The movie Downfall, about the final days of Adolf Hitler, contains a scene that has been turned into countless memes with various subtitles. In the original, Hitler learns that the defeat of Germany is imminent and explodes at his senior generals. My favorite meme is titled, “Hitler Learns About Sequestration”: The madman is informed of the imminence of the enormous budget cut and laments the loss of military superiority, crying “What are we going to do, build partner capacity?”1
In her recent book, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States, Mara Karlin explores America’s history with capacity building missions and considers how it fits a world of limited defense resources. In the eyes of policymakers I have worked with, efforts to build partner capacity lie somewhere between a magical antidote to all of America’s security problems and an inevitable — and less expensive — back-up date. Respected leaders have hailed building the security capacity of U.S. allies and partners as “a key and enduring test of America’s global leadership in the 21st century,”2 consistent with its history and ideological underpinnings. Put more bluntly, Karlin notes up front that “[t]he United States faces a long-term decline in defense spending going forward” and “U.S. direct military intervention [to bolster fragile states] is politically unacceptable.” Thus, America needs a way to pursue its security interests on the cheap, and “building partner militaries is one key way to do so.”3
Read the full article in Texas National Security Review.
- “Hitler Finds Out About Sequestration,” Youtube, Fiscal Cliff, Nov. 28, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zCDDYVTjLI. ↩
- Robert M. Gates, “Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates,” Nixon Center, Washington, DC, Feb. 24, 2019, http://archive.defense.gov/speeches/speech.aspx?speechid=1425. ↩
- Mara E. Karlin, Building Militaries in Fragile States: Challenges for the United States (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), 4. ↩
More from CNAS
CommentaryStrange Debacle: Misadventures In Assessing Russian Military Power
Russia’s botched invasion of Ukraine has befuddled most defense analysts and Russia experts....
By Chris Dougherty
ReportsDangerous Straits: Wargaming a Future Conflict over Taiwan
Download the full PDF Executive Summary Until recently, U.S. policymakers and subject matter experts have viewed the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) forcible unification ...
By Stacie Pettyjohn, Becca Wasser & Chris Dougherty
PodcastPresident Volodymyr Zelenskiy visits front lines as fighting intensifies
In Ukraine, the most intense fighting is happening in the eastern part of the country in a region called the Donbas. Right now, Russia is trying to take control of a town call...
By Chris Dougherty
CommentaryTime to start operationalizing wearable technology in the DoD
Given Congress’ intent on this technology, department leaders should seek to embrace its potential and empower each service....
By Lt Col Gabe S. Arrington