In one developing country the military was disbanded after the end of a brutal dictatorial regime. For the last few years security has been provided primarily through international forces. Now these forces are considering leaving, and the people are understandably nervous. This country is not Iraq, but Liberia.
For the last two years this small African state, previously host to one of the continent’s most brutal civil wars, has been building a new army. The growing force is trying to shake off the reputation of past human rights violations, partially through higher recruiting standards.
However, this is not your typical mustering of the troops. First, the training of the new army is conducted by private military contractors, paid by the United States. It is hoped these contractors will be able to construct a modern, professional, and human rights capable security force. Second, the training is part of the United Nation’s endgame in Liberia. The UN argues it cannot have a permanent presence in the state and eventually security will have to be the responsibility of the Liberians themselves. That is, as the Liberian army and police stand up, the UN will sit down. Third, the army will, according to Defense Minister Brownie Samukai, have a “cardinal principle” that “[n]ot one inch of Liberian territory will be used to destablize our neighbors…”. This goal will likely make Liberia’s neighbors sleep better at night, though likely classic realist scholar less so.
Whatever happens, the undertaking in Liberia begs the question: Does the future of sustainable, cost effective human security come from international forces, domestic forces, or a hybrid of both?
Christopher R. Albon is a political science Ph.D. specializing in armed conflict, public health, human security, and health diplomacy.