Inevitable Conflicts, Avoidable Failures: Preparing for the Third Generation of Conflict, Stabilization, and Reconstruction Operations

This report reviews the first two generations of U.S. engagement in what was originally called post-conflict reconstruction and later termed stabilization and reconstruction, and then considers the new third generation in which skepticism about the value of and capabilities for doing this work is on the upswing. The first generation, from the end of the Cold War to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, was characterized by strong interplay between the United States and multilateral organizations in coordinating to help countries in conflict. The second generation, from 9/11 to the end of the surges in Iraq and Afghanistan, was influenced by the CSIS Post-Conflict Reconstruction Commission's work on the essential tasks needed for reconstruction and, later, by new doctrine for counterinsurgency. We have now entered a third generation; after a decade of conflict, the public is tired and resources are declining. The report considers the current state of the field in light of the political and economic mood of the United States today and offers broad recommendations based on the lessons of the past decade.