New York Times: Prof. Menkhaus on Why Afghanistan’s War Defies Solutions

"Two conditions are necessary for any agenda: ending the fighting and rebuilding the state, if only incrementally," write Max Fisher and Amanda Taub in a piece for the New York Times. "But scholars increasingly believe that when a state has failed as utterly as Afghanistan's, improving either one can end up setting back the other."

In their exploration of the factors that have led to the current state of affairs in Afghanistan, the authors cite a dynamic documented by Professor and Chair of Political Science Ken Menkhaus in his work on Somalia–the peace-building paradox.

The peace-building paradox occurs when efforts to revive a functional state become "conflict-producing exercises" and thereby reignite the armed violence that helped produce state failure in the first place, according to Menkhaus in his study of Somalia. Revival of state authority can threaten the many sub-state and non-state polities, including warlord fiefdoms, that arise during a period of prolonged state failure. This produces a collection of armed spoilers who view the expansion of state authority as a threat to resist, not an opportunity to advance rule of law.

Read the NYT article.