"Mara E. Karlin combines rigorous scholarship with the knowledge and expertise gained from years of working on the front lines of Defense Department policy managing American military aid to states under enormous stress. This formidably written book has much to say to practitioners and scholars alike: it offers exceptional insight into an activity that the United States will engage in for decades to come."—Eliot A. Cohen, author of The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military ForceCombining rigorous academic scholarship with the experience of a senior Pentagon policymaker, Mara E. Karlin explores the key national security issue of our time: how to effectively build partner militaries. Given the complex and complicated global security environment, declining U.S. defense budgets, and an increasingly connected (and often unstable) world, the United States has an ever-deepening interest in strengthening fragile states. Particularly since World War II, it has often chosen to do so by strengthening partner militaries. It will continue to do so, Karlin predicts, given U.S. sensitivity to casualties, a constrained fiscal environment, the nature of modern nationalism, increasing transnational security threats, the proliferation of fragile states, and limits on U.S. public support for military interventions. However, its record of success is thin.
"Building Militaries in Fragile States tackles one of the most important security problems facing the United States today. Karlin's work is thoughtful, informed, and compelling."—Daniel Byman, Georgetown University
"This is a hugely important topic. Karlin brings the research excellence of a scholar and the experience of a practitioner to bear as she analyzes a type of conflict that will likely remain a critical area for U.S. foreign and defense policy over the next generation."—Michael Horowitz, University of Pennsylvania
While most analyses of these programs focus on training and equipment, Building Militaries in Fragile States argues that this approach is misguided. Instead, given the nature of a fragile state, Karlin homes in on the outsized roles played by two key actors: the U.S. military and unhelpful external actors. With a rich comparative case-study approach that spans Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, Karlin unearths provocative findings that suggest the traditional way of working with foreign militaries needs to be rethought. Benefiting from the practical eye of an experienced national security official, her results-based exploration suggests new and meaningful findings for building partner militaries in fragile states.
Mara E. Karlin teaches strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. Previously she served as a senior policymaker at the Pentagon, leading long-term defense strategy, building the future U.S. military, and formulating key national security policies, particularly focused on the Middle East, Asia, and Europe.