the American. Edward Miller, for instance, finds Diem and his inner circle crafting their own strategy for political consolidation in South Vietnam. To Miller, Diem was careful to accept any U.S. advice and support “only on his own terms, in ways that furthered his designs.”[13] Boot certainly acknowledges that Lansdale’s advice was “eclipsed by the influence of Diem’s brother Ngo Dinh Nhu and his sister-in-law.”[14] But here the storyline remains firmly embedded in an American-centric worldview because Lansdale functions as a convenient North Star. “If only” Diem had been wiser, more compliant, less obdurate. If only he had listened to the wise American, things might have turned out differently. This counterfactual approach reaches its crescendo as the Lyndon B. Johnson administration decided to Americanize the war in mid-1965. If only Lansdale had been able to prevail over the bureaucracy and convince Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara to embrace a population-centric counterinsurgency strategy — so admired by Petraeus — then the American war might have evolved along a different path. Yet, as Boot tells us, “McNamara had little time for Lansdale.”[15] By considering the Vietnamese perspective, such “if only” arguments ultimately fall flat. While Boot correctly argues that Diem’s coup and assassination in November 1963 proved a major turning point in U.S. decision-making on Vietnam, he errs in assuming that Lansdale’s advice continued to make sense in 1964 and 1965. In short, Boot views the war in Vietnam as static. It was not. After Diem’s overthrow, the Hanoi Politburo, now under the influence of General Secretary Le Duan, decided upon a strategy aiming for a “decisive military victory.” Scholarship based on Vietnamese rather than only American sources offers important perspective. Lien-Hang Nguyen’s excellent work on Hanoi’s wartime decision-making clearly demonstrates that Le Duan had committed in late 1964, if not earlier, to achieving a military victory in South Vietnam. In early 1965, for instance, the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) doubled its ranks for what Politburo leaders feared was an upcoming battle with American troops.[16] Lansdale may not have wanted to fight a conventional war, but Le Duan certainly did. One wonders how Lansdale’s prescriptions on counterinsurgency were at all relevant to the threat of North Vietnamese regiments infiltrating down the Ho Chi Minh Trail into South Vietnam. Boot never says, instead placing blame on McNamara and the U.S. military commander in Vietnam, William C. Westmoreland, for committing to an ill-advised strategy of attrition. The “if only” counterfactuals stack higher and higher. Returning to Boot’s endnotes, such flawed argumentation begins to makes sense. Boot has marshaled no primary sources from the military command — no command policies, no private messages from Westmoreland to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, no after-action reports from U.S. combat units in the field. Instead, old clichés are recycled in mechanical fashion. Thus, in Boot’s storyline, Westmoreland had turned the entire South Vietnamese countryside into one ruinous “free fire zone” where “victory was a high body-count.”[17] In reality, U.S. military strategy proved far more comprehensive than Boot allows. Even before the introduction of American combat troops, Westmoreland was laying out a concept of operations that noted the dual threat to the South Vietnamese countryside — from “large well-organized and -equipped forces including those that may come from outside their country” and from “the guerrilla, the assassin, the terrorist and the informer.”[18] Moreover, allied pacification plans from 1964 onward consistently stressed the importance of securing the population and the importance of the political contest for the people’s loyalty.[19] To Petraeus, though, Boot offered a different, more spiteful account: Westmoreland thought “Lansdale was an idiot.” Yet, quite simply, there is not a shred of evidence in the historical record to support this bogus assertion. This is not meant to defend Westmoreland. Clearly, U.S. military strategy in Vietnam failed to achieve its aim of promoting a stable, independent, non-communist South Vietnam. Rather, a deeper analysis of the American war in Vietnam illustrates far more nuance than depicted in The Road Not Taken. But for his “if only” history to persuade, Boot requires convenient bogeymen. If only the U.S. governmental bureaucracy had listened to Lansdale. If only McNamara and Westmoreland were as discerning as Lansdale. If only the South Vietnamese had been more compliant apprentices. This last point seems most central — and most pernicious — in Boot’s admiration of Edward Lansdale. At its core, The Road Not Taken is a story of an enlightened imperialist. A white Westerner swoops in with only his wit and personal magnetism to captivate the local leaders and offer them a path toward modernity. That the traditional society never realizes its full potential has less to do with the imperialist himself than with those too feeble of mind to accept his advice and munificence. Like ancient lore passed down in an oral tradition from generation to generation, this revisionist recasting of history as a white man’s burden surely holds allure for those like Boot who aspire to a new global American empire.[20] Such narratives reinforce the nationalistic sense of self in the minds of many Americans like him. They bolster claims to American exceptionalism. But these fanciful tales also nudge the reader away from deeper questions that surely would be more profitable when studying the American experience during the Cold War era. Was it wise for the United States to intervene in a civil war over Vietnamese identity? Could a white foreigner with no language skills truly understand the local political community, which he aspired to mentor? Why, throughout the war in Southeast Asia, did far too many Americans see themselves as superior to the Vietnamese, both north and south? And how did this experience illustrate the limits of American power abroad? To engage in such a retrospective, to tackle these deeper questions, undoubtedly is an uncomfortable exercise. But history should be more than a “dose of patriotic therapy.”[21] Counterfactual storytelling based on “if only” narratives may satisfy emotionally, but they hardly impart a history that embraces complexity. Max Boot wants his reader to believe that if only Edward Lansdale had prevailed, history might have unfolded in dramatically different ways. Yet widening the historical scope to include more than just American voices, to evaluate why historical actors made the decisions they did rather than what they should have done, reveals a different, perhaps less satisfying, conclusion. Lansdale’s was a road not taken because it was a road not feasible. Gregory A. Daddis is an associate professor of history and director of Chapman University’s MA Program in War and Society. His most recent book is Withdrawal: Reassessing America’s Final Years in Vietnam (Oxford University Press, 2017).

3. Friendly Persuasion is Not Enough: The Limits of the Lansdale Approach

By Walter C. Ladwig III Providing aid and advice to local governments’ counterinsurgency campaigns, rather than directly intervening with American forces, has recently been identified as a more cost-effective way to counter irregular threats to U.S. interests.[22] The challenge that such undertakings have repeatedly faced in the past is that partner governments often have their own interests and priorities which can diverge significantly from those of Washington.[23] Consequently, a host of observers have pointed out that while the United States has provided its partners with extensive assistance to combat insurgents and terrorist groups, an inability to convince them to adopt its counterinsurgency prescriptions or address what Washington sees as the political and economic “root causes” of a conflict has repeatedly emerged as a major impediment to success.[24] In the absence of sufficient influence to convince a local government to address these shortcomings, critics suggest that significant American aid and support can actually reduce its incentives to address domestic discontent or govern inclusively, which can render a supported regime less stable than it would have been without U.S. assistance.[25] Based on his study of the life and career of Edward Lansdale, Max Boot has suggested that future advisors can find a template for influencing local governments in Lansdale’s “art of friendly persuasion.”[26] One of the Cold War’s most colorful characters, Lansdale’s career spanned Madison Avenue, the U.S. Air Force, and the Central Intelligence Agency. Lansdale rose to prominence as the advisor, confidant, and friend of Philippine Secretary of National Defense Ramon Magsaysay during the Hukbalahap Rebellion (1946 to 1954). Under Lansdale’s mentorship, Magsaysay professionalized and depoliticized the Philippine armed forces, which enhanced their effectiveness in the field, while also working to ensure that free and fair elections in the country were not thwarted by vested political interests.[27] In 1949 the Hukbalahap guerrillas possessed some 12,000 men under arms and more than 100,000 active sympathizers.[28] By 1954, however, facing defeat on the battlefield and seeing an opportunity to achieve social change via the ballot box, the Huks were willing to give up their armed struggle. The tools Lansdale employed to influence and mentor Magsaysay were patience, understanding, and above all friendly persuasion to build trust with his counterpart. The CIA operative would later seek to employ the same means to shape the behavior of another U.S. partner in Southeast Asia, the leader of the fledgling Republic of Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem.[29] In calling attention to the importance of advisory efforts, Boot does a real service. Unfortunately, a narrow focus on Lansdale himself and an over-reliance on the man’s own account of events in the Philippines leads to mistaken conclusions about cause and effect. A broader reading of U.S. involvement in the Huk Rebellion raises questions about the degree to which American influence stemmed from friendly persuasion and the utility of that technique to, in Boot’s words, “influence allies to take difficult but necessary steps such as fighting corruption without risking a blowup or backlash.”[30] Pressure Not Persuasion in the Huk Rebellion There is no question that Lansdale and Magsaysay formed a highly effective partnership that helped transform the Philippine government’s counterinsurgency strategy. Yet, at the end of the day, as secretary of national defense, Magsaysay was but one part of the administration. As my own study of U.S. patron-client relations in counterinsurgency demonstrates, their relationship was embedded in a far more coercive American influence strategy that pressured, rather than persuaded, the Philippine government to reform.[31] Despite the communist links of the Hukbalahap insurgents who were attempting to overthrow the government of President Elpidio Quirino, the American view was that the roots of the insurgency were socio-economic rather than strictly political. Guerrilla fighters primarily took up arms in response to abuses by the security forces, electoral fraud, and a lack of access to sufficient agricultural land.[32] Consequently, in countering the insurgency, as the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff assessed, “military measures … can only be a temporary expedient. Remedial political and economic measures must be adopted by the Philippine Government in order to eliminate the basic causes of discontent among the Philippine people.”[33] Unfortunately, Quirino was disinclined to undertake these redistributive reforms because the base of his ruling Liberal Party benefitted from the existing political and economic status quo. The Philippine government did eventually take steps to address some of the rural discontent driving support for the insurgency. They introduced a minimum wage for agricultural workers and significantly revised the government’s tax policy that enhanced revenue in an equitable fashion to pay for the war and enhanced social spending. These reforms, which had been opposed by the Philippine government, did not come about via friendly persuasion, but by attaching tough conditions to American aid. In the words of Secretary of State Dean Acheson, American assistance was “firmly conditioned on satisfactory performance by the Philippine Government,” rendering it “as a lever to obtain such performance.”[34] This lever worked. As a contemporaneous scholar of Philippine politics, David Wurfel, wrote,
Few would have dared predict six months earlier that the Philippine Congress could pass in short order two laws, such as the minimum wage and the increased corporate income tax . . . In sum, the leverage of proffered foreign aid had produced the legislative authorization for social change probably not possible otherwise.[35]
A similar approach was taken in the military realm. At the start of the conflict, counterinsurgency operations were the responsibility of the Philippine Constabulary, a national paramilitary police force whose corrupt and abusive ways created more insurgents than they captured.[36] Under the authority of the secretary of the interior, the constabulary often functioned as hired thugs for the country’s large landlords who employed them to terrorize agricultural workers. Recognizing the role of the constabulary in stimulating support for the insurgency, the commander of the U.S. Joint Military Assistance Group urged Quirino to depoliticize the force by putting them under the control of the Department of National Defense and assigning the Philippine army primary responsibility for combatting the insurgents. The Philippine president resisted because such reforms would constrain the Liberal Party’s ability to use the constabulary to suppress their political opponents — which is precisely what the American advisors intended. The United States eventually succeeded in forcing the Philippine government to restructure its armed forces, subordinate the constabulary to the less politicized Department of National Defense, and give the army the lead in counterinsurgency operations, but once again it was tough conditions on U.S. military aid — even in the face of a growing insurgent threat — not friendly persuasion that achieved the result. Magsaysay’s own rise to power from congressman to secretary of national defense was due, in part, to American coercion. This is not to say that Magsaysay was an American creation by any means—he possessed his own political base and the patronage of leading Filipino politicians—but his candidacy received a boost from U.S. pressure. The details remain somewhat murky since the American officials involved actively attempted to downplay their role to avoid undercutting Magsaysay’s credibility.[37] Douglas MacDonald recounts a claim that “President Truman sent a telegram directly to Quirino telling him to appoint Magsaysay as Secretary of Defense or risk losing U.S. military aid.”[38] Boot’s version of events echoes Cecil Currey in crediting Assistant Secretary of State Livingston Merchant with delivering the same message, while the State Department’s Director of the Office of Philippine Affairs, John Melby maintains that he was the one to instruct Quirino that future U.S. military aid was linked to Magsaysay’s appointment.[39] When the Philippine president shrugged and replied, “You know, you’re asking me to commit political suicide,” Melby allegedly responded, “Yes, I know that, but unless you do it there’s no more American military aid forthcoming.”[40] In the face of this threat, Quirino acquiesced. Common to all of these accounts is an American threat to cut off military aid to a partner government that was on the back foot in its battle against an insurgency. This was persuasion, but it certainly wasn’t friendly. Once in office, the effect of Magsaysay’s military reforms was bolstered by American pressure being wielded on his behalf. Magsaysay managed to engender dramatic improvements in the army’s rank-and-file as well as the junior officer corps. However, the effectiveness of the military was hampered by the fact that it was still led by the architects of the Philippine government’s initial abusive and ineffective response to the Huk insurgency, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mariano Castañeda, and the constabulary commander, Brigadier Alberto Ramos. Castañeda was a corrupt yet affable figure who refused to cooperate with Magsaysay’s reform efforts and was not seen by senior Philippine leaders to be sufficiently competent for command of the military.[41] Ramos was even worse: A known Japanese collaborator, the U.S. embassy in Manila judged that “beyond protecting perpetrators of abuses,” the brigadier had “done nothing but draw his breath and his salary.”[42] Although replacing the duo might have enhanced military effectiveness, the two men had played a key role in delivering the fraudulent 1949 election to the Liberal Party. Moreover, after several recent coup attempts in the region, Quirino was particularly fearful about the loyalty of his armed forces and favored reliability over capability. Magsaysay’s predecessor as Secretary of National Defense had resigned when Quirino refused to fire Castañeda and Ramos for mismanaging the anti-Huk campaign. Magsaysay ended up issuing a similar ultimatum to Quirino, however, this time around the threat was bolstered by the American decision to condition $10 million in military aid on the immediate retirement of the pair.