The arguments in favor of creating such an office are rooted in the belief that failed states are threats to U.S. national security. S/CRS’s early projects included postconflict planning for Sudan, Haiti, and Cuba, all countries largely unrelated to U.S. national security concerns. Although failed states can present threats, it is a mistake to argue that they frequently do. The few attempts that have been made to quantify what “state failure” means demonstrate that it is not inherently threatening.
Moreover, attempting to remedy state failure would pose serious problems for U.S. foreign policy. U.S. nation‐building projects in the past had a highly dubious track record, and there is no indication that future projects would fare any better.
A standing office devoted to nation building is a cure worse than the disease. Sober assessment of the U.S. national interest and a more judicious approach to intervention abroad would be better guiding principles than assuming that all failed or failing states pose a threat. When interventions are absolutely necessary, existing institutional capacity is sufficient to carry out stabilization and reconstruction missions.