September 13, 2003


A Lesson for Baghdad: The experience of another recent nation-building effort, in East Timor, is a cautionary tale for Iraq and Afghanistan. (BRENNON JONES, 9/13/03, NY Times)

On his recent trip to Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called for the speedy recruitment and training of former Iraqi military officers to keep the peace in their country. He made a similar suggestion at his next whistle stop, Afghanistan. It's a logical idea, but the experience of another recent nation-building effort, in East Timor, is a cautionary tale.

East Timor has a population of 800,000 -- minuscule in comparison to Iraq and Afghanistan, each with 25 million -- and the combined police and defense forces will in the end be some 6,000 men and women. Bringing these forces up to international standards, and to the point where they have earned the respect of the local population, has taken more than three years of extensive training by the United Nations and countries including Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal. [...]

While it's great to call for swift elections, democracy and the rule of law, these are hardly achievable if burdens are placed too quickly on undertrained domestic security forces. Training and equipping a fledgling force cannot be done quickly or on the cheap. The force must be taught to respect human rights, to treat the community with respect, and to use nonlethal crowd-control measures.

Three or four years? How long does it take a metropolitan area to train a cop or the U.S. military to train a soldier?

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 13, 2003 8:10 AM

You don't understand - it takes that long to teach them how to put the blue helmets on.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 13, 2003 4:01 PM

It doesn't take that long to make a soldier. It takes at least that long to make a sergeant.

Posted by: Keith R at September 13, 2003 7:25 PM

Keith has a good point.

As a matter of reference, it was 18 months from the day I started active duty as a student pilot until my first mission ready flight as an F-111 pilot.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 13, 2003 9:12 PM

If their cops are being trained to fly advanced fighter jets I can see it taking awhile.

Posted by: oj at September 14, 2003 3:41 PM


Exactly. While, as Keith noted, it takes time to "grow" mid-level leaders, 3 years to make the civil version of infantrymen (I was essentially a glorified infantryman) is ridiculous.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 14, 2003 4:24 PM