[43] Under duress, Quirino complied. As Magsaysay turned his attention to ensuring free and fair elections in the country, he alienated his former patrons in the ruling Liberal Party who stood to lose from legitimate polls. These senior politicians worked to constrain his authority, undo his reforms, and remove him from office. However, it was implicit and explicit threats to cut American military aid, not friendly persuasion, that shielded Magsaysay and his reform efforts from domestic political enemies.[44] Whether in the economic, the military, or the political realm, pressure not persuasion was the main source of American influence over the Philippine government. Such was the judgement of the American ambassador in Manila, Myron Cowen, who advised Washington that although the United States successfully shaped the Philippine government’s policies in a number of areas, we “must recognize that without exception, [these reforms] were made possible only by continuously applied pressure.”[45] When the Americans did not deploy pressure via conditions on aid to support Magsaysay, he was far less effective. Having won the presidency in a landslide in the 1953 election at the head of a broad coalition, it was expected that Magsaysay would continue his reforming ways from the highest office in the land.[46] With the Huk rebellion defeated, however, the United States was far less concerned about redistributive reforms in the Philippines and no longer intervened on the new President’s behalf. Consequently, Magsaysay’s various attempts at socio-economic reforms foundered at the hands of vested interests. By this time, however, Lansdale was no longer involved in events on a day-to-day basis, having been dispatched to South Vietnam by CIA director Allen Dulles. The lesson Lansdale drew from his narrow perspective in the Philippines was that a combination of patience, shared hardship, and an exhibition of sincere empathy could foster the personal chemistry necessary to influence an embattled American partner. He presumed that the trust and confidence inspired by a sympathetic advisor could lead a previously reactionary or repressive government to willingly rein in abuses by the security forces, combat corruption, implement civic-action programs (health, education, public welfare, etc.), and undertake other reforms that would rally the population to the government’s side. Consequently, Lansdale would prove to be just the first of many American officials in Saigon who would search in vain for a “Vietnamese Magsaysay” to save the country.[47] Modern Magsaysays? The purpose of recounting these events is not to quibble over the historiography of U.S.-Philippine relations, but to ask: What this can tell us that is relevant for today? Friendly persuasion was an effective influence tool in Lansdale’s relationship with Magsaysay in no small part because the latter’s interests and aims were already closely aligned with those of the U.S. Magsaysay had fought with an American affiliated guerrilla unit during World War II, he shared many of his American partners’ assessments of the problems facing the Philippines, and as a congressman, he cooperated closely with the U.S. military assistance group.[48] In short, as Douglas MacDonald writes, “…Magsaysay was an American liberal reformer’s dream come true. A dynamic, charismatic, honest and compassionate leader dedicated to democratic values is a rare commodity in any country, not just in the Third World.”[49] In contrast, more coercive strategies were necessary to influence Quirino because his interests and those of the U.S. diverged in key respects. The Philippine and American governments agreed that preventing the Huks from seizing power was important, but the way they wanted to go about it was quite different. For Quirino, maintaining his office was a competing priority and both rival political elites and the nation’s armed forces were potential threats to his power. Consequently, the types of reforms and policy changes the United States was pushing in the Philippines — redistributive economic reforms, ending patronage politics in the military, and holding clean elections — were resisted because, irrespective of their utility as counterinsurgency measures, they directly challenged the interests of his key supporters and therefore his hold on power. If you are lucky enough to have an authentic domestic reformer with no internal opposition as your partner, friendly persuasion may be an effective influence tool. It is unlikely to be sufficient, however, to convince a less enlightened leader to risk reforms that they believe could lead to their overthrow or worse. This raises a key question: In the future is the United States more likely to work with regimes whose interests are closely aligned or those who diverge significantly? To put it differently, are Magsaysays more common or Quirinos? Sadly, recent academic research on the subject suggests that the latter is far more common.[50] Advising a government in counterinsurgency or counterterrorism suffers from a phenomenon that economists call adverse selection.[51] This is a situation where, due to the specifics of a transaction, the only actors who wish to participate are “bad” ones. Adverse selection often occurs in insurance markets, like automobile insurance, where the people who most want collision insurance are those who drive a lot or otherwise self-assess that they are more likely to have accidents. If there wasn’t a law requiring people to have insurance, the people seeking coverage would not be a representative sample of all drivers, but only the riskiest ones. There is a parallel phenomenon with counterterrorism and counterinsurgency.[52] Since effective, legitimate governments rarely lose control of substantial portions of their country to terrorists or insurgents, the only regimes needing external assistance to combat domestic political opponents are almost by definition flawed in some key respects—be they weak, incompetent, fraudulent, abusive, or all of the above. In turn, the same governmental shortcomings that facilitate the emergence of an insurgency also undercut the effectiveness of the counterinsurgent response.[53] Even if they have the capacity to do so, local governments are rarely eager to address such problems as their core supporters frequently benefit from the country’s political and economic status quo. It is perhaps unsurprising that after a year serving as the senior U.S. advisor to the South Vietnamese I Corps, Col. Bryce Denno cogently observed in his 1963 end-of-tour report that:
It would be a miraculous coincidence if a host nation in a war of counterinsurgency were to share identical objectives with the U.S. or arrive at identical solutions to problems that arise. Hence, it behooves the U.S. to seek ways in which it can influence the host nation to act in a manner compatible with U.S. interests in a war which we are financing to a large extent and otherwise supporting.[54]
Consequently, Denno advised his superiors:
The development of techniques and means to increase U.S. leverage in Vietnam is the single most important problem facing us there and it will be a fundamental problem in any future counterinsurgency effort in which we become involved.[55]
No matter how much aid you give a country or how many advisers you send, if you cannot prevent the local government from employing these resources to pursue its own agenda, or from prioritizing political reliability in the armed forces over military effectiveness, the assistance effort will come to naught. One does not have to revisit the unhappy American experience in Vietnam to understand the limits of friendly persuasion in such circumstances, but merely look at the recent U.S. experience in Iraq.[56] The Bush administration expected that their partner, Iraqi Prime Minister Nori al-Maliki, would embrace its strategy of overcoming the insurgency by bringing Kurds and Sunnis into the political process alongside the Shia majority. Instead, Maliki prioritized bolstering his position among radical Shia political groups, turned a blind eye to violence against Sunnis, and favored sectarian loyalists rather than professional officers in the Iraqi Security Forces.[57] The Bush administration never tried to compel Maliki to change his ways, even though his actions were undermining American efforts in Iraq.[58] Instead, the Iraqi leader was provided with unconditioned aid and support to persuade him to make better choices. President Bush personally sought to mentor Maliki and in his own words provided him with unstinting “advice and understanding” in the belief that “Once I had earned his trust I would be in a better position to help him make the tough decisions.”[59] Bush specifically notes that he “was careful not to bully him or appear heavy-handed.”[60] This approach failed to restrain Maliki’s sectarian agenda, which prevented the military gains from the 2007 surge from being translated into positive political outcomes and arguably laid the foundation for the rise of the Islamic State.[61] Toward the Future With large-scale U.S. military interventions seemingly at an end, it appears that advisory missions will be a key component of U.S. efforts in the so-called War on Terror. In a coda to his phenomenally researched and detailed account of Edward Lansdale’s career, (“Lansdalism in the Twenty-First Century”), Boot suggests that the quixotic CIA officer can provide a useful role model for future American advisors, both civilian and military.[62] Lansdale’s advocacy of patience, understanding, cultural awareness and local solutions for local problems are all to be commended. It is similarly difficult to disagree with Lansdale’s focus on the political dimensions of civil war, or as Boot writes, the belief “that there was more to defeating insurgencies than killing insurgents.” Unfortunately, Lansdale’s partnership with Ramon Magsaysay does not provide a template for addressing what Boot describes as “the key American shortcoming” in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam: “the inability to constructively guide the leaders of allied states in the direction desired by Washington.”[63] The emergence of a popular, capable, indigenous reformer in Magsaysay was a unique circumstance that is unlikely to be replicated in other settings. Moreover, whether Lansdale realized it or not, American influence over the Philippine government was primarily the result of pressure and tough conditions on aid, which strengthened Magsaysay’s hand vis-à-vis reactionaries opposed to his reforms. Lansdale’s life story makes an entertaining read and his model of friendly persuasion is a wonderful ideal, but the strategy is unlikely to be sufficient in practice. Walter C. Ladwig III is an Assistant Professor of International Relations in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London and the author of The Forgotten Front: Patron-Client Relations in Counterinsurgency (Cambridge University Press, 2017) from which materials in this essay are drawn.

4. The Woman Question in Max Boot’s Tale of Edward Lansdale

By Heather Marie Stur During a party at Edward Lansdale’s Saigon villa in 1956, Lansdale performed a traditional Philippine dance called tinikling, and it was not awkward. A photograph of the moment shows Lansdale in a white tunic and cropped pants, smiling joyfully as he taught the dance to a friend. He was not an embarrassed white man clumsily attempting a native dance in a cringeworthy demonstration of good will. It was Lansdale at his most comfortable: as the life of a multicultural party where a Philippine dance broke the ice between his American and Vietnamese friends. The snapshot depicted Lansdalian diplomacy in action, in which cultural exchange on the ground with ordinary people was an essential tactic in nation-building strategy. Max Boot’s engaging biography is one of only a few works that examines Lansdale, whose belief in cultural sensitivity and commitment to individual liberty continues to inform American counterinsurgency theory. In the early 1950s, Lansdale’s successful training of Ramon Magsaysay to assume the presidency of an independent Philippines and neutralize the Hukbalahap rebellion became the model U.S. policymakers would attempt to replicate in South Vietnam. While working in Vietnam, Lansdale got closer than any other American to Ngo Dinh Diem, the man meant to be a Vietnamese Magsaysay. Things didn’t work out in Vietnam quite the way they did in the Philippines, though. Diem alienated the Buddhist opposition and was never popular with the masses. After Diem was assassinated, Washington replaced Lansdale and his CIA team with combat troops. Yet Lansdale’s influence remained in the “hearts and minds” approach to pacification that Gen. Creighton Abrams advocated. Lansdale himself spent the better part of two decades in Southeast Asia, save a brief detour to the Caribbean to try and topple Fidel Castro’s government in Cuba. From the Office of Strategic Services to the CIA, from the Philippines to Vietnam, from the United States to Asia, Lansdale traversed the transpacific world in a life’s work that bridged Tales from the South Pacific and The Ugly American. In his career, Lansdale embodied the “ugly American” — a misunderstood moniker that refers not to an American tourist behaving badly but to a diplomat willing to roll up his sleeves and get down at the village level for a drink, a meal, a walk, and a conversation to learn about local customs, values, and needs. It is one of two sides of Lansdale that Boot’s portrait reveals. In that form, Lansdale was a maverick who possessed an innate curiosity about humanity in all its diversity.[64] Boot makes a compelling claim that racism did not appear to have tainted Lansdale’s view of Asia at a time when U.S. policymakers referred to Filipinos and Vietnamese as “little brown brothers.” It was a key example of the chasm between Lansdale and the risk-averse policy establishment, a rift made all the wider by Lansdale’s unwillingness to accept received wisdom about nation-building. The tragedy that emerges from Boot’s telling of the Vietnam War story resulted from Washington’s impatience with what Lansdale understood to be the slow processes of cultivating political stability, fostering economic development, and establishing a national identity. As unconventional as Lansdale was in his career, he was an everyman in his personal life, and this is where Boot’s book contributes something new. Other scholars, notably Edward Miller, Mark Moyar, and Lewis Sorley, have written about the possibilities for Vietnam had Americans made different choices regarding Diem and the war.[65] While Boot’s focus on Lansdale is unique, the broader theme of “what might have been” is established in the historiography. What we know much less about is the impact of U.S. foreign relations on the lives and marriages of deployed personnel, their families, and local populations from the 1940s onward as part of U.S. military and diplomatic expansion. (In the afterword, Boot speculates that Lansdale might have had a Vietnamese mistress, in addition to his long-time Filipina paramour.) In Boot’s narrative, Lansdale’s love life was not the sideshow but the main event. It shaped him, his work, and, by extension, U.S. intervention in Asia. From the collections of personal letters Boot accessed, he pieces together a picture of an international post-World War II generation in which foreign relations shaped and were influenced by the women in the lives of American men overseas. Helen Lansdale represents the diplomatic and military wives whose husbands were stationed at U.S. embassies and military bases all over the world. Pat Kelly, a Manila newspaper staffer who volunteered to be Lansdale’s guide through rural Luzon, symbolizes the local women who caught the attention of American men abroad. Kelly, whose given name was Patrocinio Yapcinco, was from Tarlac Province, a Huk stronghold in central Luzon. Her husband, James Kelly, an Irish-Filipino orphan, died of tuberculosis in 1944, and Pat got a job to support herself and her baby daughter, Patricia. Pat eventually went to work for the United States, and she was assigned to work as Lansdale’s guide and interpreter. Sometimes the intersections of the personal and the political determined the course of international relations. Had Pat and Ed not met, Ramon Magsaysay might not have ascended to the presidency of the Philippines, providing the United States with its model for South Vietnam and sealing the fate of Ngo Dinh Diem. Lansdale might not have requested to return to the Philippines. Perhaps without realizing it, Boot validates the “cultural turn” in diplomatic and military history. Gender and sex influence the behavior of diplomats, military officers, and intelligence agents in ways that end up charting or shifting the courses of foreign relations and war. Boot is very clear about the importance of Lansdale’s wives (he married Kelly after Helen died in the 1970s), noting their roles in “some of his most consequential decisions, such as his return to the Philippines for a second, history-altering tour in 1950.”