How to Get Regime Change Right

By James Jeffrey

Ambassador James F. Jeffrey joined the Wilson Center in December 2020 as Chair of the Middle East Program. Ambassador Jeffrey served as the Secretary’s Special Representative for Syria Engagement and the Special Envoy to the Global Coalition To Defeat ISIS until November 8, 2020. He is a senior American diplomat with experience in political, security, and energy issues in the Middle East, Turkey, Germany, and the Balkans.

The U.S. has had mixed experiences attempting to establish governance, security, public services, economic activity, and political processes after the violent breakdown of a foreign state, either due to deliberate regime change by the U.S. or the collapse of governance following combat operations. The circumstances leading up to these challenges vary greatly. Deliberate regime change and societal transformation were central to plans to defeat Germany and Japan in World War II and to the overthrow of the regimes of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban in Iraq and Afghanistan. After the overthrow of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, post-regime reconstruction was famously not even attempted, in part because the U.S. and its international allies did not have troops on the ground. NATO troops, in contrast, did conduct nation building and stability operations after the liberation of Kosovo from Serbian control in 1999.

Despite successes (Germany and Japan) the record of post regime change/collapse has been mixed, particularly recently. This is true whether the effort is conducted by the U.S. virtually alone (Iraq) or as part of a large coalition under international leadership (Afghanistan).

“The Cipher Brief has become the most popular outlet for former intelligence officers; no media outlet is even a close second to The Cipher Brief in terms of the number of articles published by formers.” —Sept. 2018, Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 62

Access all of The Cipher Brief’s national security-focused expert insight by becoming a Cipher Brief Subscriber+ Member.


Categorized as:InternationalTagged with:

Related Articles

How Safe Would We Be Without Section 702?

SUBSCRIBER+EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW — A provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that has generated controversy around fears of the potential for abuse has proven to be crucial […] More