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The Statebuilder’s Dilemma


“Ungoverned spaces” have become a leading international concern.  Poor political order not only inflicts damage on local populations, but also creates conditions conducive for building terrorist organizations and capabilities.  Therefore, statebuilding has become a central feature of the US’s global counter-terrorism strategy and it has been supported, in varying degrees, internationally.  Yet historically, the effort to re-make a state fails more often than it succeeds. The facts are that a state willing to intervene and bear the costs of rebuilding another state is undermined from the start – the “statebuilder’s dilemma” is real and impossible to escape.  Even so, the logic that connects better, more capable states to a more stable international order remains too compelling to ignore – despite the historical record.  The author asks whether or not it is possible to create the conditions that lead to better statebuilding outcomes, and reduce the statebuilder’s dilemma.

Central Argument:


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About the author:  David A. Lake is the Jerri-Ann and Gary E. Jacobs Professor of Social Sciences and Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego.  He is the Author of Hierarchy in International Relations and Power, Protection, and Free Trade and the coeditor of Politics in the New Hard Times and The State and American Foreign Economic Policy, all from Cornell University Press.