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The Stanley Foundation's 50th Strategy for Peace Conference
Challenges for US and Global Security in an Interdependent World
January 2010

What does US national security mean in a world where scores of countries are severely underdeveloped and in danger of getting worse? How can we best respond as the chances of widespread state failure seem to be increasing well beyond the current high-profile cases of Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan? What policy tools, plans, and actions are needed in a world where the worst threats to both US and global security may come from state weakness rather than state strength?

The Stanley Foundation’s 50th Strategy for Peace Conference (SPC) last fall went beyond the well-worn debates over which bureaucratic agencies or departments should have more funding or authority, instead addressing the major political and conceptual hurdles still blocking structural changes in US policies toward the most fragile, weak, and failing states in the international system. Participants were asked to assess the core question, "What does it mean for the United States to treat state fragility, in all its forms and guises, as a strategic security challenge on the same order as nuclear proliferation or competition with rising powers such as China?"

Across three separate and simultaneous roundtable discussions among US officials and experts and those from the United Nations, Europe, and elsewhere, the 50th annual SPC challenged participants to think about the problem as more than just giving additional money to current bureaucratic structures or rearranging the current system. The three discussions were:

  • Forging a US Strategy for Strengthening Fragile States, chaired by Pauline H. Baker, President, Fund for Peace. This roundtable examined the conceptual and political challenges of crafting a truly "grand" strategy for holistically addressing state fragility in all its global aspects, but with limited US power and resources in mind.
  • Stabilizing States in Crisis: Leveraging International Capacity, chaired by Paul B. Stares, General John W. Vessey Senior Fellow for Conflict Prevention and Director, Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations. This roundtable looked more precisely at the problem of states that are sliding into (or are already in) total crisis and failure, with special attention given to the ability of the United States to leverage the real or nascent capacities of actors such as the United Nations, the European Union, NATO, and other multilateral partnerships.
  • African Security and the Future of AFRICOM, chaired by Patrick M. Cronin, Director, Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University. This roundtable concentrated on the current difficulties and conundrums (military and political, bureaucratic and budgetary) facing America’s newest regional command, in a continent housing most of the 40-60 most fragile states in the world.

The event also featured a keynote address by Ambassador Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs. All three roundtables involved a combination of working papers and selected readings in advance. And each produced a policy memo summary of recommendations and a more full report of the discussion. All of these materials are available here.

—Michael Kraig and Keith Porter

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