The Uses and Limits of US Leverage in Fragile States

August 2021 No Comments

Speaker(s): Campbell, J. (RAND); Martini, J. (RAND); Toukan, M. (RAND); Watts, S. (RAND)

Date: 27 August 2021

Speaker Session Summary

SMA hosted a speaker session with Dr. Stephen Watts (RAND), Mr. Jeffrey Martini (RAND), Mr. Jason H. Campbell (RAND), Dr. Mark Toukan (RAND) as part of its SMA General Speaker Series.

The research team from RAND examined several cases of political stabilization in countries following civil war to predict the likelihood of whether a state will return to violence after peace in the future. Dr. Watts stated that most countries do not stay at peace after a civil war ends. Instead, most countries go back to at least a low level of conflict but not war. The team examined several deep dives into influence episodes—or instances when the US leveraged local partners to change their own policies. The process for these influence episodes includes interest alignment, influence strategy, conditions, and outcomes. Mr. Martini emphasized that not all aspects of influence operations were present in any case study. However, the US has had strong short-term success when its interests align with its local partners.

Political inclusion, durability of peace, conflict-era intervention, development assistance, and arms transfers were identified as effective tools for intervention. Dr. Toukan commented that the global geopolitical context during the conflict is important to the durability of peace. For example, during the Cold War, pro-government intervention was less likely to be politically inclusive than modern interventions. Political inclusivity is one aspect of interventions, however, differences between Cold War Era interventions and modern interventions were consistent. Dr. Watts concluded the team’s presentation by emphasizing that achieving the long-term stability of these countries will be challenging but it is achievable. Recommendations for policy changes by the US are: a) calibrate expectations, b) prioritize inclusion, c) focus leverage, d) communicate clearly, e) monitor performances, and f) conduct analysis to understand available tools for leverage. 

Speaker Session Recording

Note: We are aware that many government IT providers have blocked access to YouTube from government machines during the pandemic in response to bandwidth limitations. We recommend viewing the recording on YouTube from a non-government computer or listening to the audio file (below), if you are in this position.

Briefing Materials

Watts Martini Campbell and Toukan Slides

RAND Report


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