For over sixty years, the United States has sought to build the capabilities of its allies and security partners. This is a mission that has accelerated since the terrorist attacks of September 2001, and it is one that any administration, be it Democratic or Republican, will inherit in January 2009. As a longstanding strategic goal, building partnership capacity has also dredged up a series of contradictions and conundrums for American policymaking, as officials attempt to foster governance without fueling dictatorships, engage "frontline states" without becoming enmeshed in their internal feuds, and manage the details of convoluted international partnerships from the confines of Washington. Resolving these contradictions--or at least mitigating them--is the principal ongoing challenge of American security cooperation programs.
In this report, we provide a critique of the development and current practice of American security cooperation programs, as well as a modest proposal for how they may be improved in the future. We find that many of the authorities and instruments for engagement already exist, but that they may be more effectively harnessed if leadership is devolved from Washington to the "frontline country team," in which the ambassador is responsible for coordinating and directing American policy. We argue that the country team is the point at which the rubber of American policy hits the road and where it will ultimately succeed or fail. . . .
Christopher Griffin is a research fellow at AEI. Thomas Donnelly is a resident fellow at AEI.