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
PodcastThe Air War Against the Islamic State
Becca Wasser and Stacie Pettyjohn are interviewed about the air war against the Islamic State that was critical to the territorial defeat of the group’s territorial caliphate ...
By Becca Wasser
Congressional TestimonyTrends, Timelines, and Uncertainty: An Assessment of the State of Cross-Strait Deterrence
Submitted Written TestimonyI. Introduction Chairman Talent, Chairman Goodwin, distinguished members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to participate in today’s h...
By Tom Shugart
CommentarySharper: National Security's Next Generation
The need to amplify new and diverse voices in national security policymaking has never been clearer....
By Chris Estep, Ainikki Riikonen & Cole Stevens
CommentaryShort-Term Action Items for Lloyd Austin's Pentagon
Dealing with urgent issues while beginning immediate work on desperately needed long-term structural reforms will be the overarching challenge for this team....
By Chris Dougherty