Outcomes, Outreach, and Activities

of the American Academy study on Civil Wars, Violence, and International Responses

The Freeman Spogli Institute at Stanford University featured interviews with several contributors to the Civil Wars, Violence, and International Responses project on their podcast, World Class. Listen to these interviews:

On July 29, 2021, Marine Corps University’s Brute Krulak Center for Innovation and Future Warfare hosted a panel discussion, “Good Enough” Governance: Humility and the Limits of Foreign Intervention, featuring project contributors. Listen to a podcast of the event via Apple Podcasts or Spotify, or watch video of the event.

U.S. Policymakers

On July 29, 2021, Marine Corps University’s Brute Krulak Center for Innovation and Future Warfare hosted a panel discussion, “Good Enough” Governance: Humility and the Limits of Foreign Intervention, as part of its #BruteCast series. The event featured project contributors Karl W. Eikenberry, Stephen Krasner, Michele Barry, and Steven Heydemann. Listen to a podcast of the event via Apple Podcasts or Spotify, or watch video of the event. The audience for this event included Marine Corps officers, other U.S. government officials, and members of the public. Learn more about the event here.

In collaboration with the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), the Academy co-hosted a small lunch focused on various development models for conflict ridden states and a public panel focused on ending civil wars, drawing a crowd of more than eighty people from the DC area on April 13, 2018. The lunch featured project co-chair Stephen Krasner as a presenter alongside speakers from USAID and the World Bank. The discussion drew on the project observation that during the post-Cold War era, governments and international institutions alike embarked in designing approaches to treating intrastate violence through mediation, peacekeeping operations, and development programs aiming to create good governance and economic growth, which experienced some success. However, with a shift away from these post-Cold War models, experts, policymakers and project members discussed the strengths and weaknesses of various development models in light of the current geopolitical landscape and lessons learned from past interventions. During the public panel, Nancy Lindborg, President of USIP, offered remarks, and then joined fellow project contributors as they promoted the launch of the second volume of Dædalus for the Civil Wars project and led a discussion with policymakers, scholars, students, and the general public. Six project members addressed how the United States can better respond to intrastate conflict based on previous interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond, and how the US and international community can promote development and stability in conflict affected areas to create lasting peace. You can listen to a recording of the event here.

Two critical meetings took place in January and April 2018 with DOD and NSC respectively. The scope of these meetings was to share the findings of the project and to discuss how the US might handle the security spillovers from civil wars. It is important to note that the US has predominantly looked at the problem of civil wars through the prism of terrorism and insurgency. In recent years, a clear shift has occurred in the US approach to foreign aid. Increasingly, a market- driven model in which the United States partners with countries that want progress, consistent with their culture, based on free market principles and fair and reciprocal trade, has come to dominate U.S. policy.

Within this framework, the United States will also assist fragile states in order to prevent threats to the U.S. homeland. Transnational threats, such as jihadist terrorists and organized criminal groups, often operate freely from inside fragile states and undermine sovereign governments. Failing states can thus destabilize entire regions.

On January 23, 2018, a small group of project contributors, led by project co-chairs Karl Eikenberry and Stephen Krasner, met with staff members from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The briefings included a general session attended by more than thirty mid-level Department of Defense personnel, and a smaller, closed-door session with staff reporting directly to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As part of the project’s outreach to US government officials, a group of project contributors presented to more than forty junior- and senior-level Congressional staffers  on January 23, 2018, offering policy recommendations based on their project work and relevant research on civil wars and intrastate violence. Staffers from both sides of the aisle attended the briefing, representing the offices of members of Congress with an interest in foreign policy. This lunch was co-hosted by Stanford University’s Hoover Institution in Washington, DC and the American Academy.

On September 12, 2017, the Academy organized a small roundtable discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York with project authors and local experts to elaborate upon the early project conclusions and explore how to expand upon these ideas in preparation for the launch of the project's first volume of Dædalus, “Civil Wars & Global Disorder: Threats & Opportunities."

On September 7, 2017, the Academy co-hosted a dinner, bringing scholars, practitioners, and journalists in Washington, D.C. together to discuss the project. Similarly, a second dinner was convened in New York City on September 12 to discuss the project, its preliminary findings, and its relevance to current events.

In mid-March 2017, Academy staff conducted several meetings with current and former government officials and practitioners in Washington, D.C. to assess project strategies and develop outreach plans.

International Organizations

On July 15, 2021, the Civil Wars, Violence, and International Responses project cohosted a virtual panel discussion on “Good Enough” Governance and Peacekeeping with the UN Department of Peace Operations, which built on a series of workshops the project convened with the United Nations in 2017. The event featured a presentation by Karl W. Eikenberry and Stephen Krasner on their paper “Good Enough” Governance: Humility and the Limits of Foreign Intervention, followed by responses from project contributors Vanda Felbab-Brown, Clare Lockhart, and Stephen Stedman. Learn more and watch a video of the event here.

