Oct. 4, 2019
Pathologies of Centralized State-Building
The international community, led by the United States, has invested trillions of dollars in state-building efforts during the past two decades. Yet despite this commitment of substantial resources, conflict and violence remain a challenge in fragile states. It therefore seems especially important to consider the reasons why state-building has not lived up to its expectations. One plausible explanation for the failure of state-building in Afghanistan is that the government remains extremely centralized in all critical dimensions, including the power of the executive, subnational governance, judicial institutions, public budgeting and finance, and the national security forces. Of these, only the Afghan National Army has implemented meaningful reforms. In the other areas, almost no reform has occurred compared to the institutional status quo before 2001. A consequence is that most Afghans continue to experience the same type of centralized, predatory state that they endured prior to 2001. Paradoxically, by resurrecting the centralized, predatory state, the stabilization effort continues to give rise to an antigovernment insurgency across the country.