Mara Karlin, Author and Associate Professor of the Practice of Strategic Studies at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University
Dipali Mukhopadhyay, Moderator; Associate Professor of International and Public Affairs, School of International and Public Affairs
Steven Biddle, Discussant, Professor of International and Public Affairs, School of International and Public Affairs
Combining rigorous academic scholarship with the experience of a senior Pentagon policymaker, Mara E. Karlin explores the key national security issue of our time: how to effectively build partner militaries. Given the complex and complicated global security environment, declining U.S. defense budgets, and an increasingly connected (and often unstable) world, the United States has an ever-deepening interest in strengthening fragile states. Particularly since World War II, it has often chosen to do so by strengthening partner militaries. It will continue to do so, Karlin predicts, given U.S. sensitivity to casualties, a constrained fiscal environment, the nature of modern nationalism, increasing transnational security threats, the proliferation of fragile states, and limits on U.S. public support for military interventions. However, its record of success is thin. While most analyses of these programs focus on training and equipment, Building Militaries in Fragile States argues that this approach is misguided. Instead, given the nature of a fragile state, Karlin homes in on the outsized roles played by two key actors: the U.S. military and unhelpful external actors. With a rich comparative case-study approach that spans Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, Karlin unearths provocative findings that suggest the traditional way of working with foreign militaries needs to be rethought. Benefiting from the practical eye of an experienced national security official, her results-based exploration suggests new and meaningful findings for building partner militaries in fragile states.
Mara Karlin is Associate Professor of the Practice of Strategic Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), where she also serves as acting director of the school’s Strategic Studies Program, and is executive director of The Merrill Center for Strategic Studies. Karlin is a nonresident senior fellow in the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings. She has served in national security roles for five U.S. secretaries of defense, advising on policies spanning strategic planning, defense budgeting, future wars and the evolving security environment, and regional affairs involving the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. Karlin received her bachelor’s, summa cum laude, in political science from Newcomb College, Tulane University; her master’s with distinction in strategic studies, Middle East studies, and economics from Johns Hopkins SAIS; and doctorate in international relations from Johns Hopkins SAIS. Karlin has been awarded Department of Defense Medals for Meritorious and Outstanding Public Service, among others.
Dipali Mukhopadhyay is Associate Professor of International and Public Affair at Columbia University, where she teaches international security. She is a faculty affiliate of the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. She recently published the book, Warlords, Strongman Governors and State Building in Afghanistan (Cambridge, 2014). Prior to joining SIPA and Saltzman, Mukhopadhyay spent 2011 as a post-doctoral fellow at Princeton University. She has been conducting research in Afghanistan since 2007 and made her first trip to the country for a project with the Aga Khan Development Network in 2004. She also conducted research along the Turkey-Syria border in 2013 and 2014. Mukhopadhyay’s research has been funded by the Carnegie Corporation, the Eisenhower Institute, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the U.S. Institute of Peace, Harvard Law School, and the U.S. Department of Education. Her writings have been published in academic books and journals as well as by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Foreign Policy, U.S. News & World Report, and The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage Blog. She is a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations. Mukhopadhyay received her doctorate from Tufts University’s Fletcher School for Law and Diplomacy in 2010.
Stephen Biddle is Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, and Adjunct Senior Fellow for Defense Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. He has served on the Defense Department’s Defense Policy Board, on General David Petraeus’ Joint Strategic Assessment Team in Baghdad in 2007, as a Senior Advisor to the Central Command Assessment Team in Washington in 2008-9, as a member of General Stanley McChrystal’s Initial Strategic Assessment Team in Kabul in 2009, and on a variety of other government advisory panels and analytical teams. Biddle lectures regularly at the U.S. Army War College and other military schools, and has presented testimony before congressional committees on issues relating to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria; force planning; conventional net assessment; and European arms control. Biddle’s book, Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle (Princeton University Press, 2004) won four prizes, including the Council on Foreign Relations Arthur Ross Award Silver Medal for 2005, and the 2005 Huntington Prize from the Harvard University Olin Institute for Strategic Studies. His other publications include scholarly papers in International Security, Security Studies, The Journal of Strategic Studies, The Journal of Politics, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, International Studies Quarterly, and other academic journals; shorter pieces on military topics in Foreign Affairs, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, The American Interest, The National Interest, and other news and opinion outlets; and 31 NATO and U.S. government-sponsored reports and monographs. Before joining the Columbia faculty in fall 2018 Biddle was Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University, and has held the Elihu Root chair in military studies at the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) and the Roger Hertog Senior Fellowship at the Council on Foreign Relations.