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Defense, diplomacy, and development strategies have long been used to achieve foreign policy objectives, but increasingly the lines between them are blurred. Some responsibilities traditionally undertaken by, and funded through, civilian agencies are migrating to the military. And in humanitarian situations, the military often provides frontline development assistance. CGD’s previous work in this area focused on the role of the military in helping fragile states. Later work, through the Commitment to Development Index, has examined how the policies of wealthy countries on security issues affect developing nations.
The US Department of Defense (DOD) is not a development agency, but it does manage millions of dollars of development assistance. In the early 2000s, DOD took on a significantly expanded development role, prompting a number of concerns and creating a lingering perception of intensive US military involvement in development activities. In fact, lessons learned from this era drove a reconceptualization of the Pentagon’s role in development.
A Report of the Commission for Weak States and US National Security
Terrorists training at bases in Afghanistan and Somalia. Transnational crime networks putting down roots in Myanmar/Burma and Central Asia. Poverty, disease, and humanitarian emergencies overwhelming governments in Haiti and Central Africa. A common thread runs through these disparate crises that form the fundamental foreign policy and security challenges of our time. These crises originate in, spread to, and disproportionately affect developing countries where governments lack the capacity, and sometimes the will, to respond.
These weak and failed states matter to American security, American values, and the prospects for global economic growth upon which the American economy depends.
Kellyanne Conway called him a “man of action” after a whirlwind first week in which President Trump signed 14 Executive Orders and presidential memoranda, covering most of his key campaign issue areas from health to immigration to trade. In a series of blogs, CGD experts have been examining how some of these specific policy intentions could impact development progress. As you would expect from a group of economists, we believe in—and encourage—evidence-based policymaking, and here we look at what the existing evidence and research tell us about how likely these Executive Orders are to achieve the president’s stated goals.
Afghanistan’s progress against mortality reflects the success of providing health aid that differed radically from the bulk of American aid to Afghanistan during the war. The USAID program that contributed to the decline was a multilateral effort coordinated by Afghanistan’s own Ministry of Public Health. Results were verified by random sampling, and some funding was linked to measures of performance. This internal policy experiment, however, was destined to provoke resistance. More surprising is the source of resistance to an aid program that attempted to stop simply throwing money at a problem and focus on building sustainable systems: auditors.