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Providing Security to Failed States Yields Mixed Results

By Brian Padden
07 April 2008

Failed states are countries plagued by conflict, corruption, poverty and a lack of basic security. Advocates for international intervention say security is necessary in order for weak states to be stabilized, but international peacekeeping efforts have had mixed results. As VOA's Brian Padden reports, the cost and sacrifice required to help failed states often taxes the commitment of the countries trying to help.

These police cadets in Kosovo are being trained to replace NATO peacekeepers. Officer Gani Berisha says the training is a sign of European support for Kosovo to police itself.

"Looks like Europe and the Europeans are starting to implement their promises," He said. "They promised they would support us. It is starting off and I hope it will continue like this."

NATO first intervened in Kosovo in 1999 to stop the Serbs' repression of the ethnic-Albanian majority. Earlier this year, Kosovo declared independence, and violence again erupted as concerns rose that ethnic Serbs might now be targeted for retribution.

While NATO is in Kosovo, the United Nations has deployed more than 140,000 peacekeepers in 20 countries around the world. U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jane Holl Lute, the says the cost of these operations is growing.

"I arrived at peacekeeping in 2003 and our budget at the time was $1.8 billion. It is approaching $7.5 billion today," said Lute.

Critics of international intervention complain about the length and cost of peacekeeping missions, but Lute says most are relatively successful in preventing further conflict and state failure.

Iraq's situation is more complex. The U.S. invasion weakened Iraq as an independent state, and it remains wracked by violence five years later. But President Bush insists Iraq is on the path to recovery and will eventually emerge as a stable democracy.

Christopher Preble, the foreign policy director with the Cato Institute, says the U.S. experience in Iraq should serve as a cautionary tale.

"The lesson we should take away is these kinds of missions are fraught with peril for a whole host of reasons. In most instances the argument is to avoid military intervention unless it is absolutely necessary and they rarely are," said Preble.

U.S. Congressman Adam Smith, a Democratic member of the House Armed Services Committee, says the critical lesson to take from Iraq is the need to build true alliances to share the risks and the costs of intervention.

"We are far, far better off if we work with the rest of the world, whether it is Europe in dealing with the Balkans, Australia in the case of East Timor," said Smith. "I would even like us to get to the point where we can work with nations like China, India, Brazil and even someday Russia if we could improve the quality of our relationship, large growing nations that have a stake in global stability."

Liberia was once a failed state mired in civil war. Today Smith says it is slowly recovering, following intervention by African Union troops. The U.S. military plays a supporting role there, training the new Liberian army. "The one thing I constantly talk to them about is that your mission here is to protect people. That is what an army exists for. It is to protect people's civil liberties and defend their freedoms, " said Lieutenant Colonel Chris Wyatt, who coordinates the U.S. Army program.

And he says protecting people by providing a secure environment to rebuild is the first step in rehabilitating a failed state.

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