02/04/2006 04:51 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

US Media Ignore UN Study on Iraq 'Peace-Building' Methods Backfiring

"The United States is avoiding widely recognised peace-building processes that involve external military powers quickly creating a basic security environment and then allowing domestic peace- and nation-building efforts to succeed," says the Inter Press Service News Agency, reporting on a new book, Security Sector Reform and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding, published by the United Nations University Press.

"Instead of stabilizing places like Iraq, international efforts to centralize power are creating a more fragile security environment than ever before," the press release quotes co-editor Albrecht Schnabel, senior research fellow at swisspeace Swiss Peace Foundation, and a lecturer at the Institute of Political Science, University of Bern. "[A]lmost three years after the toppling of Saddam Hussein, Iraq is characterized by chaos, violence and disintegration. The methods used to rebuild Iraq's security sector are simply making matters worse." The IPS story goes further:

What has happened in Iraq over the past three years violates many of the recommendations in the book, which draw on experiences in the post-conflict environments of Macedonia, Bosnia, Russia, Georgia, Northern Ireland, El Salvador, Guatemala, Columbia, Chile, Haiti and on the African continent.

"Internal forces must be put under democratic control, restructured and retrained to become an asset, not a liability, in the long-term peace-building process," the authors state.

"Security sector reform efforts are only successful when external actors are able and willing to stay the course and support an irrevocable process towards security consolidation and security sector reform, and where national and local authorities are committed and able to sustain such progress once external actors retreat."

"We weren't trying to pick on the U.S. here," said Schnabel. "But they did overestimate the difficulty of the peace-building process and optimistically hoped for the best."

Schnabel estimates that "full democracy is at least 20 years in the future." It also doesn't help that the US has re-armed some of the tribal warlords in Afghanistan to fight the newly resurgent Taliban (did anybody else hear about this?). "You can't build a nation by supporting warlords," said Schnabel.

The "good news" is "I think Iraq will be the last big military intervention," the IPS quotes David Carment, director of the Centre for Security and Defence Studies at Canada's Carleton University. It is much cheaper to prevent conflicts or collapse of countries in the first place, he says.