[66] He claims to be the first writer to have read Lansdale’s letters from both wives, which “provide the most intimate and complete account that will ever be available of Lansdale’s thinking — and they reveal the hitherto unrevealed importance of his love affair with Pat to the narrative of his life.”[67] Boot’s portrayal of the women in Lansdale’s life is provocative because, according to a recent piece he wrote for Foreign Policy, 2017 was the year Boot “got woke” to his white male privilege.[68] Unfortunately, neither Boot’s new consciousness nor the weight he places on Lansdale’s relationships with his wives inspired him to flesh out the Lansdale love triangle. His depiction of Helen Lansdale is one-dimensional, and his discussions of Pat Kelly are, at times, tied to old tropes about the exotic Orient and its alluring women. In Boot’s version of Lansdale’s romantic drama, Pat Kelly was beguiling while Helen Lansdale was prematurely gray. Pat teased and flirted while Helen was quiet. Pat was exciting while Helen was boring. It is as though Boot is trying to excuse Lansdale’s dalliances by making Helen the problem, implying that someone so dull couldn’t possibly satisfy an adventurous man of the world like Lansdale, and, let’s face it, men must be satisfied. That is their privilege. All of this may have been true, but Boot’s flat sketch of Helen leaves out the broader contexts that help explain her behaviors and motives. She was a complex human being just as her husband was. Social and cultural expectations likely limited her options and influenced her personal decisions as much as Lansdale did. Mr. and Mrs. Lansdale weren’t making love on a beach in California because he was overseas, and she was back home playing both mother and father to two sons. Boot remarks that Helen Lansdale refused to ask for a divorce when she learned of her husband’s affair, but a truly “woke” character study of the first Mrs. Lansdale would include a discussion of the limited financial and legal options she would have faced as a divorcee, not to mention the emotional and psychological effects on her and her sons. There was more at stake than Lansdale’s belief in his ability to win hearts and minds in Asia, his desire for adventure, or his longing for Pat Kelly. Lansdale himself understood this, which is why he didn’t simply quit his American family when Helen wouldn’t seek a divorce. Meanwhile, Kelly is important to the story not because she was a bewitching Filipina, but because she helped Lansdale break into rural Philippine society where he learned the most about the Huk insurgency. Kelly was a high school classmate of Luis Taruc, the Huks’ military leader, in Tarlac City in central Luzon, and she was able to get Lansdale remarkably close to the rebels. To his credit, Boot writes Kelly with much more empathy and depth than what he offers Helen. He acknowledges Kelly’s strategic importance, asserting that “it was her role as an invaluable intermediary and interpreter, not only of language but also of customs and mindsets, that would account for so much of his success with the Filipino people.”[69] Kelly played a vital role in one of America’s most successful nation-building efforts and had a long history of working for the United States, including years with the U.S. War Damage Commission and the U.S. Information Agency at the U.S. embassy in Manila. As Boot explains, Kelly was fairly unconventional in Philippine society as a working woman who became the head of her family after her husband and her father both died in the 1940s. Boot brings Kelly to life and illustrates her importance to the mission primarily through Lansdale’s letters and the author’s interviews with those who knew Kelly. From a methodology perspective, Boot’s book is a good example of how personal papers and oral histories can offer important details on military missions, policymaking, and other “official” business. Despite Kelly’s important role in U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in the Philippines, it would not be surprising if her voice is absent from the archival record. Her race and her gender would have ensured that her American male colleagues would not have written her recommendations into an official report, and if they did, they likely would not have credited her. It is not clear whether Boot looked for Kelly in the records of the War Damage Commission or the U.S. Information Agency where she had worked, but were Kelly still alive, it would be fascinating to talk with her and learn her opinions of U.S.-Philippine relations, her country’s history and future, and her married lover. That Boot made the effort to craft a fairly vibrant portrait of Pat Kelly leaves readers wondering why he did not do Helen the same courtesy even though Lansdale’s relationship with her is also important to his life story. Having spent most of her adult life as a housewife, Helen likely would not appear in archival documents, but published sources on American women in the Cold War era would have provided some context for understanding the women of Helen’s generation. This type of background information might have helped Boot speculate about why Helen behaved and responded to her husband in the ways that she did. While Boot develops Kelly as an agent of her own history, he comes close to orientalism when describing the “mysterious East” as he sets the scene for the moment Lansdale and Kelly met. He writes, “As long as Western men have been journeying to the Orient (a term that once encompassed all of Asia and North Africa), they have, inevitably, fallen in love with the women they found there.”[70] Does Boot believe that, or is he referring to what men of a different era thought? He continues by describing the “Age of Discovery” as “an age of sexual discovery, with all kinds of tropes and innuendos that are now considered racist.”[71] But it’s not just that standards for polite conversation have changed. Europeans’ “erotic fascination” with the Far East was part of a broader imperial culture that used race, gender, and sexuality to justify Europe’s subjugation of its African and Asian colonies and establish power dynamics between Europeans and people of color. Boot does not discuss this context except to mention Edward Said’s orientalism, the theory that 19th-century Europeans crafted an exotic, romanticized image of the Middle East that rationalized Europe’s exploitation of colonized subjects. Boot concedes that “[t]here is an element of truth in the charge” but then counters with: “… the exploitation was not entirely one-sided—many poor Asian women saw relationships with Westerners as an opportunity for economic betterment”.[72] Poor Asian women exploited Western men? In colonialism? An author who claims to understand his white male privilege and “the reality of discrimination, harassment, even violence that people of color and women continue to experience” wrote this?[73] By accusing impoverished Asian women of manipulating Western men for a chance at a more financially secure future, Boot demonstrates a surprising obliviousness to the power dynamics that would have prevented such reverse exploitation. Boot lets quotes such as the Times’ Richard Bernstein’s comment about “an Eastern erotic culture that had always been more frank and less morally fastidious about sexual needs than the Western Christian erotic culture” hang without analysis.[74] Failing to delve into meaning and context, Boot misses an opportunity to challenge an outdated Western image of Asia by describing the prudish nature of Diem-era Vietnamese society. It’s important context for the time period in which Lansdale was stationed in Vietnam. Concerned citizens worried about the corrupting effects of American men and Western culture on Vietnamese women and traditional values. As J. William Fulbright noted, the Americans, not the Vietnamese, were responsible for turning Saigon into a brothel.[75] Boot’s link between Sir Richard Burton’s orientalism and Lansdale’s Southeast Asia is Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. The 1904 opera tells a tragic love story of an American naval officer and a Japanese teenaged girl who bears his son and then commits suicide when her lover returns to Japan with his American wife. Speculating that “[n]o doubt there were many such heartbreaks — and even some suicides — that resulted from liaisons between Western men and Asian women,” Boot then brings readers to the love story of Edward Lansdale and Pat Kelly.[76] Boot’s description of Helen Lansdale as “an old-fashioned, self-conscious ‘lady’ who had gone to a finishing school and behaved according to the prim standards of the early twentieth-century provincial American upper class” sets her up as the inhibited wife who drove her husband into the arms of a “livelier” Asian woman.[77] What does it all mean for our understanding of Lansdale and U.S. intervention in Southeast Asia? Was Lansdale a Western explorer who “inevitably” fell in love with an Asian woman? Does Boot believe Lansdale was the Cold War-era descendant of a 400-year-old lineage of white men drawn to the “alluring Orient?” If so, can we extrapolate that the orientalist framework that Europeans used to justify imperialism also informed U.S. intervention in Asia in the twentieth century?[78] Does Boot believe that the United States acts in the world just like its imperial European forefathers? Where does Pat Kelly fit into this framework? Does Boot see her independence and political acumen as an anomaly, or as a real-life example that complicates the romanticized image of Asian women? Absent a discussion of the colonial context in which Europeans developed the idea of the exotic Orient and the ways in which similar racial constructs have shaped U.S. foreign relations, it is unclear why Boot introduced Lansdale’s relationship with Kelly in this framework. Lansdale is actually an interesting character through which to explore these issues. Boot describes his long fascination with Asia, from his wearing of a sarong while in college to his interest in Filipino folk music, none of which indicates racism or anything else insidious. Lansdale’s willingness to meet Filipinos and Vietnamese on their terms and to go into villages to assess the attitudes of local people suggests a genuine desire to assist in these nations’ political development. Based on the evidence Boot offers, Lansdale did not appear to see himself as a man on a civilizing mission to uplift the darker races. Boot could have used Lansdale and Kelly to challenge the mysterious Asia construct rather than presenting it as the natural explanation for their relationship. Lansdale, the ugly American, believed that native people had important things to tell him about their country’s future. Kelly was an employee of the U.S. government, not a dragon lady or a sexually exotic object. In his letters, Lansdale wrote that he was drawn to Kelly’s mind as much as her body, and if that was true, then he deserves more credit than Boot gives him when he places him in the same category as earlier European colonizers. Boot’s tendency to provide lengthy quotes — usually from love letters between Lansdale and Kelly — without analysis or broader context is a flaw that runs throughout the book. Perhaps Boot believes discussions of the cultural constructs that influenced Lansdale’s relationships with his women belong in dense academic tomes and might bore a popular audience. But analysis need not be laden with tedious jargon, and the American public gets the complicated issues regarding gender, sex, women, and the patriarchy. The #metoo movement has proven that. Analysis can also prevent readers from mistaking the writer for being uninformed or, worse, an apologist for the orientalism of Victorian imperialists. This should be especially important to an author who has announced that his consciousness is raised, and that he now understands that the oppressive forces of racism and sexism are real. Sometime in the mid-1950s, Helen Lansdale stood beside her husband as he received a medal from Vice President Richard Nixon. While Edward Lansdale lived an adventure-filled career in the Pacific world, taking a mistress as he attempted to save the free world, his wife remained stateside doing the heavy and largely unnoticed work of maintaining a façade of normalcy even as it threatened to collapse. In her role on the home front, Mrs. Lansdale was not unlike all the other military and diplomatic wives who spent the Cold War years as single parents, filling their days with children’s activities, trips to the grocery store, and luncheons, but wondering in the lonely hours where their husbands were, who they were with, and why ordinary family life wasn’t enough for them. We know the story of Edward Lansdale the CIA agent, and what might have been in Vietnam, but Max Boot lets us in on a more universal tale. Edward and Helen Lansdale got married. They tried to play husband and wife and parents like they thought they were supposed to. The exigencies of U.S. national security gave Mr. Lansdale an honorable escape from the monotony of family life, while respectability required Mrs. Lansdale to quietly stand by her man. According to the conventions of the time, it would not have been appropriate for her to travel through a Southeast Asian jungle by jeep. But Americans did not hold Filipinas to the same standards. It was perfectly fine for them to drive into a war zone if they were from the same town as the leader of the local insurgency and spoke both English and Tagalog. And so Pat Kelly became part of Ed Lansdale’s fantasy, but even if his first wife had agreed to a divorce, it would have been difficult for Lansdale to make her part of his life back home. Boot points out that when Pat and Ed first met in the late 1940s, the United States was not kind to Asians, as anti-Asian immigration laws and Japanese internment illustrated. Americans likely would not have seen Pat Kelly, employee of the U.S. War Damage Commission and crucial operative in the counterinsurgency mission in the Philippines. They would have only seen her race. Heather Marie Stur, Ph.D., is an associate professor of history at the University of Southern Mississippi and a fellow in USM’s Dale Center for the Study of War & Society. 

5. Everything but Politics: America’s Counterinsurgency Blindspot

By Jon Askonas Max Boot has left no stone unturned in his extensive biography of Edward Lansdale, debonair ad man-turned-counterinsurgent. Boot’s tome contains, among other things, informed speculation on Lansdale’s sex life, psychoanalysis of Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsburg’s piano-playing, asides on Graham Greene’s novels, and short biographies of almost every character in the extensive cast of would-be American counterinsurgents, Filipino and Vietnamese politicos, and various world historical figures. This makes what was left out of The Road Not Taken all the more revealing. Boot’s mission is to make the case for “Lansdalism,” a variant of counter-insurgency characterized by winning “hearts and minds” through civic action (honest elections, government reforms, political persuasion) to legitimize governments and put pressure on insurgents.[79] According to Boot, Lansdale’s approach would have been far less costly than the massive armed military intervention in Vietnam, and might have actually worked. Boot believes Lansdalism provides a template and inspiration for future U.S. counterinsurgency efforts. But to support this argument, Boot selectively emphasizes details from Lansdale’s life that result in an oversimplified telling of the story: In Vietnam, Lansdale is foiled by bureaucratic insouciance, corrupt Vietnamese leaders, stubborn American politicians, and soldiers dedicated to “conventional warfare.” Boot’s oversimplification highlights this otherwise excellent biography’s most notable flaw. In making his case, Boot fails to contend with the ultimate sources of both Lansdale’s successes in the Philippines and his failures in Vietnam — the political desires of insurgents and of the people in the nations where Lansdale worked. Never is the possibility considered that people simply might not be buying what Lansdale — and Boot — are selling. Because Boot is a powerful storyteller, this failure isn’t immediately obvious. In both the Philippines and Vietnam, we are introduced to the players on both sides of the conflicts, and their relationships with each other are given dramatic life. But Boot’s political analysis never gets past this superficial layer. Why, exactly, are the Huks of the Philippines up in arms? Boot gives us little insight, except for a few slogans and a single oblique reference to a land-owning elite.[80] We learn nothing of the centuries of exploitation under the Spanish, nor that the postwar regime Constabulary destroyed more peasant villages than the Japanese did in their attempt to suppress the government.