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Book Reviews

Vol. 2 No. 2 | Summer 2015
Corruption Thre...

Corruption Threats & International Missions:

Practical Guidance for Leaders 

A Book Review by Michael Sullivan | 24 August 2015

Over the last 14 years of war, our military developed incredible relationships both within and outside the Department of Defense. The concept of the Joint Force reached its full potential as we relied on one another in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan.  We learned how to effectively integrate the talents of our Special Operations Forces and conventional forces on the battlefield.  We integrated with other government agencies on the battlefield, ranging from the CIA to USAID, moving the concept of “one team, one fight” forward.  We even worked closely with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and humanitarian organizations, often finding ourselves in similar areas with similar goals. As we continue to downsize in Afghanistan and our efforts in Iraq remain at the advisory level, my biggest fear is that we forget the lessons we have paid for with the blood and sweat of our brothers and sisters. It is absolutely critical that the military retain the myriad lessons learned from these 14 years for future conflicts.


Toward the goal of capturing important lessons learned, Transparency International UK’s Defence and Security Programme has published the valuable handbook, “Corruption Threats and International Missions: Practical Guidance for Leaders.”  This well-written and easy-to-use document will be invaluable to leaders of any organization conducting operations in areas where corruption exists, but especially for our military leaders of today and tomorrow. 


In the military, we have observed and dealt with corruption everywhere. Whether in the Kosovo Protection Corps, the Afghan local police or the Iraqi Army, each of us who have deployed to one of these areas has experience dealing with corruption. Current operations, whether in Central America, Africa or once again in Iraq, are in areas where corruption is not only rampant – it is often a culturally acceptable way of conducting business.  But what should a leader, whether in a military unit or humanitarian organization do, when faced with this type of endemic corruption?  This field guide provides meaningful advice and examples on how to deal with corruption. 


As an Army Officer, I like the format of this field guide.  Its format consists of a mix of checklists, examples, and various corruption scenarios a leader may encounter.  In my opinion, this publication is perfect for any leader of an organization who is working in an area where there is the potential for corruption.  Realistically, that is almost anywhere in the world where we find ourselves today.


The guide starts out with a basic, but incredibly relevant explanation as to why corruption is such an issue where we operate.  The title of the first chapter, “Why is corruption a threat to mission success?” can easily be applied to any organization operating around the globe.  While too often we turn a blind eye to corruption, this manual hammers home why corruption is so devastating to any mission, whether military or humanitarian.


Chapter two looks at the 10 main corruption pathways, the varying ways you can look at corrupt networks and the risks within forces caused by corruption.   You get a more in-depth analysis at each of these pathways in chapter six as well.  Chapter three will be invaluable to those preparing to go to a region where we know corruption exists.  The “Specific Preparatory Actions” section provides a checklist of considerations and potential solutions/options as you plan for your eventual entrance into an area rife with corruption. 


For me personally, chapter four was the most valuable, having spent a good deal of my time deployed working with host nation security forces.  Using a similar format of chapter three, I read this chapter and wished aloud that I had this knowledge before my first rotation to Iraq in 2004. I worked at a member of an Advisory Support Team training one of the first Regular Iraqi Army Battalions and made nearly every mistake possible.  Clearly the authors have previous experience building partner capacity.  As I read each item to consider regarding host nation security forces and corruption, I literally shouted aloud,  “Yes!” as I saw in print a list of all the things I failed to consider back in 2004.   This chapter alone will be of extreme value to junior leaders preparing to work with host nation forces, a continuing mission of extreme value to our national security. 


Chapter five gets into existing guidance on anti-corruption. It includes sources ranging from NATO to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs on how different organizations attempt to deal with corruption. Additionally, the chapter points out how the current guidelines apply in Afghanistan for the international forces operating there. This chapter serves as a literature review of the existing doctrine and practices in use for dealing with corruption and is an important point as a “one stop shop” for anyone researching existing anti-corruption policies. 


Finally, the last chapter outlines in greater depth the “ten main corruption pathways” which I found extremely interesting and useful.  While you may find a different corruption pathway in your operational area, these ten capture what you are most likely going to encounter and provides you with the time to think about them.  Most importantly, it provides recommendations on how to plan on dealing with corruption before you ever set foot on the ground.  These ten pathways may serve as your planning considerations as an organization models the potential challenges they may face regarding corruption. 


