Intervening for Peace? Dilemma’s of Liberal Internationalism and Democratic Reconstruction in Afghanistan

Philip Martin

Abstract


Recent Western interventions into war-torn states have evolved into burdensome and impractical ventures which fail to produce the kind of cohesive, democratic states which are supposedly necessary for international security. This paper argues that the existing peacebuilding model can work against stabilization in conflict-torn states, and that top-down methods of state-building such as consociational power sharing and the rapid creation of complex national institutions can create new conflicts for control and entrench centrifugal structures of political power. The Western-led mission to stabilize Afghanistan after October 2001 illustrates these dilemmas. Intervening powers opted to lock in a model of development in which a new Afghan state would mirror the structure and functioning of developed Western states, irrespective of whether this would prove sustainable in the Afghan context.  Ultimately, policymakers must reconsider peacebuilding frameworks which prioritize democratic states in the short term, and opt instead for more limited, achievable results consistent with a realistic assessment of the capabilities and needs of the international community.


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JMSS is a publication of the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.

JMSS gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council.