[81] Besides an innate charisma and popular touch, we never learn why Filipino politician Ramon Magsaysay might have had broad political appeal. This is not to suggest that the programs Lansdale embarked upon with Magsaysay (reforming the Army, improving elections, and resettling former insurgents with land, among others) were not valuable. However, throughout the book, one gets the sense that native populations, whether in the Philippines and Vietnam or in Iraq and Afghanistan, are primarily acted upon. If the wise Lansdalian counterinsurgent follows the right recipe, the native population cannot help but come around to the American position. There is no sense that they could legitimately choose otherwise. This political blindspot is particularly egregious in Boot’s treatment of Vietnam. He had time enough in his book for a short examination of Allen Dulles’ womanizing and spent pages on Hubert Humphrey’s relationship with LBJ. But he left no room for an analysis of Vietnam’s colonial history, nor for a discussion of why the South Vietnamese regime could be so easily associated with the imperialists, what the average rural resident might want, or why Ho Chi Minh remained such a popular figure. Not a jot is spent exploring the relative effectiveness of Southern and Northern propaganda or comparing relations between rural and urban residents or the rich and the poor. Choices that were in fact highly political and intentional are subsumed under the categories of excess violence due to notions of “conventional war,” “corruption” among military and civilian officials, and interpersonal feuds among both American and South Vietnamese leaders. Boot (following the work of Mark Moyar) identifies the 1963 overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem as a critical inflection point in the course of the war,[82] but says little about the political tensions his regime was causing, focusing instead on the dissatisfaction of the generals and the impatience of the American diplomatic and press corps.[83] He adopts Lansdale’s conviction that in Vietnam, “what was missing was a high-level American official who could influence allies to take difficult but necessary steps such as fighting corruption without risking a blowup or backlash.”[84] Boot thinks the same is true for both Iraq and Afghanistan. But client leaders are usually acutely aware of their interests, needs, and political pressures. They do not need a “stiff talking to” from some Yankee, but rather a reconfiguration of the incentives they face, which may be quite deep-seated.[85] Lansdale’s laser-sharp focus on the importance of building South Vietnamese state legitimacy was unique and laudable, but American leaders from JFK to Richard Nixon understood more or less the same thing. The problem for all of these American decision-makers (including Lansdale) was figuring out how to support the South Vietnamese without corrupting or distorting the regime, all the while attempting to keep both the Viet Cong insurgency and North Vietnamese infiltrators at bay. Boot’s tendency to oversimplify is present throughout the book, especially regarding the complicated story of the American war effort in Vietnam. Boot tells us that Lansdale was avant garde in reading Mao in the 1950s. He wasn’t. Due to America’s involvements in Asia, military leaders were already reading and discussing the writings of Mao and Vietnamese general Vo Nguyen Giap.[86] Boot argues that the conventionally minded soldiers (symbolized by Robert McNamara and Gen. William Westmoreland) ignored the human and political element. Yet the bibliography indicates Boot never consulted the actual records of MACV (the American military command in Vietnam) or its predecessor, which tell a much different story. Boot relies on Lewis Sorley’s narrative of the war (blaming Westmoreland for America’s heavy-handed strategy and praising Gen. Creighton Abrams for his belated attempt to turn things around), and ignores Gregory Daddis’ authoritative and detailed historical work rebutting most of Sorley’s claims.[87] If these flaws don’t ultimately undermine the book, it’s in part because Boot is a faithful interpreter of Lansdale himself. It would be hard to claim that Boot is projecting his ideas about counterinsurgency onto Lansdale. If anything, Boot is usually (though not always) circumspect about Lansdale’s zanier ideas, self-serving misconceptions, and occasional fables. In Boot’s book, one can find evidence to support both Lansdale the genius and Lansdale the crank. Though he wants us to see Lansdale through the eyes of his admirers, as an honest, savvy, warm counterinsurgency guru, Boot is honest in admitting that criticisms about Lansdale have merit as well. Thus, Boot conveys Daniel Ellsburg’s loving assessment of Lansdale as a “very shrewd, smart guy”, but also tells us that most of Lansdale’s bureaucratic rivals viewed him as “nutty, lightweight, stupid.”[88] The book contains ample evidence supporting both the case for Lansdale’s shrewdness and for his nuttiness. Lansdale’s naïveté about the political roots of insurgencies is emblematic of his place riding the line between idealism and delusion. To his dying day, he affirmed the universal appeal of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.[89] If only, he thought, Vietnam’s leaders were good enough, honest enough, and liberty-loving enough, Vietnam’s people would be sure to follow. It’s hard to reconcile Lansdale’s enthusiastic tinkering in other peoples’ governments with those ideals. Boot concludes the book by arguing that, in lieu of extensive intervention or aid, America could parachute “skilled political operatives” like Lansdale into dusty countries the world over to “subtly influence the course of an important, if obscure, conflict.” One cannot help but admire Boot’s wistful romance and self-delusion, reminiscent of Lansdalian plots to destabilize Castro with fireworks or win the Vietnam War with an accommodating soothsayer. Without a generous dose of realism and humility about the ultimate political forces driving an insurgency, Lansdalism risks turning into a kind of fantasy about plucky Americans manipulating local leaders with a wink and winsome smile (all for their own good, of course). Rather than his approach to counterinsurgency, Lansdale’s true enduring legacy may be his guileless optimism wedded to an unfalsifiable belief in the universal appeal of American political ideals. It is to Boot’s great credit that he has included enough unvarnished historical material that different interpretations of Lansdale’s life are available within the book itself. Outside of the sections on U.S. military operations in Vietnam, the biography gives a credibly balanced and detailed overview of the man’s complex life and times — not an easy feat. Boot is right that we have a lot to learn from Lansdale. Guided as he was by intuition, there is no doubt that Lansdale in practice was superior to Lansdale in theory. And no one can argue that in America’s counterinsurgencies we have spent too much time listening to “the natives,” lavished too many resources attempting to force actual reform, or hewed too closely to our traditional democratic and constitutional principles. It’s similarly hard to argue with Lansdale’s and Boot’s belief that the civic action approach to counterinsurgency is far less costly than any of the strategies the United States employed in Vietnam and Iraq. Despite the book’s shortcomings, in giving this extraordinary and inspirational American figure his due, Boot has done us all a service. Jon Askonas is a predoctoral fellow at the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas at Austin and a DPhil Candidate in International Relations at the University of Oxford. His research focuses on the relationship between organizational adaptation and post-war “forgetting,” using case studies from U.S. Army efforts in Vietnam and Iraq.   Flickr: Rocklin Lyons [post_title] => Book Review Roundtable: Lost Opportunities in Vietnam [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => book-review-roundtable-lost-opportunities-in-vietnam [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-09-19 12:57:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-09-19 16:57:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?post_type=roundtable&p=544 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => roundtable [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => [pubinfo] => [issue] => [quotes] => [style] => roundtable [type] => Book [style_label] => Roundtable [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 161 [1] => 162 [2] => 163 [3] => 165 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] For an overview of such arguments, see Gary R. Hess, Vietnam: Explaining America’s Lost War (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2009). [2] An old but fascinating account of these charges is Jeffrey P. Kimball, “The Stab-in-the-Back Legend and the Vietnam War,” Armed Forces and Society 14, no. 3 (Spring 1988): 433-458. [3] Guenter Lewy, America in Vietnam (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978). [4] Harry G. Summers Jr., On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War (Novato, Calif.: Presidio, 1982). [5] Lewis Sorley, A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1999). [6] Mark Moyar, Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006). [7] Especially Max Boot, Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power (New York: Basic Books, 2002). [8] Max Boot, The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam (New York: Liveright, 2018). Max Boot, interview by David H. Petraeus, New York Historical Society, New York, Jan. 9, 2018, https://www.c-span.org/video/?438632-1/max-boot-discusses-the-road-taken. [9] Boot, The Road Not Taken, 311. [10] Boot, The Road Not Taken, 234. [11] Boot, The Road Not Taken, 209. [12] W.W. Rostow, The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1960). [13] Edward Miller, Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and the Fate of South Vietnam (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2013), 86. Similarly, Jessica M. Chapman argues that a closer reading of Vietnamese sources “suggests that politico-religious leaders acted more rationally than Lansdale presumed.” In Jessica M. Chapman, Cauldron of Resistance: Ngo Dinh Diem, The United States, and 1950s Southern Vietnam (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013), 77. [14] Boot, The Road Not Taken, 281. [15] Boot, The Road Not Taken, 367. [16] Lien-Hang T. Nguyen, Hanoi’s War: An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2012), 76. [17] Boot, The Road Not Taken, 475. [18] COMUSMACV to CINCPAC, “Concept of Operations—Force Requirements and Deployments, SVN,” June 13, 1965, in The Pentagon Papers: The Defense Department History of United States Decisionmaking in Vietnam [Senator Gravel ed., 5 vols.] (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971-1972), IV: 606. [19] The best one-volume account of allied pacification plans remains Richard A. Hunt, Pacification: The American Struggle for Vietnam’s Hearts and Minds (Boulder, San Francisco, Oxford: Westview Press, 1995). [20] Max Boot, “The Case for American Empire,” The Weekly Standard, Oct. 15, 2001, http://www.weeklystandard.com/the-case-for-american-empire/article/1626. [21] Edward T. Linenthal, “Anatomy of a Controversy,” in History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past, eds. Edward T. Linenthal and Tom Engelhardt (New York: Henry Holt, 1996), 62. [22] Spc. Noelle Wiehe, “1st SFAB combat advisor teams train for upcoming Afghanistan deployment,” U.S. Army, Jan. 16, 2018, https://www.army.mil/article/199082/1st_sfab_combat_advisor_teams_train_for_upcoming_afghanistan_deployment. [23] Stephen Biddle et al., “Small Footprint, Small Payoff: The Military Effectiveness of Security Force Assistance,” Journal of Strategic Studies 41, no. 1-2 (2018): 89-142; Walter C. Ladwig, III, “Influencing Clients in Counterinsurgency: U.S. Involvement in El Salvador’s Civil War, 1979-92,” International Security 41, no. 1 (Summer 2016): 99-146. [24] Douglas S. Blaufarb, The Counterinsurgency Era: U.S. Doctrine and Performance, 1950 to the Present (New York: Free Press, 1977); D. Michael Shafer, Deadly Paradigms: The Failure of U.S. Counterinsurgency Policy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014); Benjamin Schwarz, American Counterinsurgency Doctrine and El Salvador: The Frustrations of Reform and Illusions of Nation Building (Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 1991). [25] William E. Odom, On Internal War: American and Soviet Approaches to Third World Clients and Insurgents (Durham: Duke University Press, 1991). [26] Max Boot, The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam (New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2018); Max Boot, “Win The War on Terror with Lansdale’s Cold- War Era ‘Friendly Persuasion,’” USA Today, Jan. 9, 2018, https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/01/09/avoid-vietnam-fiascos-win-terror-war-learn-lansdale-friendly-persuasion-max-boot-column/1013646001/. [27] Boot, The Road Not Taken, 122-124, 138. [28] Charles T.R. Bohannan, “Antiguerrila Operations,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 341, no. 1 (May 1962), 21. [29] Boot, The Road Not Taken, 211. [30] Boot, The Road Not Taken, 602. [31] Walter C. Ladwig, III, The Forgotten Front: Patron-Client Relationships in Counterinsurgency (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017). [32] Benedict J. Kerkvliet, The Huk Rebellion: A Study of Peasant Revolt in the Philippines (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), 164. [33] “Memorandum by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (Johnson), Sept. 6, 1950,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, East Asia and the Pacific, Volume VI, Doc. 837, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1950v06/d837. [34] Ladwig, The Forgotten Front, 107. [35] David Wurfel, “Foreign Aid and Social Reform in Political Development: A Philippine Case Study,” American Political Science Review 53, no. 2 (June 1959): 466. [36] Walter C. Ladwig III, “When Police are the Problem: The Philippine Constabulary and the Hukbalahap Rebellion,” in Policing Insurgencies: Cops as Counterinsurgents, ed. C. Christine Fair and Sumit Ganguly (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 24-25. [37] Myron M. Cowen, Letter to Gov. Thomas E. Dewey, Feb. 18, 1952, Box 6, Myron M. Cowen Papers, Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, http://www.walterladwig.com/Articles/MagPressure.pdf [38] Douglas J. Macdonald, Adventures in Chaos: American Intervention for Reform in the Third World (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), 326. [39] Boot, The Road Not Taken, 113; Cecil B. Currey, Edward Lansdale: The Unquiet American (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1989), 84. [40] Oral History Interview with John F. Melby, Truman Library & Museum, Nov. 21, 1986, 239, https://www.trumanlibrary.org/oralhist/melby3.htm - 239. [41] The Chargé in the Philippines (Chapin) to the Secretary of State, Jan. 5, 1951, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1951, Asia and the Pacific, Vol. VI, Part 2, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1951v06p2/d3. [42] Chargé in the Philippines to the Secretary of State. [43] Macdonald, Adventures in Chaos, 152. [44] Ladwig, The Forgotten Front, 133. [45] Macdonald, Adventures in Chaos, 155. [46] Boot, The Road Not Taken, 162-163. [47] For mention of the repeated attempts to replicate the Philippines template in Vietnam, see David Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest (New York: Ballantine Books, 1972), 126; Yuen Foong Khong, Analogies at War: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu, and the Vietnam Decisions of 1965 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 240; Nick Cullather, Illusions of Influence: The Political Economy of United States-Philippines Relations, 1942-1965 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994), 98. [48] Boot, The Road Not Taken, 110-112. [49] Macdonald, Adventures in Chaos, 183. [50] Biddle et al., “Small Footprint, Small Payoff,” 98-101; Ladwig, The Forgotten Front, 22-51. [51] Carmen M. Alston, “Adverse Selection,” Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/adverse-selection. [52] Ladwig, The Forgotten Front, 28. [53] Daniel L. Byman, “Friends Like These: Counterinsurgency and the War on Terrorism,” International Security 31, no. 2 (Fall 2006): 79-115. [54] Bryce Denno, “Senior Officer Debriefing Reports: Vietnam War, 1962–1972,” July 19, 1963, Military History Institute, Carlisle, PA, http://www.walterladwig.com/Articles/DennoAA.pdf. [55] Denno, “Debriefing Reports.” [56]  For studies of U.S.-Vietnamese relations, particularly in the context of security force assistance, see Ronald H. Spector, Advice and Support: The Early Years, 1941-1960 (Washington, DC: GPO, 1983); Edward Miller, Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and the Fate of South Vietnam (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013); Mara E. Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017), 67-107. [57] Bernard Trainor and Michael Gordon, The End Game: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Iraq, From George W. Bush to Barack Obama (London: Atlantic Books, 2015), 290-292. [58] Linda Robinson, Tell Me How This Ends: General David Patraeus and the Search for a Way Out of Iraq (New York: PublicAffairs, 2009), 36. [59] George W. Bush, Decision Points, (New York: Random House, 2010), 362. [60] Bush, Decision Points. [61] Peter Beinart, “The Surge Fallacy,” The Atlantic, Sept. 2015, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-surge-fallacy/399344/. [62] Boot, The Road Not Taken, 599. [63] Boot, The Road Not Taken, 602. [64] Max Boot, The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam (New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2018), 15. [65] Edward Miller, Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and the Fate of South Vietnam (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013); Mark Moyar, Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009); Lewis Sorley, A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007). [66] Boot, The Road Not Taken, XVLII. [67] Boot, The Road Not Taken. [68] Max Boot, “2017 Was the Year I Learned About My White Privilege,” Foreign Policy, Dec. 27, 2017, https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/12/27/2017-was-the-year-i-learned-about-my-white-privilege/. [69] Boot, The Road Not Taken, 73. [70] Boot, The Road Not Taken, 67. [71] Boot, The Road Not Taken. [72] Boot, The Road Not Taken, 68. [73] Boot, “White Privilege.” [74] Boot, “White Privilege,” 67. [75] Heather Stur, Beyond Combat: Women and Gender in the Vietnam War Era (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 58. [76] Boot, The Road Not Taken, 69. [77] Boot, The Road Not Taken. [78] Key works that explore orientalism in a U.S. context include: Christina Klein, Cold War Orientalism: Asia in the Middlebrow Imagination, 1945-1961 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003); Robert G. Lee, Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999); Douglas Little, American Orientalism: The United States and the Middle East Since 1945 (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2008); Melani McAlister, Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East Since 1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005). [79]  Max Boot, The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam (New York: Liveright, 2018), 601-602. [80] Boot, Road Not Taken, 76. [81] Andrew Birtle, U.S. Army Counterinsurgency and Contingency Operations Doctrine (Washington, DC: Center for Military History, 2006), 58. [82] Mark Moyar, Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009), xiv-xv. [83] Boot, Road Not Taken, 405. [84] Boot, Road Not Taken, 602. [85] Walter Ladwig III, The Forgotten Front: Patron-Client Relationships in Counterinsurgency (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2017). [86] Jon Askonas, “A Vicious Entanglement, Part IV: If Only the North Vietnamese Had Read Galula,” Oct. 6, 2017, https://warontherocks.com/2017/10/a-vicious-entanglement-part-iv-if-only-the-north-vietnamese-had-read-galula/. [87] Daddis has written a trilogy of books dismantling the notion that a simple focus on “the conventional war” or on the use of force is to blame for America’s loss in Vietnam: No Sure Victory (2011), Westmoreland’s War (2015), and Withdrawal (2017), all Oxford University Press. [88] Boot, Road Not Taken, 470. [89] Boot, Road Not Taken, 529. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => Contents [contents] => 1. Introduction, by Mark Atwood Lawrence 2. Vietnam and the White Man's Burden, by Gregory A. Daddis 3. Friendly Persuasion Is not Enough: The Limits of the Lansdale Approach, by Walter C. Ladwig III 4. The Woman Question in Max Boot's Tale of Edward Lansdale, by Heather Marie Stur 5. Everything but Politics: America's Counterinsurgency Blindspot, by Jon Askonas ) ) ) [post_count] => 2 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1261 [post_author] => 162 [post_date] => 2019-03-27 06:00:49 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-27 10:00:49 [post_content] =>

1. Introduction: The Pitfalls of Seeking Security on the Cheap

By Jason Fritz   In the years since the United States deployed massive amounts of troops to Iraq and Afghanistan beginning in the early to late 2000s, it has changed tactics, relying upon local security forces to fight its enemies abroad in order to avoid the costs of large-scale military commitments. The United States provides security assistance on every continent except Antarctica, and to every country in the bottom quartile of fragile states, except for Eritrea and Syria.[1] Support to these local forces takes many forms, from simple train-and-equip missions, to acting in an advisory role, to training and educating foreign armies, to institutional and ministerial reform. The U.S. government has invested heavily in building the military capacity of fragile states because it is much cheaper to support developing militaries than it is for the United States to stabilize these countries itself. Yet, these efforts have produced mixed results at best. Mara Karlin, in her excellent new book, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States, proposes to explain under what conditions efforts to build partner capacity succeed and fail when the United States is attempting to stabilize a fragile state undergoing civil conflict — specifically, conflict that challenges the government’s monopoly on the use of force. Offering an elegant and parsimonious model, Karlin argues that there are two overarching variables that help a partner military achieve sustainable control over the state: the nature of U.S. involvement and the external threat environment. The former is determined by how the United States organizes the foreign military (for internal or external defense), the U.S. role in selecting key partner military leaders, and the ability of the United States to limit its involvement to assistance only and not become a party to the conflict. The external threat environment describes the role of external actors in the conflict. According to Karlin’s model, building a partner’s military capacity is more likely to be successful — measured as the partner’s monopoly of force within its borders — when American involvement is greater and the role of antagonistic external actors is decreased. Thus, when U.S. involvement is low and external antagonism is high, building partner capacity is expected to be a complete failure. The remaining two combinations lead to two different varieties of partial failure: When there is limited antagonistic influence but U.S. efforts are not fully engaged, insufficient progress is made toward securing a monopoly of force for the local government. Conversely, heavy U.S. involvement alongside significant external antagonism result in a spoiler effect where both actors — the United States and and the external antagonistic actor — cancel out the effect of the other. Karlin draws her empirical evidence from a number of historical case studies, relying on unique archival research and interviews. The exemplar case of building partner capacity is Greece in the late 1940s, an intervention in which U.S. military officers wielded great power over the personnel decisions and force structuring in the Greek military as a condition of assistance. Coupled with limited external support for the communist rebels, the U.S. assistance was extremely effective in defeating the insurgency. Alternatively, complete failure in such efforts is exemplified by U.S. intervention in South Vietnam in the late 1950s. South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem refused to allow American interference in military leadership decisions. Instead, his paranoia led him to only appoint officers whose personal loyalty to him was unquestionable. American advisors continued to structure, equip, and train the South Vietnamese military to face external threats, while the insurgency — increasingly backed by North Vietnam — surged to unmanageable levels of capability. The assistance mission was a disaster, leading the United States to become more and more involved with direct military action, the consequences of which need no further discussion here. Karlin illustrates her model’s predictions of partial failure by examining two assistance programs in Lebanon. The first example was during Lebanon’s civil war in the early 1980s, when the United States was significantly involved in leadership decisions and force structuring in the country but was ultimately defeated by the destabilizing effects of proxy forces supported by Israel, Iran, and Syria. In this case, antagonistic external actors were able to overcome American attempts to improve the Lebanese military. The second example is from the subsequent U.S. efforts in the late 2000s after the withdrawal of the Syrian military from Lebanon. In this example, there were fewer outside actors pushing against U.S. efforts, but America failed to affect leadership decisions in the Lebanese military, which was unable to gain or maintain control over all of the state’s territory. Karlin’s model is not meant to apply to cases where the United States is a direct co-combatant in a civil conflict. As she notes, these are rare events, most notably Vietnam (post-1961), Afghanistan (post-2001), and Iraq (post-2003). Karlin explains, “the nature of U.S. programs to strengthen militaries during a massive occupation is harder to disentangle given the numerous other variables that exist.”[2] Nor is her model meant to apply to assistance that is focused on external defense. The measure of success in Karlin’s model is the ability to control the state’s territory, an outcome which does not apply in cases of state-on-state conflict. How Much Involvement Is Enough, and for Whom? In addition to the great explanatory power that Karlin’s two-dimensional model provides and the key questions she raises for any policymaker considering embarking on a partner capacity mission, her study provides a great starting point for a suite of additional studies, including exploring how much assistance is enough and how the recipient country’s legitimacy affects U.S. effectiveness. First, given that assistance recipients are often concerned about how much U.S. involvement to accept, it would be invaluable to explore how much U.S. involvement is enough — and no more. There is ample research on the reticence of countries receiving U.S. assistance in appearing to be clients of the American hegemon,[3] a point made by each of the reviewers below. A government seen as too cozy with the United States could easily be viewed as not legitimate by its people, endangering its ability to expand and maintain control over the entirety of the state. Understanding the effective limits of U.S. involvement — and how much antagonistic external meddling can be tolerated — is also important to the United States as it would help frame the challenges for individual assistance programs and create expectations about costs for decision-makers, Congress, and the public. It is also important to set expectations with partner governments so they can gauge how much involvement to expect, which, if communicated well, could limit accusations of clientelism to a foreign power. A second potential path for future research is the addition of a third dimension to Karlin’s model, also discussed by Walter Ladwig below: the recipient government’s legitimacy. While measuring legitimacy remains a squishy endeavor, the reality is that some governments cannot be helped regardless of how much involvement the United States may offer or how little outside assistance insurgencies receive. Autocratic regimes that undertake coup-proofing measures with their military will not accept American influence on leadership decisions no matter what the United States does: the weakness of their military is essential in maintaining their rule. Karlin’s case study in South Vietnam illustrates just this; however, Karlin identified the American advisors as the explanatory variable, not the very nature of Diem’s rule, which precluded any serious U.S. involvement. Moreover, in fragile states the government is often created by divvying public goods among warlords or other powerful elites, who would otherwise be in conflict with one another, in order to create a coalition.[4] Such coalitions are sensitive to changes in the power dynamics resulting from U.S. involvement. Replacing key military leaders may make the military a more capable force, but it degrades the political power structures that undergird the existence of the government. Assistance in this case is doomed to fail, as is the case in Afghanistan. And while some governments may or may not engage in coup-proofing or in efforts to maintain shaky political coalitions, their actions nevertheless prevent them from building legitimacy despite U.S. involvement in leadership decisions and force structuring. Such actions typically entail political exclusion or repression, both of which were on display in Iraq after the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2011. Instances where the recipient government seeking stability may be a major source of fragility warrant the inclusion of a third dimension that considers the nature and actions of the recipient government. The Unlikelihood of Success Karlin, an exceptional academic who was also a senior official in the Department of Defense, examines security assistance deftly, with the rigor of a scholar and the practicality of a practitioner. The three reviewers in this roundtable — Walter Ladwig, Tommy Ross, and Loren DeJonge Shulman — each express agreement with Karlin’s model, but remain skeptical in the entire endeavor of building partner militaries. They focus on different points of failure for these missions, but think policymakers would be well served if America’s leaders in the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom analyzed each case according to the questions posed in Karlin’s conclusion. However, if policymakers were to rigorously analyze each mission as Karlin suggests, the reviewers are skeptical that U.S. partners would be up to the task, that the U.S. government is organized to build partner militaries, or that exogenous forces can be adequately deterred. In any of these cases, they expect the United States to be more likely to fail in these missions than not. Ladwig focuses his review on the recipient government and its propensity to accept outside involvement. He cites a number of studies that identify the partner government itself as the greatest obstacle to achieving state control and subsequent stability. Ladwig identifies that the country offering assistance and the recipient governments may have differing objectives that preclude the unity of effort necessary for deep outside involvement. Additionally, Ladwig points out that because assistance is an inherently political act, it may upset the political coalitions of the state, using the second Lebanon case as an example. Ultimately, Ladwig argues that although Karlin’s book is an excellent start, additional dimensions should also be explored when considering what makes for a successful foray into building partner capacity. Ross and DeJonge Schulman both acknowledge that building partner capacity has become America’s default response to fragile states, largely because it is cheaper than direct combat involvement. However, they also question whether the U.S. government is organized to conduct such assistance operations effectively. Ross notes that within the military, foreign assistance is marginalized — the U.S. government has invested little to create the capacity to conduct partner capacity missions at a scale commensurate with demand. Similarly, DeJonge Schulman doubts the ability of policymakers to fully analyze any specific mission adequately, per Karlin’s conclusion, in an environment where the operational tempo often precludes obtaining a rigorous understanding of the political conditions in the country in question. Furthermore, she is concerned about the existence of expertise at the country level, something that is necessary in order for the United States to make deep involvement effective (a point also made by Ross). Finally, Ross focuses in on the role of external actors more deeply. In his analysis, Karlin’s model treats antagonistic external actors as exogenous to the internal conflict and U.S. influence. This is undoubtedly for the sake of parsimony. But Ross argues that U.S. actions can both limit and inspire external actions, a point that is underexplored in Karlin’s model and case analysis. He notes that the United States has “an underdeveloped suite of tools available to confront the activities of adversarial actors in a third country” and that U.S. planners may not be aware of the few tools that do exist. Ross ultimately proposes this as an additional area of exploration in future research. Each of the reviewers acknowledges that assistance to foreign militaries has been a key aspect of U.S. security efforts in fragile states for nearly 20 years, and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. And yet, the United States has not had a great record in using that assistance to create stability in states of great strategic interest, particularly in the Middle East and throughout Africa. Karlin’s book provides a practical analytical path to predict the success of such assistance efforts. While scholars can enjoy the elegant model she presents and the lines of research the model uncovers, policymakers would be well advised to read and abide by the principles she lays out.   Jason Fritz is a senior research analyst and project manager in the Brookings Institution’s Foreign Policy program, a senior editor at War on the Rocks, and a lecturer at Johns Hopkins University’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences’ Advanced Academic Programs.  

