Mark Collins – The US “Promoting Democracy” Abroad, or, “Look Homeward, Angel”

There’s a lot of reality and sense in this piece at Foreign Affairs:

Why Is America So Bad at Promoting Democracy in Other Countries?
There’s no quick, cheap, or military-based way to bring peace to places like Afghanistan, Yemen, and Iraq. It’s time we changed our approach, and we can start at home.
By Stephen M. Walt

That angel (admission: have not read but title just fit).

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


One thought on “Mark Collins – The US “Promoting Democracy” Abroad, or, “Look Homeward, Angel””

  1. A British Army major, at Tom Ricks’ “The Best Defense” blog on why West fails in raising non-Western armies–good points but we simply aren’t willing to take the time to learn languages or to have soldiers serving long terms abroad with those forces. Excerpts:

    ‘They’re trained and advised, but not fighting. Why? The fault lies with us.

    Developing partnered forces is perhaps the defining challenge of our military age. We lack the will and troop numbers to impose alone our will on those we seek to control, so the creation of a capable, trustworthy partner forces is an imperative. Without them, we just cannot achieve our aims.

    Despite the fact that we have been in this business for the last decade and a half, we are still not very good at it. The two most recent tests of mentored forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have been little short of calamitous — the Iraqi Army folding with barely a fight against the Islamic State, and what Stars and Stripes has taken to referring as the “failing Afghan Army” faltering against a resurgent Taliban…

    If the raw material remains broadly speaking the same, what has changed? The answer is us. I would point to our own culture as being at the heart of the cause. This can be broken down into two parts. The first of these is the cultural distance between ourselves and those with whom we seek to partner.

    This distance shows itself in many ways. The number of officers or soldiers involved in training either Iraqis or Afghans who speak those languages with a suitable degree of proficiency is vanishingly small. Soviet advisors to the Afghan Army, like Soviet advisors to Afghan society, lived and worked with those whom they mentored on a semipermanent basis. Our willingness to take a longterm view is limited; we want results now, despite the fact that this may well work against achieving success in the long term. Our expectations of what our training can achieve, in a short spell, is almost unlimited.

    We want them to be like us, but we aren’t willing to put in the hard yards to make them like us, in terms either of training for ourselves, commitment of time, or acceptance of risk. The modern officer and soldier is not set up on a cultural level for success; he doesn’t speak the language, has little sympathy for ingrained cultural prejudices (can there ever have been a more absurd, damaging, and culturally deaf program than Female Engagement Teams in a highly patriarchal society such as Afghanistan), and does not spend enough time on the ground to remedy these failings.

    There is a bizarre but very real contradiction at work here. We lack the confidence that the Victorians in their values — we are far more prone to cultural relativism than they were. But at the same time, we often impose (or at least pretend to) our values on our partners in non-core areas. So while we turn a blind eye to pedophilia, corruption, drug abuse, theft, torture, and murder, we are keen to promote gender equality. The effects that this has are tremendously damaging…’

    Mark Collins

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s