In Fall 2017, the Civil Wars, Violence, and International Responses project convened a series of four discussions in collaboration with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and UN Department of Political Affairs at UN Headquarters in New York, including a high-level discussion on project findings and workshops with mid-level staff from several UN agencies. Learn more about the key ideas from these discussions, and read policy memos prepared by project contributors.

In May 2018, in collaboration with the British Academy, the American Academy organized a series of briefings and discussions with representatives of international organizations and NGOs in Geneva including the Centre of Competence on Humanitarian Negotiation, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining, and UN Devleopment Programme. Project participants briefed these organizations on key findings of the American Academy projects on New Dilemmas in Ethics, Technology, and War and Civil Wars, Violence, and International Responses, and the British Academy’s work on violence. 

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the British Academy, and the Centre on Conflict, Development, and Peacebuilding at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies co-hosted a workshop bringing together Geneva-based scholars and practitioners with experts contributing to the British Academy’s work on violence and the American Academy’s projects on New Dilemmas in Ethics, Technology, and War and Civil Wars, Violence, and International Responses. The event allowed scholars and practitioners to exchange knowledge on how international responses to civil wars continue to evolve, discuss how these responses will change in the future, and to deepen their understanding about how different disciplines and organizations are approaching key issues.

Policymakers outside the U.S.

On April 22, 2021, the Academy convened a virtual discussion in collaboration with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva, Switzerland, featuring a presentation by project co-chairs Karl W. Eikenberry and Stephen Krasner. Participants in the event included representatives of international organizations and donor countries based in Geneva and in the field.

On November 28-29, 2016, project co-director Karl Eikenberry and Summers Hammel (Program Coordinator for Global Security and International Affairs) conducted a series of briefings with notable think tanks in London, including the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), Chatham House and the British Academy to present the project, explore potential avenues for collaboration, and receive feedback on outreach design.

From November 30 – December 1, 2016, the Academy hosted a meeting in London to discuss the protection of cultural heritage in armed conflict zones. Museum curators, human rights lawyers, and political theorists joined representatives from defense and international security organizations to determine if an international humanitarian norm, comparable to the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine for humanitarian intervention, can be crafted for the protection of cultural heritage. Codes of modern military ethics have always stipulated that cultural patrimony receive special protection during armed conflict. Initially, the justification was that cultural patrimony is a global common good, and thus its destruction is an attack on all human beings. More recently, perpetrators of genocide have begun to use the destruction of cultural heritage as a means to obliterate the collective memory of their victims. In consequence, attacks on heritage have become more brutal. For example, in Syria during the summer of 2015, the keeper of Palmyra’s cultural artifacts was executed while protecting the Greco-Roman, Arab, and Aramaic ruins of Palmyra’s three-thousand-year-old cosmopolitanism history. Given the viciousness of the attacks enacted through the destruction of heritage, the Academy’s meeting in London explored opportunities to develop a norm to prevent such atrocities.

Other project activities

On November 2-4, 2016, the Academy held an authors’ workshop to discuss the draft essays for the special two-volume issue of Dædalus on Civil Wars, Violence, and International Responses. Participants included scholars, military and government officials, media personnel, and representatives from nongovernmental organizations.

The limitations of existing approaches to dealing with weak or collapsed states suggest that new ideas and policy tactics are needed, and the growing disorder in the Middle East and parts of the African continent suggest that the need is immediate. The Academy hosted an exploratory meeting in Cambridge on August 3, 2015, to analyze security threats emanating from such states and to consider appropriate policy responses. The aim of the meeting was to share perspectives, identify gaps in the academic debates and in policy assumptions, and consider the role of the Academy in this work moving forward. The meeting helped develop the Civil Wars, Violence, and International Responses project.

Following the August 3, 2015, meeting on “Sovereignty as Liability: When Weak States Threaten Global Security,” the Academy convened a second exploratory meeting at Stanford University on December 4, 2015 to further develop the framework for a long-term Academy project on state collapse, instability, and conflict. The meeting addressed the scope of state weakening and collapse; the specific types of threats that emanate from such states; the role of Islamic militant ideology in these challenges; and the policy options available to the United States working together or in concert with its allies, partners, and other major regional powers and international organizations to deal with such threats. The meeting helped develop the Civil Wars, Violence, and International Responses project.

The Academy study on Civil Wars, Violence, and International Responses is driven by the desire to provide new tools for analyzing, responding to, and, where possible, preventing the threats posed by the collapse of state authority associated with civil wars.