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Building Armies, Building Nations: Toward a New Approach to Security Force Assistance


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This report explores the relationship between armies and nation-building and argues that U.S.-sponsored Security Force Assistance (SFA)might be improved were there less focus on force structure, military capabilities, and readiness, and more on ideology and the extent to which an army complements a host nations larger nation-building project. While SFA doctrine and comparable guidelines call for working toward enhancing government legitimacy, this report argues that legitimacy is often a function of ideas, identities, and ideologies. Armies historically have played an important role by embodying and promoting specific ideas, identities, and ideologies, and otherwise by bridging the people with the nation. This report uses six case studiesthree historic cases of large-scale U.S. SFA programs (South Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq) and three cases of attempts by postcolonial states (Ghana, Mali, and Nigeria) to invent themselves, with the military sometimes playing an important rolefor the purpose of examining relationships between armies and nation-building and the potential role of SFA. The purpose of this report is to identify ways to improve SFA provision. Recent events in Iraq as well as Mali have raised questions about the value of SFA and U.S. capacity to strengthen client states militaries in the face of insurgencies or other significant threats. While stopping short of policy prescription, this report is intended to suggest possible improvements to SFA by arguing for a different approach as well as to stimulate further debate and research.



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