Over the last decade and a half, ‘state fragility’—and its implications for national and international security—has driven tectonic shifts in U.S. policy and military thinking.

This focus on the security implications of fragile states has led to arguably the most comprehensive reorganization of U.S. civilian and military agencies in recent decades. These front-end policy changes are well known: the White House outlined plans to reorganize civilian and interagency processes to better anticipate and respond to state failure; the U.S. military placed stability operations for the first time on the same level as combat operations, reorienting military planning and training accordingly; and U.S. development efforts likewise defined an explicit strategy to address the challenges of fragile states.

With increasing military deployments and aid investments in states affected by localized conflict, upheaval, and humanitarian crises, we have seen a convergence of policy interventions in fragile states. And yet, the complexity of ‘state fragility’ has not lent itself to easy analysis or response.

Strauss Center research explores the factors that drive state fragility, assessing potential precursors to state fragility and possible responses to prevent and alleviate that fragility. In analyzing the potential causes of state fragility, this research seeks to understand how state fragility may be impacted by factors like political leadership, economic policies, social cohesion, water and energy stress, non-state actors, small arms diffusion, and external shocks.

In analyzing potential responses to state fragility, this research focuses in particular on assessing the impact that various state institutions may have on state fragility. For example, do ‘stronger’ legislatures reduce state fragility? Does the judiciary play an outsized role in forestalling or contributing to state fragility? Does pluralism in state institutions reduce fragility?



  • Security and Development in Fragile States (Ashley Moran, Fall 2015)