Overall, this is an extremely user-friendly handbook for any military organization that operates or trains to operate in an environment where corruption is prevalent—in other words, every military organization! Available for free on Transparency International’s website, I cannot praise this work enough and have shared it with my colleagues who continue to operate around the globe.  It is worth a look.

To read Transparency International's UK Defence and Security Programme handbook: Corruption Threats and International Missions: Practical Guidance for Leaders, click here.
Time for a Re-w...

Though the USIP’s Guiding Principles for Stabilization and Reconstruction have served as an adequate guide to post-conflict peace operations, it is time for a re-write.


Developed as a joint project of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the U.S. Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute (PKSOI) in 2009, the Guiding Principles for Stabilization and Reconstruction serve as a good initial response in addressing the need for a document that contributes to the enhancement of interagency coordination.  Lacking the glue of doctrine that binds military forces together in peacebuilding operations, civilian agencies are often left with only cooperation and good will as guiding principles. As a first generation reply to the lack of comprehensive strategic guidance for civilian agencies of the U.S. government working in conflict-affected areas,[1] the Guiding Principles have served well. However, now it is time to rethink if the Guiding Principles are adequate for the peacebuilding challenges we now face and can expect to confront in the future.

A major challenge when designing principles of any type is that they must be broad enough to apply across a broad range of events that have not yet occurred, while simultaneously being specific enough to be useful. The authors of the Guiding Principles navigated that challenge well. Nonetheless, the Guiding Principles fall short of their potential. They assume a fixed and controllable post-conflict context, with little recognition of complexity. The complexity of modern conflict and peacebuilding is bound up in the recognition that activities occur in the physical, social, and spiritual domains, simultaneously, and at the interpersonal, community, national, and regional levels of analysis.[2]


Peacebuilding is a growth industry, and the spaces in which peace and stability operations are conducted is becoming crowded with Whole-of-Society actors. Coordination between these actors and the agencies they represent is an ongoing challenge. As a living document, it is important to critically review the Guiding Principles and determine if they are having a positive impact in contributing to interagency coordination in complex peacebuilding operations.


Possibly the major strength of the Guiding Principles is that they offer the interagency system with a shared lexicon. Currently missing from the interagency and military peacebuilding literature is an accepted structure and language that can be used by the multiple actors in a conflict area. The Guiding Principles make a tentative step in that direction. However, they should not be viewed as the answer. The Guiding Principles seem best applicable in stable conditions where control is possible and complexity is absent—something rarely possible. It is absolutely necessary to recognize that the conflict context should drive any intervention. Policymakers must focus on a bottom-up approach rather than a top-down one where we expect stability to cascade through society. The Guiding Principles engender an almost myopic focus on elites. Anchored to a neo-liberal approach to peacebuilding and conflict resolution, the Guiding Principles appear to ignore the importance of non-Western, indigenous peace processes. This leads to a work that is highly prescriptive in nature following an expert model of intervention in contrast to a more elective, ally-centered approach. Local actors are treated as bit-players in someone else’s show.


Missing is a discussion on non-state actors and the multiple roles they can play in the peacebuilding process. Non-state actors and groups cannot be wished away. Connected here is the text’s recognition that political agreements are necessary in moving forward with stabilization and reconstruction activities; however, there is no meaningful discussion of how political agreements are determined. For so important an activity, this is a glaring deficiency in the Guiding Principles.

Beginning with existing circumstances, the Guiding Principles address only tangentially the potential need for designing peace infrastructures. Peacebuilders should remain attuned to the possibility that the structures themselves are the problem, and that working within them can lead to a loss of credibility with the host population.  Working within an inadequate system can inadvertently lead to a band-aid approach to peacebuilding where the damaged social body is patched back together with little regard for whether it is worth repairing.


A multi-track approach to peacebuilding that integrates formal state, non-governmental, and grassroots peacebuilding approaches into a broad range of actions will contribute much to enhancing the utility of the Guiding Principles. This holistic approach is needed if we are to better coordinate the multiple actors present in modern conflict-affected areas where chaos, contradiction, and ambiguity are the norm. We must embrace the complexity of these contexts, not avoid it. In order to build complexity into the interagency approach, recognizing the need to operate simultaneously at the interpersonal, community, national, and regional levels will prove useful.