2. The Politics of Security Assistance to Fragile States

By Walter C. Ladwig III   Reflecting the change in U.S. security strategy from direct intervention in internal conflicts to working “by, with, and through” local partners to manage internal security challenges, in recent years there has been a marked increase in the academic literature on security force assistance. Mara Karlin’s recent book, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States, makes a significant contribution to this growing field of study, as well as our understanding of the conditions necessary for American military assistance programs to achieve their objectives. Specifically, the book seeks to understand when, why, and under what circumstances U.S. programs to strengthen partner militaries for internal defense have succeeded. Both during the Cold War and today, military assistance has been a key tool in America’s diplomatic tool kit, yet as Karlin notes, “the U.S. track record for building militaries in fragile state is uneven at best.”[5] What accounts for this outcome? Blending a scholar’s detachment with the real-world insights of a senior Pentagon official, Karlin concludes that the limited impact of most security assistance programs is the result of a failure to properly conceive of the true scope of the undertaking. All too often, the task of strengthening a partner’s military is seen as a narrow technical undertaking focused on the provision of equipment and training. When these efforts fail to achieve the desired results, the answer is to simply provide more equipment and more training. Instead, Building Militaries in Fragile States contends that training and equipment on their own will only contribute marginally to military effectiveness if the armed forces receiving assistance suffer from poor organization and dysfunctional leadership. Consequently, Karlin argues that efforts to transform the recipient military, rather than simply supplying it with material and instruction, are the hallmark of efficacious security assistance missions. Success in this endeavor will be determined by the actions taken by the United States as well as by those of external powers that seek to destabilize the fragile state. In particular, efforts to strengthen the militaries of fragile states will succeed in achieving a monopoly on violence within the country’s borders when the following conditions are met: 1) American officials involve themselves in the partner’s “sensitive military matters,” such as the appointment of senior personnel and the organizational structure of the armed forces; and 2) The efforts of hostile external powers to bolster insurgents or undermine the fragile state are deterred or moderated. Conversely, when the United States shies away from trying to influence a state’s higher-level defense policies and antagonistic external actors run rampant, security assistance missions are poised for catastrophic failure. Karlin tests the explanatory power of this two-variable formulation by examining four case studies: U.S. involvement in the Greek Civil War (1947–1949); assistance to the armed forces of South Vietnam between 1956 and 1960; and two distinct efforts to strengthen the Lebanese army, from 1982 to 1984 (Lebanon I) and again from 2005 to 2009 (Lebanon II). She utilizes extensive archival research and copious interviews with senior policymakers to provide an impressive depth of insight into American efforts in each of the cases. In the most successful of the four assistance efforts examined in Karlin’s book, the Joint U.S. Military Assistance and Planning Group under Gen. James Van Fleet exercised considerable influence over the personnel policy and structure of the Greek armed forces. This occurred alongside internecine struggles in the communist world that led Yugoslavia to cut off support for the Communist Party of Greece (Κομμουνιστικό Κόμμα Ελλάδας) and deny their guerrillas sanctuary. The end result was a Greek military that was highly capable of carrying out the foreign internal defense mission and wielded uncontested sovereignty throughout the country’s territory. Vietnam sits at the opposite end of the spectrum where the U.S. Military Assistance Group under Gen. Samuel “Hanging Sam” Williams steadfastly focused on the technical aspects of rendering assistance to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam and purposely avoided attempts to influence personnel policy or organizational structures of the South Vietnamese military. Moreover, a misplaced focus on preparing South Vietnam’s army for interstate warfare did little to develop its capacity to respond to North Vietnam’s increasing support for armed guerrillas in the south. The failure of this early security assistance effort set the stage for the subsequent U.S. intervention to bolster a succession of fledgling governments in Saigon. The two cases out of Lebanon demonstrate partial failures, with American efforts to reform the local armed forces countered by external support for opposition armed groups in one case (Lebanon I), and America’s failure to capitalize on the diminishing role of antagonistic external actors by intrusively intervening in the sensitive military affairs of the country generating sub-optimal results in the other (Lebanon II). Not all Countries Are Interested in Cooperation The real strength of Karlin’s contribution is in advancing an analytical framework that focuses on the agency and the actions of the supporting and opposing external powers. In this manner, politics takes center stage in determining the efficacy of security assistance efforts, rather than more mundane technical aspects of the undertaking. Karlin makes a convincing case that American policymakers tend to err by viewing the task of building partner militaries narrowly through the lens of training and equipping the forces, rather than engaging with broader questions of organizational structure and leadership that are so critical to enhancing military effectiveness.[6] In calling for security assistance efforts to be conceived more broadly, Building Militaries in Fragile States makes an important argument. At the same time, however, in privileging the politics and agency of external actors this approach neglects those same factors when it comes to the local partner. Although governments of weak states are sometimes portrayed as being puppets or pawns of major powers, they often prove to be savvy and strategic political actors who can, at times, succeed in advancing their own interests at the expense of their more powerful partners. Consequently, the mere willingness on the part of the United States to involve itself in a partner state’s sensitive military affairs is only part of the issue. The local partner’s willingness to allow such an intrusion and to accept American guidance is just as important, if not more so. The history of U.S. efforts to train and equip foreign militaries suggests that such compliance cannot be taken for granted. Indeed, there is a strand of literature dating back to the 1970s that identifies America’s partner governments as the principal obstacle to developing local militaries for internal security missions.[7] Although willing to accept U.S. military aid and training, local governments can be resistant to undertaking the kinds of transformational re-organizations that would improve military effectiveness, in part, because they often mistrust their own military. Governments that do not exercise a monopoly on violence within their territory and need significant external assistance to build military capacity typically suffer from a myriad of problems, like economic stagnation, incompetence, lack of legitimacy, abusive treatment of the population, or all of the above. The particular terrorist or insurgent group motivating U.S. involvement in a country’s internal security may be just one potential threat to the local regime’s hold on power, with additional challenges posed by rival elites or even the armed forces themselves. These different threat perceptions can lead the United States and a partner government to have different policy priorities, which can, in turn, undermine the effectiveness of U.S. security assistance. Consequently, advice to streamline the military chain of command or to appoint senior leaders on the basis of ability rather than political allegiance makes sense in terms of improving military effectiveness, but such actions can also appear reckless, if not downright suicidal, to the government in question. Instead, savvy leaders will ensure that the military is too divided to mount a coup, employ patronage to buy off rival elites, and centralize power in the hands of trusted loyalists, all of which is likely to diminish military effectiveness.[8] The potential for divergent preferences is amply illustrated in Karlin’s “Lebanon II” case, where the United States wanted the Lebanese government to be able to exert control over all of its territory, but the administration in Beirut prioritized maintaining its modus vivendi with Hezbollah over exercising complete sovereignty. When attempting to build military capacity in a fragile state, how likely is it that Washington’s preferences and those of a partner government will diverge? Available evidence suggests this will be a fairly common occurrence. As Stephen Biddle, Julia Macdonald, and Ryan Baker have noted, many of the largest recipients of U.S. security assistance, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sudan, are plagued by corruption, dalliances with terrorist groups, or gross human rights abuses, while other U.S. partners are among the most significant sources of foreign fighters for the so-called Islamic State.[9] Barbara Elias’ study of the demands the United States made to the Iraqi and Afghan governments it was supporting in counterinsurgency efforts found that 50 percent of American requests for military reforms in Iraq went unfulfilled and that the Afghan government’s compliance rate with U.S. suggestions regarding its military strategy was below 25 percent.[10] Indeed, in these two cases local partners pursued domestic policies that subverted U.S. security objectives. An inability to restrain Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s sectarian agenda, for example, prevented the military gains from the 2007 surge from being translated into positive political outcomes and laid the foundation for the rise of the Islamic State. In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai’s use of patronage politics was seen as a form of corruption, undercutting public support for the very government that U.S. and NATO forces were trying to assist. As commander of the U.S. military advisory group, Gen. Van Fleet was clearly right to push the Greek government to cashier ineffective senior officers, restructure its armed forces, and adjust its military doctrines. It is less clear, however, that the United States will often find a government as receptive as the Greeks were to their patron’s interventions. Not only did Van Fleet forge a close working relationship with his counterparts, as Karlin recounts, “the Greek government sought to wholly cooperate with the Americans.”[11] It goes far beyond the remit of Karlin’s book to determine why the Greek government was so willing to countenance American intrusion in sensitive military affairs, however, perceptions of the communist insurgency as the primary threat to the regime, coupled with a trust in the loyalty of the armed forces and unity among Greek elites would seem to be likely explanations. In any event, the situation was far different in South Vietnam where — despite the worsening internal security situation — the Diem government took active steps to limit the effectiveness of the army and ensured that the primary target of the intelligence services was not the growing insurgency, but rather non-communist political dissidents. Why? Because the army and political rivals were seen to be as great a threat to South Vietnam’s government as the Viet Cong. Even if Gen. Williams and his group of military advisors had wished to involve themselves in South Vietnam’s sensitive military affairs, would a government that had tightly centralized control over all aspects of defense, security, and economic policy in the office of the president readily welcome the council of American interlocutors? The rich historical detail in the Vietnam case study suggests that Ngo Dinh Diem would have exerted significant energy to thwart such efforts, as he did in fact do in the early 1960s.[12] It may be the case that some future American partners will be as welcoming as the Greeks, however, the history of U.S. security assistance efforts in Vietnam and Lebanon reviewed in this book should disabuse anyone of the expectation that unconditional cooperation will be the norm. Questions About U.S. Partners In the conclusion, Karlin outlines eight questions a policymaker should consider before initiating an effort to strengthen the military of a fragile state. Pondering these issues before commencing any security assistance mission will indeed help ensure that such an undertaking takes account of broader political military matters affecting military effectiveness, rather than concentrating narrowly on training and equipping foreign forces. The majority of these questions, however, focus on either the U.S. government or the antagonistic external actor. As the preceding discussion indicates, it is necessary to subject the local partner to the same type of scrutiny. What does the partner government see as its primary security threat? Does it trust the armed forces or see them as a potential rival? Is enhancing the military’s effectiveness a key goal for the local regime? Will American involvement in sensitive military affairs be welcomed or resisted? If the answers to these questions point to significant divergences in priorities or preferences between the United States and a partner, should the United States attempt to compel changes in the local government’s behavior through rewards or punishments or should it simply walk away? The answer to this latter question will vary from situation to situation, nevertheless, policymakers should give it real consideration before rendering security assistance to a fragile state. That such issues go beyond Karlin’s analytical framework is not a critique of Building Militaries in Fragile States, but rather an indication of the multi-dimensional challenges posed by security force assistance. Building effective military organizations can be difficult enough in one’s own state. These challenges are only compounded when seeking to enhance the effectiveness of another country’s armed forces. Mara Karlin makes an extremely valuable contribution to the growing literature on security force assistance by articulating a two-dimensional framework that can help assess when an effort to build a partner’s military is likely to be successful. Well written, deeply researched, and incorporating the perspectives of both a scholar and a practitioner, Building Militaries in Fragile States should be widely read by those in the Pentagon, Foggy Bottom, and on Capitol Hill who fund, execute, and oversee America’s extensive military assistance programs.   Walter C. Ladwig III is an associate professor of international relations in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London and the author of The Forgotten Front: Patron-Client Relations in Counterinsurgency (Cambridge University Press, 2017).  

3. To Remind You of My Love: Reforming the Impulsive Affection of U.S. Efforts to Build Partner Militaries

By Loren DeJonge Schulman   The movie Downfall, about the final days of Adolf Hitler, contains a scene that has been turned into countless memes with various subtitles. In the original, Hitler learns that the defeat of Germany is imminent and explodes at his senior generals. My favorite meme is titled, “Hitler Learns About Sequestration”: The madman is informed of the imminence of the enormous budget cut and laments the loss of military superiority, crying “What are we going to do, build partner capacity?”[13] In her recent book, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States, Mara Karlin explores America’s history with capacity building missions and considers how it fits a world of limited defense resources. In the eyes of policymakers I have worked with, efforts to build partner capacity lie somewhere between a magical antidote to all of America’s security problems and an inevitable — and less expensive — back-up date. Respected leaders have hailed building the security capacity of U.S. allies and partners as “a key and enduring test of America’s global leadership in the 21st century,”[14] consistent with its history and ideological underpinnings. Put more bluntly, Karlin notes up front that “[t]he United States faces a long-term decline in defense spending going forward” and “U.S. direct military intervention [to bolster fragile states] is politically unacceptable.” Thus, America needs a way to pursue its security interests on the cheap, and “building partner militaries is one key way to do so.”[15] Karlin goes on to make the case that the United States needs to learn from how it has pursued this form of security assistance in the past and examine what factors contribute to and take away from its mid-term success. Her takeaways are clear and approachable: “If the United States gets deeply involved in a partner state’s sensitive military affairs and if antagonist external actors play a diminishing role, then the partner state military is more likely to establish internal defense.[16] Her checklist of questions for policymakers to consider before they engage in such operations in the future are sensible and to the point: What is the purpose of the program, what is the potential for the United States holding influence over the partner military, and how unified is the U.S. vision of the program?[17] Policymakers reading Karlin’s book may feel reassured that this is the how-to guide for intelligently building partner militaries that they have been waiting for, and it is, no doubt, the best and simplest advice I have seen in the literature. Just Say "No" However, having spent many of the same years as Karlin in the Pentagon and Situation Room considering how to support partner militaries and how to establish a U.S. policy framework for doing so, I have an alternative takeaway from Karlin’s sophisticated research and analysis: Don’t do it. Don’t build partner military capacity in vulnerable states. Don’t even think about it unless you are willing to spend an immense amount of time directly involved in a foreign military’s most sensitive decisions. And don’t do it unless you are painfully honest about the goals of the program. However, if you must engage in such an effort, policymakers should lower their expectations substantially regarding the scope and timeframe that the U.S. program is expected to have. Karlin is candid about the high barriers to success in her recommended approach and explores in detail how the United States does not typically pursue capacity-building missions how it ought to: with leaders who are highly invested and who give the necessary time to establish deep involvement in the effort. She takes it as a given, however, that these programs will continue and, thus, should be radically altered or pursued with much less optimistic outlooks than in the past — a logical assessment. But having seen firsthand how policymakers initiate and oversee such programs, I have grown deeply skeptical that they can ever set themselves up for success. Rather than seeing it as a simple handbook, I would rather policymakers view Karlin’s research as a cautionary tale with a high price tag. Karlin’s lead finding is that programs that aim to build partner militaries in fragile states require that the United States get deeply involved in the partner’s sensitive military affairs — this includes who is appointed within the security apparatus, what those leaders do, how they organize, and more.[18] Intimate involvement, time commitment, deep and ongoing participation by the right senior U.S. personnel, these are all prerequisites to an effective program based on her analysis of the case studies. The cases themselves make for compelling storytelling and Karlin’s extensive personal experience in the policy field shines through in the nuances she identifies as critical learning points for her readers. The importance of persistent, intensive, and even intrusive participation by the United States in these programs is clear in each chapter. The problem is that such commitment is effectively what U.S. policymakers are hoping to avoid by pursuing such capacity-building programs. “Building partner capacity ... remains important. Whenever possible,” the 2012 Defense Strategy reads, “we will develop innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approaches to achieve our strategy objectives.”[19] While policymakers are drawn to capacity-building missions as a way to avoid putting U.S. forces at risk, in my experience, they are also attracted to solutions that minimize their own intellectual and calendar resources. Put bluntly: Policymakers often like capacity building because it feels like a press release-worthy way to kick the “risk can” down the road without a lot of wrangling on their part. What Karlin proposes is not easily delegable by senior policymakers, diplomats, and service-members in the way that a standard train-and-equip program typically is. Nor would it be a cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all approach. Such efforts, particularly if America were to engage in personnel management of the partner country, would regularly demand uncomfortable conversations and negotiations. That may be possible, but serious policymakers should ask themselves if such efforts are realistic or reasonable. U.S. security sector assistance programs are already hindered by inadequate investment in or distribution of relevant expertise. When such expertise is available, personnel rotations limit the necessary investment in in building relationships and intimate familiarity with the partner government that Karlin’s suggestions would require.[20] Recent reforms — such as the decades-late security force assistance brigades and the regionally aligned forces model introduced by the Army in 2013[21] — make a small dent in an overwhelming demand for expert personnel, yet they were strongly resisted by the institutional military. Under Karlin’s approach, leaders and forces with regional expertise would be under even higher demand because of the high level of sophistication needed to engage partner countries on all elements of their leadership, force structure, and operations. She acknowledges this approach is unsettling because it smacks of colonialism.[22] It also requires a partner country with the willingness to tolerate inevitable tensions in this relationship. Karlin writes that “healthy skepticism about the U.S. ability to do all these things is warranted.”[23] Yet, understanding what is required to produce a successful capacity-building mission is often at odds with how the United States goes about deciding to build partner militaries. While such programs have a thousand fathers and mothers, in my experience in government, they are often born out of a crisis in which the U.S. government feels under pressure to do something — anything — to assist or respond, but not overly commit or risk U.S. personnel. In such instances, U.S. senior policymakers expediting these decisions are not spending a lot of time trying to understand the scope of their overall commitment, the long-term costs, and the availability of the right personnel. Nor are they even designing long-term goals. Too often, deputies around the table in the Situation Room are clamoring to just announce some kind of program and show a transport plane offloading brigades and pallets to remind the partner of America’s love. Swimming Against the Tide Karlin is, of course, right that the U.S. government can and should do better. Her checklist of questions that senior policymakers must ask before initiating such a program is well aligned with the presidential policy directive on U.S. security sector assistance developed over many years (including by the author of this review) in the Obama administration.[24] In producing this document, many earnest wonks, such as myself, attempted to apply a systematic logic to initiating, overseeing, evaluating, and ending capacity-building programs — starting with understanding why, exactly, anyone would want to embark on one given the mixed track record. Karlin establishes the broad desired outcome of such missions as the partner state having a more enforced and sustainable monopoly on violence — a logical and sound proposal.[25] Realistically, although they do not always admit to it, policymakers consider several reasons for initiating such programs, from building capacity as Karlin proposes, to maintaining and strengthening U.S. access and influence, to enhancing U.S.-partner interoperability, to promoting partner support for U.S. interests.[26] Such objectives may align in implementing a capacity-building effort or may wildly diverge as time goes on. They may also contradict with the objectives of other national security institutions at the outset — typically, the Department of State seeks a long-term, placating effort while the Department of Defense drives a short-term, self-interested program. Policymakers may also lean too heavily on near-term objectives that suit urgent U.S. security interests. Or they may demand the kind of long-term attention that is rare in U.S. foreign policy contexts. While Karlin — and the drafters of the security assistance policy directive — are right to insist on unity of vision at the outset, it must be acknowledged that in practice that does not often happen in U.S. security sector assistance today.[27] Karlin closes her book by stating that there are times when it will not be possible to transform a partner’s security sector, and in such cases, the United States should either pursue train-and-equip programs while significantly lowering expectations or avoid such programs altogether.[28] This is necessary medicine. But the rhetoric around building partner capacity and the urgent need for more train-and-equip programs across the globe over the last two decades suggests this will not be an easy pill to swallow. While I am hopeful Karlin’s lessons on the real need for humility in any effort to transform another state will sink in, I recall the eagerness and desperation that surrounded initiating these programs and expanding them over the last two decades. Every year I served in government, the combatant commanders complained to the president or the secretary of defense that they needed to train-and-equip partners more and that the State Department was getting in the way.[29] Every month, a partner complained that U.S. efforts were too slow, too underwhelming, too unrelated to their security needs, too bureaucratic. Every year, the solution to these challenges was more, faster, and even more yet — rarely with a consideration of why and to what end. Few considered that there was a reason why the U.S. government built in hurdles to sharing weapons systems and tactical knowledge with other countries. I remain concerned that the United States will not lower its expectations and raise its standards for these capacity-building missions, but rather will drive an increasingly hectic pace. Karlin offers thoughtful ideas for future research that deserve attention, to which I would add two.[30] First, in her book she emphasizes the need for the United States to carefully and regularly consider under what conditions it might become a co-combatant with a partner military to address the original security challenge. Reading this book in light of U.S. operations in Yemen and Niger made me wonder: Where does one cross the line from typical assistance to co-combatancy?[31] U.S. advise and accompany missions surely come close. Put another way, what is the line between providing enablers — logistics, intelligence, fuel — and co-combatancy? And most importantly, does traditional American security assistance, often aimed at short-term U.S. security interests, in any way incentivize these steps toward co-combatancy? Secondly, it’s worth exploring whether some of the most desirable elements of building partner capacity — its relative low cost and small U.S. footprint — have lent themselves to a commensurate level of oversight at both the executive and legislative levels. Each branch has pursued more effective monitoring and evaluation efforts, though it’s yet unclear whether this has resulted in fundamental changes to these programs. The true test will be, to paraphrase my old boss Bob Gates, when, if ever, America stops a program due to low return on investment.[32] Building partner military capacity is, at its heart, an optimistic mission set, filled with the American can-do spirit that, with hard work, things can get markedly better. This optimism is well intended, but should be governed by experience. Karlin’s book provides those lessons and adds enormously to a literature on capacity building that is far too small, given the place of this mission in U.S. security strategy. With her personal experience, relatable storytelling, and blunt assessments, her study punches above its concise and readable weight in a way that is approachable to policymakers and vital to scholars.   Loren DeJonge Schulman is the deputy director of studies at the Center for a New American Security. She held senior staff positions at the White House National Security Council and Department of Defense.  

