Analysis & Opinions - The Washington Post

The U.S. Couldn't Build Afghanistan a Democracy. That Rarely Works.

| Aug. 31, 2021

Regimes battling a counterinsurgency often depend on corruption to stay in power

Monkey Cage Blog

As the Taliban swept into Kabul after the collapse of the Afghan government, former military and civilian leaders chastised the Biden administration for pulling U.S. troops out too soon. The U.S. military, they argued, could have prevented the disaster and used its might to keep trying to build a democratic state.

To stabilize the country, these critics argued, the United States should have stayed longer, until the Afghan military could stand on its own, until the government was stronger, until the Taliban was defeated.

But the history of great power interventions into insurgencies suggests that efforts to stabilize Afghanistan through democratization would have been futile. My research explains why the success of great power interventions to stabilize countries relies heavily on coercion and corruption, rather than democratizing overhauls.

Successful counterinsurgency involves dirty deals

Those who argue that building good governance is the solution to insurgency routinely point to historical examples to support their claims. Commentators generally cite five successful modern-day counterinsurgency campaigns as models for today's military interventions: the Malayan Emergency, the Greek civil war, the anti-Huk campaign in the Philippines, the Salvadoran civil war and the campaign in Dhofar, Oman....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

Hazelton, Jacqueline L. "The U.S. Couldn't Build Afghanistan a Democracy. That Rarely Works." The Washington Post, August 31, 2021.

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