The Hidden Costs of US Security Cooperation
Responsible Statecraft, March 2021
A new piece
by SAM Director Lauren Woods takes a critical look at the hidden costs of America’s vast security cooperation enterprise and the risks it poses to international peace, civilian protection, and U.S. national interests.
The piece highlights the expanding role of security cooperation in U.S. foreign policy, which has increasingly been used as a one-size-fits-all tool in managing global crises and international partnerships. The problem, as Woods sees it, is “a lack of strategic oversight that can result in and perpetuate humanitarian catastrophes” and work at cross-purposes to broader U.S. foreign policy objectives.
The outsourcing of U.S. security has dire consequences for civilian protection and international human rights, argues Woods. The shifting of responsibility to foreign partners provides distance between Washington and the consequences of heavy-handed military operations, with insufficient monitoring functions to track how U.S. support is affecting local populations.
The issue is exacerbated by challenges in oversight, accountability, and transparency in the U.S. security cooperation space. Data can be difficult to source, and the scale and scope of U.S. military assistance programs are understood by very few. However, Woods notes that members of congress have been taking on a more active oversight role in recent years, particularly when it comes to arms sales.
The full piece
can be read here in Responsible Statecraft.