4. When Building Militaries Goes Wrong: A Look at Yemen

By Tommy Ross   In September 2014, thousands of Houthi insurgents poured into the streets of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, winning a decisive victory over the Yemeni military they had fought for years in the country’s northern provinces. Up to that point, Yemen’s government and military had been challenged on two main fronts: by Iranian-backed Houthi militias in the north and by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists to the east. As the Houthis swept through Sanaa, the United States government — the Yemeni military’s chief backer — saw its strategy against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp’s valued proxies and al Qaeda’s most effective offshoot crumble in the wreckage. Yemen’s collapse left the United States scrambling to pick up the pieces: Yemen represented a battleground against two threats — al Qaeda and Iran — that topped America’s list of national security priorities. Seeing few other options, the United States quickly cast its lot with a coalition of Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, that were mounting a military campaign against the Houthis that is ongoing. In shifting its efforts from building the capacity of the Yemeni military to providing aid and operational support to the Saudi-led coalition, the United States remained engaged, but at a cost to both its objectives and its principles:[33] The coalition’s poor tactics and disregard for civilian lives have “exacerbated the terrible conditions of Yemen’s civil war, characterized as the ‘worst humanitarian disaster’ in nearly 50 years.”[34] America had invested robustly in Yemen’s military leading up to its collapse: Yemen had become the leading recipient of the Defense Department’s “1206” counterterrorism capacity-building assistance program.[35] U.S. security assistance programs collectively spent over half a billion dollars to enhance Yemen’s military capacity in the five years (Fiscal Years 2010–2014) leading up to the Houthi victory.[36] The U.S. government had also pursued robust diplomatic engagement with Yemeni leaders to drive its national political dialogue and urge military restructuring, so much so that the U.S. ambassador during the period, Gerald Feierstein, was commonly referred to as “Sheikh Feierstein” in Yemeni political circles[37]. And the United States maintained a substantial military presence in Yemen, with over 100 troops based in the country to pursue counter-terrorism operations and train Yemeni forces.[38] On paper, the U.S. effort in Yemen seemed sound: It invested substantial capacity-building resources, sustained diplomatic attention to, and military engagement with, key Yemeni counterparts, maintained consistent effort over several years, and even sought to ground its approach in a whole-of-government strategy that designed military assistance in concert with civilian capacity-building and humanitarian aid initiatives.[39] And yet, the Yemeni military floundered, unable to make meaningful gains against al Qaeda before succumbing to the Houthi advance. So what went wrong? Building Militaries in Fragile States, the excellent new volume by Mara Karlin, offers an important analytical lens through which to view efforts like the U.S. military capacity-building initiative in Yemen, as well as a framework to help policymakers avoid similar outcomes in the future. It examines historical cases studies — in post-World War II Greece, 1950s South Vietnam, and two separate periods of engagement in Lebanon — to draw lessons about where U.S. assistance initiatives have failed, what elements have been vital ingredients of success, and what lessons may be most relevant to future initiatives. “When, why, and under what circumstances,” her book asks, “have U.S. efforts to build partner militaries for internal defense succeeded?”[40] The timeliness and relevance of such a book should be immediately apparent but, in an era of growing unilateralist sentiments and declining aid budgets, perhaps it deserves emphasizing. Even as U.S. national security strategies have shifted focus toward lofty ideas about prevailing in great-power competitions with China and Russia through the development of break-through technologies and the adoption of new ways of warfighting, the fact remains that partner military capacity-building is the go-to strategic option for confronting myriad national security threats around the world. Some form of capacity building occupies a central position in U.S. approaches to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan, Islamic State militants in both Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region of Africa, and al Shabaab in Somalia, as well as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Iranian proxies in Yemen. It is an essential element in the U.S. strategy in Ukraine, and plays an important role in countering Chinese aggression in the South China Sea region. In fact, it is hard to find a single going concern in the current U.S. security landscape in which capacity building does not feature prominently. And this picture represents a trend, not an aberration. As Karlin notes,
the United States will surely continue attempting to strengthen partner militaries. The increasingly decentralized international environment and America’s weakening global economic position coupled with the proliferation of fragile states and transnational threats will further ensure its reliance on this approach.[41]
And yet, despite America’s strategic dependence on capacity-building, there is scant evidence that it understands how to do it effectively. Numerous recent studies have highlighted the mixed track record of U.S. capacity-building initiatives, and many have underscored substantial gaps in the policies, doctrine, and best practices shaping these initiatives.[42] “The theory on strengthening partner militaries in weak states,” as Karlin puts it, “can best be described as an ‘undeveloped’ concept whose history is less positive than its vision.”[43] Karlin’s work makes a valuable contribution toward strengthening the underpinnings of this theory. She argues that two factors will most determine the success or failure of a capacity-building effort: “if the United States gets deeply involved in the partner state’s sensitive military affairs, and if antagonistic external actors play a diminishing role, then the partner state military is more likely to establish internal defense.”[44] Unquestionably, other variables — level of effort, duration and consistency, partner stability, program execution — will influence an initiative’s outcome, but Karlin’s two factors are indeed critical, and deserve closer scrutiny. The Politics of Building Military Capacity One of the more important insights of Karlin’s work is that building military capacity is fundamentally a political activity: “by emphasizing training and equipment and by distancing itself from key political issues,” the United States “wastes time, effort, and resources.”[45] In her view, the remedy is for America to become “deeply involved in the partner state military’s sensitive affairs — influencing personnel and organization.” One might conceive of this deep political engagement along two lines: exerting influence on individual partner decisions, such as those relating to personnel assignments, and exhorting or facilitating systemic reforms of the institutional processes, policies, and structures that organize a partner’s defense enterprise. Karlin’s strong emphasis is on the former, and she carefully documents how U.S. involvement in personnel decisions shaped the outcomes of interventions in Greece, South Vietnam, and Lebanon. For anyone who has observed the success of U.S. military initiatives fluctuate as top leaders in key roles have changed, her observation is intuitively compelling. Yet, a heavy-handed focus on personnel decisions brings risk. As Karlin herself acknowledges, “Such involvement is rife with colonial undertones,” adding that “Sovereign backlash and resentment on the part of the partner state over the intrusive U.S. role may be a challenge.”[46] Her account of the selection of Gen. Alexander Papagos to lead Greece’s military offers one such example, illustrated by his refusal to accept the job unless the United States committed to taking a diminished role in Greek affairs. Moreover, when the United States is overly involved in personnel decisions, a partner’s responsibility for and accountability to its own chain of command can be undermined, as top leaders risk being seen as U.S. puppets. These risks should not suggest that America avoid opining on personnel assignments, but its approach must be carefully calibrated based on the broader context of the relationship. Perhaps a more promising area for the kind of deep engagement Karlin advocates is institutional reform. As her study highlights, institutional reform played a key role in each case study she presents: The United States drove force restructuring, supported operational planning, provided professional military education, and built systemic logistics capacity as ways of building the capabilities of defense institutions to steer, support, and sustain military operations in the field. Bad decisions about how to approach institutional reforms were as consequential in South Vietnam and Lebanon as were good decisions in Greece. While Karlin often challenges the conceptual foundations and practical outcomes of security sector reform, her views on the importance of organizational considerations converge with lessons emerging from the community of practitioners over the last several years. Practitioners have increasingly recognized the importance of strong political institutions to the success of capacity-building. For example, the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness asserted that, for aid recipients, “The capacity to plan, manage, implement, and account for results of policies and programmes, is critical” to achieving aid objectives — a principle confirmed three years later in the Accra Agenda for Action.[47] The U.S. Department of Defense has embraced institutional capacity-building as a key element of its own capacity-building activities, at least in theory, in recently issued policy and doctrine.[48] Yet, while some progress has been made in expanding U.S. attention to strengthening institutions in practice, as a discipline, it remains at the margins of the government’s security sector capacity-building activities. Indeed, the failure to invest in strengthening institutions was a key contributor to the failure of broader capacity-building efforts in Yemen, an example that illustrates the distinction between influencing sensitive military decisions and driving institutional reform. Without question, the United States engaged on personnel issues, persistently advocating for the removal of ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s family members, who remained in key defense posts. However, while America welcomed institutional reform efforts to the military made by Saleh’s successor, President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, it avoided providing any substantial technical support for those reforms. Moreover, the focus on ousting undesirable personnel crowded out necessary institutional reforms, such as addressing “retirement and rotation of generals, the ghost soldier issue [wherein personnel rosters were inflated with imaginary soldiers to facilitate corruption], and the balancing of units in terms of both size and equipment,” leaving Yemen’s military “a side-lined shell of an institution.”[49] When it comes to institutional capacity building and influencing partner decision making alike, the United States is unlikely to achieve successful outcomes through phone calls and fly-in meetings. Rather, as Karlin’s case studies demonstrate, boots on the ground are essential. A 400-person strong Joint U.S. Military Advisory and Planning Group oversaw engagement in Greece; in South Vietnam, a Military Assistance Advisory Group of nearly 350 personnel was augmented by a Temporary Equipment Recovery Mission of another 350 personnel; in Lebanon, over 100 military personnel were deployed in support of capacity-building efforts at their 1983 peak. The U.S. military conducted the mid-2000s effort in Lebanon, on the other hand, with only a small permanent detachment and without a dedicated senior officer overseeing the effort, leading to a limited effort with limited impact. This history underscores a key question: How should the United States organize and deploy personnel to guide high-priority capacity-building missions? Currently, outside of contingency environments, the U.S. approach is incoherent and insufficient. The military is neither structured nor paced to meet the demands of deep engagement with partner militaries. Among military services, only the U.S. Army has organized itself to maintain a meaningful contingent dedicated to capacity-building missions despite a consistent global demand. Other services meet requirements on an ad hoc basis with personnel who generally lack training for the mission. Even the Army’s Security Force Assistance Brigades are poorly suited to address the institutional concerns Karlin prioritizes. They are composed of junior personnel with limited exposure to institutional processes, and are designed to carry out tactical-level, small unit training activities. Reconsidering how the military is structured to meet demands of high-stakes capacity-building efforts should be an urgent priority for the Defense Department. Military forces have been stretched in recent years by the demands of sustaining two contingency operations while downsizing, and services have sought to streamline their structures rather than take on what they view as new missions or responsibilities. Yet, as discussed above, the capacity-building mission is not new and it is not going away. Approaching this mission with ad hoc force-management decisions and insufficient training is a recipe for repeated failure. Mitigating the Effects of Outside Actors Karlin also postulates that the success of a capacity-building effort will depend on diminishing external influences, and makes a convincing argument about the importance of this variable in examining her four case studies. This is a point so intuitive as to be almost self-evident: Who could argue that the degree to which U.S. capacity-building efforts are successful will vary according to the degree to which other actors seek to impede them? And yet, it is a point routinely neglected in the planning and execution of capacity-building initiatives. It is tempting to regard the activity of external actors as a variable beyond America’s control. Indeed, Karlin’s case studies present little evidence of any actions by America that decreased outside influences, though in some instances U.S. actions may have provoked deeper third-party involvement. Yet, given the importance of this variable in shaping capacity-building outcomes, the United States can hardly afford to ignore it. No case better illustrates this imperative than Yemen, where America’s inability to mitigate the influence of third-party actors, including both allies and antagonists, has condemned capacity-building efforts to failure. Iran has been able to maintain steady support for its Houthi allies that has been robust enough to help them beat back the Yemeni military and withstand the onslaught of the Gulf coalition. Meanwhile, prior to the state’s collapse, the U.S. government was never able to effectively coordinate the efforts of other donors and stakeholders with similar objectives, particularly Saudi Arabia. That challenge has become even more acute as the Saudis have undertaken a sustained, and sometimes indiscriminate, military campaign with the help of U.S. equipment and logistical support. Unfortunately, Yemen looks more like the rule than the exception. The U.S. security assistance enterprise is poorly positioned to address the activities of third-party actors, for two reasons. First, it has historically neglected to invest in understanding the identities, motivations, and tactics of external actors. And second, it lacks sufficient tools to shape their behavior. Security assistance efforts, historically, have often been planned and executed without adequately assessing the context in which they are to be implemented, to their great detriment. As the Defense Department has recently begun to acknowledge, it is essential that capacity-building efforts begin with detailed assessments of the partner’s security environment, including a political economy analysis that identifies external influences and how they operate. Such analysis should not only assess potentially antagonistic influences, but also perceived allies. It is often the case that perceived allies can undermine a capacity-building effort through miscoordination and misunderstanding as much as an antagonist can through more nefarious means. Grounding capacity-building initiatives in detailed assessments of the partner’s security environment creates opportunities to build mitigation measures that address external influences into the initiative’s design. Such measures might range from donor coordination strategies to ensure actors with shared interests are on the same page, to concerted efforts to drive out antagonists. Identifying and addressing these concerns from an initiative’s inception will substantially improve its prospects for overcoming the challenges Karlin’s book identifies. A more challenging question is how to diminish antagonistic influences once they are understood. The United States has an underdeveloped suite of tools available to confront the activities of adversarial actors in a third country. Moreover, planners of capacity-building initiatives may lack access to or awareness of those tools that do exist. Karlin’s conclusions thus point to an important area for further research: namely, what strategies for mitigating antagonistic external influences have the potential to be successful, what tools are needed to support those strategies, and how can they be integrated into the planning of capacity-building initiatives? Conclusion Conditions for building military capacity in a fragile state are rarely ideal, and often cannot be overcome. Karlin’s book offers a useful framework for approaching these initiatives in a way that identifies potential challenges from the outset and addresses some of the most common spoilers. Moreover, it suggests the United States would profit from being cautious about engaging in capacity-building missions at all. When there is little room to exert the necessary influence over a partner, for example, Karlin counsels, “the United States must either recognize that it is pursuing light security sector reform or avoid launching such programs altogether.”