Commentary: A complete approach to stability in an interconnected world

Confronting the challenges that failed and failing states pose to the security and stability of the United States and its allies has been one of our defining national security challenges of the past 20 years.

Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has been involved in more than 17 stability operations, yet has struggled to generate an integrated government-wide effort. A similar range of conflicts that bear directly on U.S. national security interests threatens to expand as a result of increased competition for scarce natural resources, teeming urban populations with rising expectations and a global economy that's struggling to overcome the strain of the American financial crisis, meet mounting demands from emerging markets and extend foreign development aid into Third World countries. In an increasingly interconnected world, the international system is only as strong as its weakest links.

The task before us is to leverage all the resources of our government and society to develop a "whole of government" capability to respond to ungoverned states that jeopardize U.S. national security interests.

This historic endeavor requires carefully integrating the tools of statecraft with those of our military forces, our international partners, humanitarian organizations and the private sector. Achieving success will assume new dimensions as we strengthen our ability to generate "soft" power to promote participation in government, spur economic development and address the root causes of conflict among the disenfranchised populations of the world.

Military capabilities alone are not sufficient to prevail in this environment. We must strengthen other instruments of national power and leverage the full potential of the U.S. Government. Congress' support in providing the necessary resources for this civilian-led endeavor is essential; continued funding and authorization of the State Department's Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization are vital.

Success will come only through carefully coordinated civilian and military efforts, through a comprehensive approach that establishes clear and achievable national goals, a shared vision among a diverse group of stakeholders and the development of new capabilities in ways that preclude the need for future military intervention.

Such an approach is fundamental to lasting security and stability – ensuring public safety and security, assisting with reconstruction and providing basic sustenance and public services. Equally important, it defines the role of military forces in support of the civilian agencies that are charged with leading these complex endeavors.

Two recent efforts, once considered by many as unattainable, are blazing a trail that will bring the full power of our nation's strength – civilian and military – to address the challenges of today and tomorrow.

First, the establishment of the Civilian Response Corps in the State Department provides our nation with unique inter-agency planning and expeditionary capabilities that, when they are fully implemented, will integrate all government planning and deploy civilian experts from throughout the government to build our partner's capabilities, transform conflicts and hand off responsibilities to local actors as rapidly as possible.

Second, the much-anticipated release of the Army's new stability operations manual is the culmination of intense collaboration among inter-agency partners, nongovernmental organizations and America's allies on a definitive doctrine to guide military efforts in support of broader national and international stability operations.

Together, these achievements are significant progress in harmonizing civilian and military efforts, translating the hard-won lessons of the past into functional changes in planning, training and education, and into operational capabilities that will revolutionize our ability to transform conflict in partnership with the community of international partners.

In a number of critical areas, the State Department and the Army have drawn a roadmap from violent conflict to stable peace that redefines civil-military cooperation at a critical moment in our Nation's history. This partnership institutionalizes the lessons of the past and charts a path for today and tomorrow by combining civilian expertise and the constructive aspects of military power.

America's future abroad is unlikely to resemble the unique experiences of Afghanistan or Iraq, where we grapple with the burden of state building under fire. Instead, we will work through and with the community of nations in a civilian-led effort to transform conflicts, build need capabilities in fragile states and ensure the provision of humanitarian aid to the suffering.The efforts of the State Department and the Army, in conjunction with our inter-agency partners, ensure that the United States is positioned to meet the challenges of an uncertain future, an era of persistent conflict in which our civilian personnel and our soldiers will continue to carry the banner of freedom, hope, and stability in an increasingly complex international environment.

About the Writers

Ambassador John E. Herbst, is Coordinator for the Office of Reconstruction and Stabilization at the U.S. Department of State. Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell, IV is the Commanding General, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.