Author: Danilo Zimbres
Norwich University, January 2012.
The political, economic and military tools available to policymakers for use in conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction are interconnected for the reasons we shall discuss in this essay. It is important to first define what is post-conflict reconstruction. After doing so, we shall evaluate the interconnectedness of political, economic and military tools available to policymakers for use in conflict resolution and discuss some recent cases. Finally, we shall discuss the interconnectedness of political, economic and military tools available to policymakers for use in post-conflict reconstruction, drawing on some past experiences, notably the post-conflict reconstruction processes of Germany and Japan.
Before we proceed, however, it is essential to mention that the nature of conflict has changed substantially in the 21st century. The prevailing pattern of the first half of the 20th century of large scale inter-state conflicts (World War I and II) has given rise to new, more challenging intra-state conflicts. This substantial change in the nature of conflicts also alters the necessary political, economic and military tools available to policymakers for use in conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction. In this regard, Fukuyama asserts that “weak or failed states are the source of many of the world’s most serious problems, from poverty to AIDS to drugs to terrorism” (Fukuyama: ix). This view is largely corroborated by Dobbins, J. et al.: “…the international community is evolving into a post-Westphalian system. The new wars, increasingly characteristic of the conflict environment, can be described as post-Westphalian or postmodern, as they are increasingly ambiguous in their nature. These conflicts are transnational, dislocated, and decentralized; they defy borders and the boundaries between states and nonstate actors” (Dobbins et al.: 2003).
Since the end of the Cold War, the emergence of fragile, weak, failing or failed states has altered the international scenario to such an extent that post-conflict reconstruction often has to deal with these entities and not with traditional, well-functioning national states. Policy tools must therefore adapt to these new challenges. This new intra-state types of conflict make it even more important for policy makers to adopt interconnected strategies: without a strong centralized state, conflict resolution and reconstruction strategies must deal with numerous different players (parties, paramilitary organizations, religious groups, ethnic clans, etc.). Such complex realities make interconnected approaches essential.
The interconnectedness of political, economic and military tools available to policymakers for use in post-conflict reconstruction
First, it is important to underscore the objectives of post-conflict reconstruction. Broadly defined, the main objective is to achieve lasting economic prosperity and political and social stability. To accomplish this economic prosperity and political and social stability some goals have to be achieved. One important goal is the development of a self-sufficient economy. This development is indispensable to the reconstruction of any state or region following a war or a destructive conflict. In order to reach this goal, basic infrastructure has to be repaired or replaced. Without an established and functioning basic infrastructure no economy can thrive and no post-reconstruction can be successful. Related to this goal is the re-establishment of manufacturing and service capacity. Only when industries and services are running can the population be supported and international trade can be financed through exports and by attaining means to pay for imports. This is essential for supporting the local population. Another important goal is the establishment of reliable institutions to govern the reconstructed state (judiciary, local police, parliament, civil society, free press). A viable economy and solid institutions must be in place in order for a country to be governed in a stable and proper manner. Post-reconstruction efforts have to take into account, therefore, these two major challenges: building up or rebuilding a viable economy, and setting up a solid institutional framework to govern the country. Achieving these goals requires that four main areas be addressed: economy, justice, politics and security. Attaining a minimum standard in all four areas is necessary to produce lasting economic prosperity and political and social stability.
The post-conflict reconstruction processes of Germany and Japan (study cases of interconnectedness)
Post-conflict reconstruction processes in Germany and Japan can be considered two of the most meaningful efforts in this field ever attempted. Due to their scale, the scope of operations involved and the success achieved, these two post-conflict reconstructions can be hailed as standard setters: “the German and Japanese occupations set standards for post-conflict transformation that have not since been equaled” (Dobbins et al.: xix). Both are good examples of how the political, economic and military tools available to policymakers for use in conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction are interconnected. In fact, the correct use of these combined tools was a significant component to the overall success they achieved.
After the end of hostilities both Japan and Germany were utterly devastated. When Germany surrendered unconditionally in May 1945, the occupying allied forces found a country in shambles. As a matter of fact, “World War II was the bloodiest conflict in European history” (Dobbins et al.: 3). After a prolonged war and large-scale air bombings, most German cities had been seriously affected. In almost all major cities infrastructure was badly damaged, albeit not as badly as previously thought, according to some studies (in this regard, see Dobbins et al.). As a consequence of the losses incurred, Germany’s economy collapsed. Furthermore, there was a huge wave of refugees: “it was truly a humanitarian and refugee crisis of unprecedented magnitude” (Dobbins et al.: 5).
In this context of enormous devastation, the Allied commanding forces in Germany faced the task of establishing lasting economic prosperity and political and social stability in this strategic region in Europe. For the West in general, and for North America in particular, the reconstruction of Germany was intended to function as a bulwark against further communist expansion: “a significant impetus for the reconstruction of Western Germany was the increasing power struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union over the future of Europe – and particularly the future of Germany” (Dobbins et al.: 7). Dobbins notes, furthermore, that “the United States saw West Germany as an additional bulwark against the perceived Soviet military threat in Central Europe” (Dobbins et al.: 11).
Four main areas of action were pursued: the demobilization of the vast German military, the establishment of war crimes tribunals, the buildup of long-lasting democratic institutions, and the recovery of the devastated economy. In order to achieve these goals, political, economic and military tools had to be used in a combined, sustained and interconnected manner. In the first place there was the issue of security, for without proper security and a stable environment no other policies can thrive. To achieve that aim, the USA stationed a large number of troops in occupied Germany. This massive presence led to a successful campaign of demobilizing the vast Nazi army. Soon after the end of WW II, more than 1.6 million men were under the orders of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, totaling 61 U.S. divisions. Even though the rapid demobilization that followed Japan’s surrender in the Pacific War drastically reduced the levels of America’s military presence in the region, the number of Allied troops remained substantial. In order to meet security challenges, the USA decided to adopt a constabulary occupation force in Germany, in the fall 1945: “the constabulary peaked at 31,000 troops. It played an effective role in the U.S sector despite significant personnel turnover resulting from rapid demobilization” (Dobbins et al.: 10).
Another immediate task was to de-Nazify German society. Allies “focused on dismantling the political and legal structures that the Nazi party had created in Germany, arresting and punishing Nazi leaders and supporters, and excluding active Nazis from public life” (Dobbins et al.: 13). To achieve this goal, political, military and economic tools also had to be used. The military was responsible for hunting and capturing Nazi suspects and bringing them to trial while preserving an environment of overall security in the country. By doing so, Allies prevented the regrouping of Nazi officials following the dismantlement of the German army. In the political arena, legitimacy had to be obtained and a political consensus established. The Nurnberg tribunal was the response to this challenge: “in August 1945, the Allied occupying powers met in London and signed an agreement creating the Nurnberg Tribunal, officially entitled the International Military Tribunal” (ibid.).
After purging German society from its most active Nazi individuals, Allied forces faced the challenge of establishing democratic institutions in Germany. This was central to the objectives of the United States, especially in the context of the nascent Cold War. Dobbins mention that “in its sector, U.S. policy focused on a ‘grass roots’ approach, designed to build German civil society from the bottom up” (Dobbins et al.: 15). Such a radical transformation of German political life required a substantial degree of support and legitimacy. This support and legitimacy could only be obtained in the context of a solid economic recovery that could fully meet the needs of the German population. Considering the German post-conflict reconstruction process, it is possible to assert that steady and rapid economic recovery, coupled with a sense of law and order brought by the strong constabulary presence paved the way for societal transformation and the embracement of democracy.
The achievement of lasting economic prosperity and political and social stability would not have been possible in Germany without a spectacular economic recovery. Many authors (Dobbins et al., Reynolds) note that this recovery was fostered by the Marshal Plan: “the Marshall Plan did contribute to rapid European (and German) economic growth and recovery between 1948 and 1951, when the program ended” (Dobbins et al.: 19). It is true that German recovery was well under way before the Marshall Plan was implemented. There is no denying, nevertheless, that the huge scope of the financial transfers involved in the plan contributed significantly to the outcome. As an economic tool in the post-conflict reconstruction of Germany, the Marshall Plan was quite decisive: it made possible the preservation of a secure environment, it gave legitimacy and granted popular acceptance to building long-lasting democratic institutions, and it hastened the recovery of the devastated economy. The implementation of the Marshall Plan, on the other hand, would not have been possible in an unstable environment. Therefore, its success was completely interconnected with achievements in the security area, in another good example of how interconnected policies in the political, economic and military realms were and should be. According to Dobbins, “the most important lesson from the U.S. occupation of Germany is that military force and political capital can, at least in some circumstances, be successfully employed to underpin democratic and societal transformation” (Dobbins et al.: 21).
In Japan the United States faced the task of establishing lasting economic prosperity and political and social stability in that strategic region of Asia. Following a massive attack and two nuclear bombs (Hiroshima and Nagasaki), Japan finally surrendered unconditionally. By the end of the war, the Japanese army had around 4 million mobilized troops (between 3.6 million and 4.3 million). This huge imperial army had to be demobilized like in the case of Germany. Even though the emperor of Japan directed the troops to surrender, it was not clear whether all would comply. Therefore, conducting mass demobilization became the first priority of the Allied troops. As a consequence of its war efforts, Japan’s economy collapsed in 1945. To complicate matters, the Allied bombings of Japanese cities left nearly 9 million Japanese homeless. Hunger and starvation loomed over Japan: “at the end of World War II, the Japanese empire lay in ruins. Roughly 3 to 4 percent of the prewar population of 74 million had perished. One-quarter of the country’s wealth was destroyed” (Dobbins et al.: 28). For strategic reasons, Allied troops set as their mission to rebuild the Japanese economy and establish solid democratic institutions in order to halt communist expansionism from the Soviets and China. In this regard, Dobbins notes that “by 1947, U.S. policymakers were increasingly concerned about the Soviet Union and the spread of communism in Asia. They began to see Japan as a future ally rather than a former enemy, especially since communism was expanding into neighboring countries, such as China” (Dobbins et al.: 34). Japan had to be stripped of its imperial expansionist ambitions, even though the Emperor was kept in power. Unlike Germany, however, there would be no occupation power in charge of implementing policies. Instead Japans’ bureaucracy and institutions were preserved.
In Japan, as in Germany, political, economic and military tools were also used in a combined, sustained and interconnected manner to achieve the two main Allied objectives: demilitarization and democratization. Japan’s post-conflict reconstruction differs from Germany’s insofar as there the emperor was retained and existing Japanese bureaucracy was utilized. Similar to Germany, a tribunal was set up to judge war crimes: the Tokyo War Crimes Trials. As a consequence, politicians, bureaucrats, police and military officers were purged and barred from participating in public life. In the Japanese case, educational reform became an integral component of democratization and demilitarization. In the economy large efforts were made for democratization: from the splitting of the zaibatsu (Japan’s large conglomerates) to land reform: “in the end, 83 zaibatsu were broken up into their component parts and antimonopoly laws were passed to prevent their reestablishment.” (Dobbins et al.: 48). Land reform aimed at undermining the economic and political power of landlords, who had played an active role in supporting militarism.
All these undertakings could only occur in a somehow secure environment. Hence military tools were quite significant to the success of political and economic strategies. On the other hand, the steady recovery of the Japanese economy and the consensus achieved in terms of the required political changes gave to the military occupation a high degree of legitimacy. This combined set of policies enabled the U.S. to achieve successful results in Japan: “the reconstruction efforts the United States undertook in Japan were remarkably successful” (Dobbins et al.: 51). Japan’s case also illustrates how important it is to interconnect the political, economic and military tools available to policymakers in order to achieve success in post-conflict reconstruction.
For economic policies to be successful, a socially stable and secure environment and a sense of law and order must exist, and military tools play a fundamental role. Military options require to some degree that the population have a perceived legitimacy and a sense of well being that only successful economic policies can provide. Political transformation such as democratization and demilitarization also require both a stable environment and economic prosperity or at least a sense that the economy is improving. Hence political, economic and military tools available for policymakers should be as interconnected as possible. Achieving interconnectedness in these key areas was a central element of the post-conflict reconstruction of both Germany and Japan: a lesson that should be learned by policymakers even in a context of new challenges and new threats.
The application of political, economic and military tools has become considerably more challenging since the end of the Cold War
The reason is that since the end of the Cold War, conflicts have become more complex, with less clear boundaries. These 21st century conflicts are often fought inside nation states (civil wars, for instance) and not between nation states. Intra-state types of conflict have replaced inter-state ones as the prevailing kind of conflict in our century. These types of conflict often erupt in fragile, weak, failing or failed states. In such cases, institutions are very weak or do not exist at all. The economy has limited options and dim growth prospects. Weak or failed states often lack a central government capable of controlling its territory. They do not have enough economic capacity to feed properly their populations or ensure its physical survival. Institutions lack the necessary legitimacy to act properly and even the state’s monopoly over violence is not felt, which is a central concept to the modern nation state according to political philosopher Hobbes . Power is bitterly disputed between tribes, parties, clans, ethnic groups, religious groups or regions. A consensual social contract (such as a constitution, for instance) binding people to institutions and values is often non-existent. Recent conflicts in Sierra Leone, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan all had some of these characteristics.
In this context, the application of political, economic and military tools become much more challenging. It is possible to say that in such countries, post-conflict reconstruction becomes more like state building (Fukuyama: 2004). Instead of rebuilding damaged infrastructures or institutions, post-conflict reconstruction has to build them sometimes from scratch. Even the achievement of a socially stable and secure environment can pose major challenges, as the recent examples of Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan illustrate. Without a socially stable and secure environment, political and economic policies are difficult to implement. With faltering economic perspectives, legitimacy becomes even more questionable and power disputes became even more acute. This vicious circle of violence, instability, lack of economic perspective, lack of legitimacy, more violence, more instability and lack of perspectives has proven to be a major challenge for the implementation of political, economic and military tools in weak or failed states.
Fukuyama correctly notes that “lack of state capacity in poor countries has come to haunt the developed world much more directly. The end of the Cold War left a band of failed and week states stretching from the Balkans through the Caucasus, the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia. State collapse or weakness has already created major humanitarian and human rights disasters during the 1990s in Somalia, Haiti, Cambodia, Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor.” (Fukuyama: x).
Nation building has become therefore an integral part of post-conflict reconstruction in recent years. This new challenge has enormously increased the tasks and scope of post-conflict reconstruction activities. As a consequence, the application of political, economic and military tools has become considerably more challenging. Without taking into account these increased challenges, no post-conflict reconstruction effort can be successful, especially following an intra-state kind of conflict. In these circumstances, interconnected political, economic and military tools become even more relevant for policymakers. New challenges represent new risks but also increased opportunities. So far, the main objective of post-conflict reconstruction efforts was to achieve lasting peace and stability. In a world full of weak or failed states, peace and stability can only be the result of sustained efforts at state building. In order to meet these new challenges, policymakers will have to use all tools available, in an interconnected manner, with persistence and a strong political will.
• Fukuyama, F. (2004), State Building: governance and World Order in the 21st century (New York: Cornell University Press).
• Dobbins, J. et al. (2003), America’s role in nation building: from Germany to Iraq (Santa Monica: Rand).
• Bercovitch, J. and Jackson, R. (2009), Conflict resolution in the twenty-first Century (Michigan: The University of Michigan Press).
• Ramsbotham, O., Woodhouse, T., and Miall, H. (2005), Contemporary conflict resolution (Cambridge: Polity Press).
• Kunz, D. (1997), “The Marshall Plan Reconsidered: A Complex of Motives” in Foreign Affairs, May/June 1997.
• Reynolds, D. (1997), “The European Response: Primacy of Politics” in Foreign Affairs, May/June 1997.