[50] Likewise, there is great wisdom in recognizing when positive conditions have changed, cutting one’s losses, and walking away. Two of Karlin’s case studies — 1950s South Vietnam and 1980s Lebanon — serve as cautionary tales of the risk to American lives posed by an inability to acknowledge failure and an insistence in doubling down. One important contribution of Karlin’s work is to offer a straightforward litmus test to help policymakers assess whether and when it is wise to walk away. Her two leading variables should be posed as questions to policymakers: Is the United States able to sufficiently influence partner military decisions and institutional reforms, and can it sufficiently mitigate the hazards posed by external actors? To these can be added Karlin’s warning to avoid being drawn in as a co-belligerent. There are sometimes good strategic reasons to overlook these tests, but they should at least provoke a reassessment of policy. One wonders what it will take to prompt such a reassessment in Yemen. The United States has become a co-belligerent there in a deeply troubling way, enabling massive human rights violations with little apparent ability to influence operational plans or tactics. It remains in close cooperation with Saudi Arabia despite strong evidence pointing to the Saudi leadership’s involvement in journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder,[51] continuing indications of widespread civilian casualties caused by coalition operations,[52] and congressional exhortations that such support be terminated.[53] The deep engagement Karlin’s book advocates is implausible in Yemen, and external actors are prevalent, diverse, and, in many ways, antagonistic to U.S. interests. As is so often the case, a chorus of voices would meet any policy reassessment with an impassioned warning of threats from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Iran that might be left behind were America to extricate itself from the conflict. Yet, at some point, as Karlin persistently argues, policies must factor in actual results. And surely the results of the current U.S. policy approach in Yemen cry out for another way.   Tommy Ross is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Security Cooperation at the Pentagon and was the senior defense and intelligence adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He has also held other senior positions in the House and Senate.   Image: U.S. Africa Command [post_title] => Book Review Roundtable: Building Militaries in Fragile States [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => book-review-roundtable-building-militaries-in-fragile-states [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-27 14:46:03 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-27 18:46:03 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tnsr.org/?post_type=roundtable&p=1261 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => roundtable [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => In our latest roundtable, our contributors review Mara Karlin's book, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States. [pubinfo] => [issue] => [quotes] => [style] => roundtable [type] => Book [style_label] => Roundtable [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 162 [1] => 239 [2] => 226 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] “Fragile States Index: The Fund for Peace,” Fund for Peace, accessed March 14, 2019, http://fundforpeace.org/. See the “Security Assistance Monitor: A Citizen’s Guide to U.S. Security and Defense Assistance,” at http://www.securityassistance.org/, accessed 14 March 2019. [2] Mara E. Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), 17. [3] David A. Lake, The Statebuilder's Dilemma: On the Limits of Foreign Intervention (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2016). Stephen Biddle, Julia Macdonald, and Ryan Baker, “Small Footprint, Small Payoff: The Military Effectiveness of Security Force Assistance,” Journal of Strategic Studies 41, no. 1–2, (2018): 89-142, https://doi.org/10.1080/01402390.2017.1307745. [4] Jesse Driscoll, Warlords and Coalition Politics in Post-Soviet States (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015). [5] Mara E. Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), 1. [6] For recent works linking these factors and others to military effectiveness, see Stephen Biddle, Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004.); Risa Brooks and Elizabeth Stanley, eds., Creating Military Power: The Sources of Military Effectiveness (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007); Caitlin Talmadge, The Dictator’s Army: Battlefield Effectiveness in Authoritarian Regimes (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2015); Austin Long, The Soul of Armies: Counterinsurgency Doctrine and Military Culture in the US and UK (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2016); Vipin Narang and Caitlin Talmadge, “Civil-military Pathologies and Defeat in War: Tests Using New Data,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 62, no. 7 (August 2018): 1379–1405, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0022002716684627; Dan Reiter and William A. Wagstaff, “Leadership and Military Effectiveness,” Foreign Policy Analysis 14, no. 4 (October 2018): 490–511, https://doi.org/10.1093/fpa/orx003. [7] Douglas S. Blaufarb, The Counterinsurgency Era: U.S. Doctrine and Performance, 1950 to the Present (New York: Free Press, 1977); D. Michael Shafer, Deadly Paradigms: The Failure of U.S. Counterinsurgency Policy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988); Benjamin Schwarz, American Counterinsurgency Doctrine and El Salvador: The Frustrations of Reform and Illusions of Nation Building (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1991); William E. Odom, On Internal War: American and Soviet Approaches to Third World Clients and Insurgents (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991); Walter C. Ladwig, III, The Forgotten Front: Patron-Client Relationships in Counterinsurgency (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017). [8] Daniel L. Byman, “Friends Like These: Counterinsurgency and the War on Terrorism,” International Security 31, no. 2 (Fall 2006): 79–115, https://www.jstor.org/stable/4137517. [9] Stephen Biddle, Julia Macdonald, and Ryan Baker, “Small Footprint, Small Payoff: The Military Effectiveness of Security Force Assistance,” Journal of Strategic Studies 41, no. 1–2 (2018): 89–142, https://doi.org/10.1080/01402390.2017.1307745. [10] Barbara Elias, “The Big Problem of Small Allies: New Data and Theory on Defiant Local Counterinsurgency Partners in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Security Studies 27, no. 2 (2018): 249, https://doi.org/10.1080/09636412.2017.1386935. [11] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 36. [12] For more on Ngo Dinh Diem’s difficult relationship with his American patrons, see Edward Miller, Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and the Fate of South Vietnam (Harvard, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013). [13] “Hitler Finds Out About Sequestration,” Youtube, Fiscal Cliff, Nov. 28, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zCDDYVTjLI. [14] Robert M. Gates, “Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates,” Nixon Center, Washington, DC, Feb. 24, 2019, http://archive.defense.gov/speeches/speech.aspx?speechid=1425. [15] Mara E. Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), 4. [16] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States,12. [17] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 201. [18] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 198. [19] “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” Department of Defense, January 2012, http://archive.defense.gov/news/defense_strategic_guidance.pdf. [20] Noah B. Cooper, “Will the Army’s New Advisory Brigades Get Manning and Intel Right?” War on the Rocks, Sept. 5, 2017, https://warontherocks.com/2017/09/will-the-armys-new-advisory-brigades-get-manning-and-intel-right/. [21] Brian Hamilton, “Army Moves Closer to Establishing First Security Force Assistance Brigade,” U.S. Army, May 18, 2017, https://www.army.mil/article/187991/army_moves_closer_to_establishing_first_security_force_assistance_brigade. [22] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 199. [23] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 200. [24] “Presidential Policy Directive 23: U.S. Security Sector Assistance Policy [Fact Sheet],” White House, 2013, https://www.hsdl.org/?abstract&did=747214. [25] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 11. [26] Dafna H. Rand and Stephen Tankel, “Security Cooperation & Assistance: Rethinking the Return on Investment,” Center for a New American Security, August 2015, https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.cnas.org/documents/CNAS-Report_Security-Cooperation_FINAL.pdf?mtime=20160906081917. [27] Ilan Goldenberg, Alice Hunt Friend, Stephen Tankel, and Nicholas A. Heras, “Remodeling Partner Capacity: Maximizing the Effectiveness of U.S. Counterterrorism Security Assistance,” Center for a New American Security, November 2016, https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.cnas.org/documents/CNAS-Report-RemodelingPartnerCapacity-Final.pdf?mtime=20161107141028. [28] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 202. [29] Thomas K. Livingston, “Building the Capacity of Partner States through Security Force Assistance,” Congressional Research Service, May 5, 2011, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R41817.pdf. [30] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 197. [31] Loren DeJonge Schulman, “Washington Is Never Quite Sure Where It Is at War,” Atlantic, Nov. 1, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/11/niger-aumf-war-terrorism/544652/. [32] Robert M. Gates, “Speech as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates,” American Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC, May 24, 2011, http://archive.defense.gov/Speeches/Speech.aspx?SpeechID=1570. [33] Nicholas Niarchos, “How the U.S. Is Making the War in Yemen Worse,” New Yorker, Jan. 22, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/01/22/how-the-us-is-making-the-war-in-yemen-worse. [34] Melissa Dalton and Hijah Shah, “U.S. Support for Saudi Military Operations in Yemen,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 23, 2018, https://www.csis.org/analysis/us-support-saudi-military-operations-yemen. [35] Nina Serafino, “Security Assistance Reform: ‘Section 1206’ Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, RS22855, Dec. 8, 2014, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RS22855.pdf. [36] “Security Aid Pivot Table: Yemen, 2010-2014,” Security Assistance Monitor, http://securityassistance.org/data/program/military/Yemen/2010/2014/all/Global/. [37] Tom Finn, “A New President and an ‘American Sheikh’ Deal With Post-Saleh Yemen,” Time, Feb. 29, 2012, http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2107926-1,00.html. [38] See Jane Ferguson, “U.S. Military Picks, Trains Yemeni Fighters,” CNN, July 14, 2010, http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/07/13/yemen.training/index.html. See also Eric Schmitt, “Out of Yemen, U.S. is Hobbled in Terror Fight,” New York Times, March 22, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/23/us/politics/out-of-yemen-us-is-hobbled-in-terror-fight.html. [39] “Uncertain Political and Security Situation Challenges U.S. Efforts to Implement a Comprehensive Strategy in Yemen,” Government Accountability Office, GAO-12-432R, Feb. 29, 2012, https://www.gao.gov/assets/590/588955.pdf. [40] Mara E. Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), 1. [41] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 9. [42] See, for example, Dafna Rand and Stephen Tankel, “Security Cooperation and Assistance: Rethinking the Return on Investment,” Center for a New American Security, August 2015, https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.cnas.org/documents/CNAS-Report_Security-Cooperation_FINAL.pdf?mtime=20160906081917. See also Rose Jackson, “Untangling the Web: A Blueprint for Reforming American Security Sector Assistance,” Open Society Foundations, January 2017, https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.cnas.org/documents/CNAS-Report_Security-Cooperation_FINAL.pdf?mtime=20160906081917. [43] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 10. [44] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 12, emphasis removed. [45] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 193. [46] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 199. [47] The Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, 2005, and The Accra Agenda for Action, 2009 are available at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation: http://www.oecd.org/dac/effectiveness/34428351.pdf. [48] See, for example, “Department of Defense Directive 5205.82: Defense Institution Building,” United States Department of Defense, issued Jan. 27, 2016 and updated May 3, 2017, https://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/DD/issuances/dodd/520582p.pdf. See also, “Joint Publication 3-20: Security Cooperation,” United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, May 23, 2017, https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/jp3_20_20172305.pdf. [49] Florence Gaub, “Whatever Happened to Yemen’s Military?” European Institute for Security Studies, Issue Brief 9, April 2015, https://www.iss.europa.eu/sites/default/files/EUISSFiles/Brief_9_Yemen.pdf. [50] Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States, 202. [51] Mark Mazetti, “Years Before Killing, Saudi Prince Told Aide He Would Use ‘a Bullet’ on Jamal Khashoggi,” New York Times, Feb. 7, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/07/us/politics/khashoggi-mohammed-bin-salman.html. [52] Lee Keath, “Civilian death toll in Yemen mounting despite US assurances,” Associated Press, Nov. 10, 2018, https://www.apnews.com/24ee4b33373a41d389e2599c5aa7bbfa. [53] See Catie Edmondson and Charlie Savage, “House Votes to Halt Aid to Saudi Arabia’s War in Yemen,” New York Times, Feb. 13, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/13/us/politics/yemen-war-saudi-arabia.html. See also Scott Detrow, “Senate Votes To End U.S. Support for War in Yemen, Rebuking Trump and Saudi Arabia,” NPR, Dec. 12, 2018, https://www.npr.org/2018/12/12/676152310/senate-poised-to-vote-to-end-u-s-military-support-for-war-in-yemen. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => Table of Contents [contents] => 1. "Introduction: The Pitfalls of Seeking Security on the Cheap," by Jason Fritz 2. "The Politics of Security Assistance to Fragile States," by Walter C. Ladwig, III 3. "To Remind You of My Love: Reforming the Impulsive Affection of U.S. Efforts to Build Partner Militaries," by Loren DeJonge Schulman 4. "When Building Militaries Goes Wrong: A Look at Yemen," by Tommy Ross ) ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 2 [max_num_pages] => 1 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => 1 [is_category] => [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 9b0b96c9856d11e523331e9b5bb24abf [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 1 [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )