“Good Enough” Governance


Back to table of contents
Karl W. Eikenberry and Stephen D. Krasner
Civil Wars, Violence, and International Responses

The American Academy’s project on Civil Wars, Violence, and International Responses has sought to provide new tools to analyze, respond to, and, where possible, prevent the threats posed by the collapse of state authority associated with civil wars. The project has focused its work on two broad goals:

  • To examine the transnational security threats emanating from civil wars and weak states; and
  • To identify policy options to mitigate these threats and address civil wars in which U.S. national security interests are at stake.

This capstone publication, “Good Enough” Governance: Humility and the Limits of Foreign Intervention in Response to Civil Wars and Intrastate Violence, represents the work of the project cochairs, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and Professor Stephen Krasner, to distill the policy implications from the essays included in the two issues of Dædalus published as part of the project. It also incorporates insights from a series of outreach and engagement activities with scholars, policy-makers, and practitioners across the United States and around the world.

The project has highlighted that civil wars can generate regional instability, great-power conflict, large-scale migration, and transnational terrorism while also contributing to the emergence of pandemic disease across the globe. While the characteristics of civil wars may vary, in most cases the opportunities for external international interventions are limited. Therefore, modesty and humility must drive the development of goals for any such attempts at intervention.

I am grateful to Karl Eikenberry and Stephen Krasner for their leadership of this project, and I thank the members of the project committee for their contributions published in the Dædalus issues. I particularly wish to acknowledge the dedicated group who joined Ambassador Eikenberry and Professor Krasner to share the project’s work with policy audiences and to collect the feedback that has shaped this policy paper. We are grateful to those in the White House; at the United Nations in New York, Abuja, and Geneva; and at universities, think tanks, and nongovernmental organizations around the world who took the time to share their expertise and experience with our project team and whose insights have informed the development of the conclusions in this paper. In addition, I thank Summers Hammel for her research assistance on this paper and the logistical support she provided to the project, along with the team at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, including Kathryn Moffat, Francesca Giovannini, Kathleen Torgesen, Phyllis Bendell, Scott Raymond, Heather Struntz, and Peter Walton.

Finally, we offer our deep appreciation to Humanity United, The Oak Foundation, and The Smith Richardson Foundation for supporting the Civil Wars, Violence, and International Responses project.

David W. Oxtoby
President, American Academy of Arts and Sciences