Security Governance After Civil War: Aid, Influence and the Politics of Post-Conflict State-Building
Efforts to restructure security forces in countries emerging from civil war have led to mixed results. While large interventions have left police and military forces factionalized and ineffective, smaller interventions have resulted in more professional and publicly responsive forces. Moving beyond explanations that focus on broad outcomes, easily measurable inputs, or technical solutions, I delve into the politics of this core element of state-building. Based on field research on military and police reform in Liberia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Timor Leste, I examine the interaction of external actors and domestic factions and the causal mechanisms for external influence over governance. I test my argument through a structured focused comparison of six cases of reform, a larger comparison of twenty-one countries, and a quantitative analysis of all post-conflict countries since 1990.I focus on changes to the governance of security forces, including reforms to their composition, civilian oversight and management that reduce factional control. I find that such reforms are most likely when leaders are weakest politically and external support is most coherent. Leaders with a fragmented political coalition or dispersed revenue face threats from internal rivals and incentives to reduce the control of any one faction over the force, while those with cohesive coalitions and concentrated revenue sources tend to resist such reforms. Fragmented political and revenue environments also create opportunities for external influence, as leaders rely on external support to manage domestic challenges. Where external actors are sufficiently coordinated, they can condition assistance on reforms, or develop relationships with domestic leaders as a basis for influencing preferences. The most far-reaching changes occur through a combination of aligned political interests, external leverage, and communication that fosters trust and consensus.This research highlights a paradox of post-conflict state-building. Reforms to security governance are most likely where they are most difficult to achieve politically. As a result, external actors often undermine the conditions that enable influence by concentrating their support to weak leaders, and limit the potential for their own success. Understanding the political constraints and causal mechanisms for influence elucidates this and other core tensions inherent in post-conflict state-building.
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