Guiding Principles for Stabilization and Reconstruction

Guiding Principles for Stabilization and Reconstruction is a book written by the United States Institute of Peace and the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute. This book talks about or rather presents to the readers what is considered to be the first ever doctrine to be produced for ordinary people taking part in peace building missions. It has been designed to assist countries transit from violent conflict to a peaceful state. Throughout the ages militaries have been armed with a doctrine that guides their behaviors and actions where civilian actors are still in operation in present day having no unifying structure or shared set of principles to guide their behaviors in these complicated and harsh environments.  The authors also state that, as these missions increase due to their demand, there will soon be an increased need for cohesion and cooperation amongst federal agencies as well as other organizations regarding peace building community. 

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Guiding Principles for Stabilization and Reconstruction provides readers with a strategic framework for S&R missions founded on a set of conditions, approaches and end states in addition to providing a comprehensive set of shared principles as well as processes that have been filtered from the wealth of lessons emerging from past and previous S&R missions. The book is founded on a comprehensive review of key strategic policy documents from foreign affairs, development and state ministries of defense along with key intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations that work hard day and night in war shattered regions around the world. Despite the fact that the book is not comprehensible at a glance and requires a reader to take time going through it, the authors have properly criticized the military for their obsession with building up security forces that include both law and military enforcement to the exclusion of other critical players. They also have emphasized on the need to vet individuals being trained even though they have not told the reader of the consequences associated with lack of application of biometrics in the vetting process. Five main end states for stabilization and reconstruction as indicated by the authors include rule of law, sustainable economy, safe and secure environment, social well being and stable governance. 

As earlier mentioned, missions are undertaken by civilian agencies of the United States government and since they operate without any unifying structure, civilian planners as well as practitioners are forced to take up ad hoc methods impeding the cohesion and cooperation that is considered crucial in any stable and reconstruction mission.  Since soldiers are expected to pay closer attention to security issues, it is important for civilians to be able to sustain that security without necessarily having presence of a foreign military.  It is the responsibility of the United States military to assist the host country in establishing stable governance, sustainable economy, social well being as well as the rule of the law.

Despite the fact that the book is quite useful at the strategic level, it does not offer any assistance to field practitioners beyond the theoretical comprehension of counterinsurgency or stabilization for that matter. The experiences that Americans have had in unstable environments such as the Philippines, Somalia and Afghanistan prove the hardships relating to effectively carrying out stability missions. It is rather unfortunate that, since civilian and military practitioners possess little or no stability operations training prior to their deployment, they are forced to rely on previous experience and narrow technical education. I agree with what the authors have discussed in this book and believe that assumptions made regarding stability and reconstruction more often than not result in ineffective programming. This is so because development programming in unstable environments usually fosters more instability.

It is vital that governments realize that effective stability operations programming need to have a methodology that is focused on identification as well as diminishing of any local sources of instability as compared to addressing the perceived needs of the country’s citizens. When the ability of a population to communicate is improved, there is always an increase in the number of clues regarding improvised explosive devices and insurgent movement

In conclusion, the Guiding Principles for Stabilization and Reconstruction is a book that makes an effort in filling the gap brought about as a result of demands for missions by offering to the readers a shared strategic structure as well as a comprehensive set of shared principles.  One important piece of information that is perhaps missing from this particular book or was not considered by the authors is the manner in which governments can ensure the availability of critical needs satisfying resources as a way of avoiding reoccurrence of systematic failure as it were. Once stability operators are able to comprehend the basic needs as well as functions of societies and carry out an analysis of how a historical course of action is needed to fulfill those needs, then and only then can there be stabilization and reconstruction in as far as peace and stability of a country is concerned.

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