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
Why There Are No Game-Changing Weapons for Ukraine
Germany has become the second-biggest contributor of military aid to Ukraine after the United States, but you wouldn’t know it by following the debate in Berlin. In a replay o...
By Franz-Stefan Gady
To Avoid AI Catastrophes, We Must Think Smaller
These incidents are not theoretical, nor are they projections of long-term dangers; rather, these AI tools are already presenting tangible threats to individual health and wel...
By Josh Wallin
For Replicator to Work, the Pentagon Needs to Directly Help with Production
Today’s innovation ecosystem alone cannot achieve the necessary production scale, especially for the less commercially viable classes of systems relevant in the Indo-Pacific....
By Andrew Metrick
Sharper: Campaigning and the National Defense Strategy
The United States faces the unprecedented challenge of simultaneously deterring large-scale conventional aggression by two nuclear-armed powers while also managing other threa...
By Philip Sheers, Molly Campbell & Anna Pederson