Peacebuilders should rapidly move away from purpose-based end-states that suggest static and controlled environments. A broader discussion of next-states is desirable. End-state thinking contributes to a linear approach to peacebuilding that restricts the utility of the Guiding Principles. History never ends. There can be no end-state, only an altered context. Ideally, we will achieve a better conflict. As peacebuilding professionals, we delude ourselves when we think we can act upon a complex conflict environment and move it to a static end.


Expanding the peacebuilding narrative to incorporate a discussion of the drivers of peace will be useful.  Drivers of conflict, and those activities within society that can mitigate the negative effects of context, can unwittingly move the conflict to the least destructive condition. This is a negative approach to conflict management. As the drivers of conflict are reduced, a space for peace is opened, and there needs to be a peace structure that is capable of occupying that newly opened place. Simply mitigating the negative effects of conflict is not enough. Designed peace structures are required.


As mentioned earlier, peacebuilding strategies today require a cultural sensitivity that incorporates indigenous peace processes from the start. Also needed is a cultural awareness that attends to differences within the interagency system. The old saying applies: “if we want people with us on the landing, they need to be with us on the takeoff.” The thinking that informs ideas of transition from U.S. peacebuilding practitioners to the post-conflict nation contributes to a linear strategy.  Needed is more horizontal and less vertical thinking.


Greed and grievance thinking heavily influences the Guiding Principles.[3] This is an outcome of its highly Western approach to peacebuilding and conflict management/resolution. A reliance on the Rational Actor Model of conflict resolution, where individuals follow their interests in an almost game-like process, is shortsighted. Lacking is recognition of the increasing identity-based and religious dimensions of conflict. Religious conflict is at a six-year high,[4] and every indication is that we can expect religion and religious actors to play an increasing role in future conflicts. This is possibly the biggest gap in the Guiding Principles approach to stabilization and reconstruction. Where is the discussion of religion? Religion is wholly missing from the Guiding Principles. Ignoring religion as an element of analysis is difficult to understand, especially given religion’s global resurgence,[5] and its significance in post-conflict environments.[6] Certainly, not all conflicts are religious in nature; however many—if not most—have a religious dimension. Failing to discuss the potential of religion and religious actors to contribute to peacebuilding leaves a significant intellectual space unfilled.


So, it is past time to re-look the Guiding Principles with an eye toward moving them away from a Rational Actor Model of peacebuilding that ignores the complexity and multidimensional nature of conflicts. The next edition of the Guiding Principles should include a discussion of how peacebuilding needs to occur at the interpersonal, community, national, and regional levels of analysis and in an environment characterized by the physical, social, and spiritual needs of host nation actors.


[1] United States Institute of Peace, “Guiding Principles for Stabilization and Reconstruction” 2009,

[2] Thomas Matyok, Cathryne Schmitz, and Hannah Rose Mendoza, “Deep Analysis: Designing Complexity Into Our Understanding of Conflict” InterAgency Journal (Summer 2014), 14-24.

[3] “Greed and grievance” are two common Western conceptions of civil war drivers.

[4] Pew Research Center, January, 2014,

[5] Peter L. Berger, “The Desecularization of the World: The Global Overview,” The Desecularization of the World: Resurgent Religion and World Politics ed. Peter L. Berger (Washington, D.C.: Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1999), 1-18.

[6] Robert Cunningham, “Religion in Peacemaking and Statecraft: Whither Faith-Based Diplomacy?” in Seaford House Papers, 2004 ed. J.E. Spence (UK: Royal College of Defence Studies, 2004), 142.

Dr. Thomas Matyók

Dr. Thomas Matyók is an assistant professor in the Conflict and Peace Studies program at The University of North Carolina - Greensboro. He has been professionally involved in conflict resolution for over 35 years as a mediator, negotiator, facilitator, trainer, executive and conflict coach, dispute systems designer, researcher, and professor. He has consulted for private, civic, religious, and community organizations. Dr. Matyók has been interviewed for radio and television regarding international conflicts and national security issues. He has negotiated significant international agreements and has been recognized for his abilities by the United States Coast Guard and United States Army as well as national and international human rights organizations. He has presented and testified to industry and government officials regarding cross-cultural conflict and slavery in the transnational merchant marine. His current research interests are violence, global citizenship, missing war narratives, institutions of peace, and the academic preparation of international conflict workers.

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