Today the stage is Afghanistan — a near-failed state controlled by a weak central government, essentially devoid of basic infrastructure. The lessons of Liberia may help. Both countries are relatively underdeveloped and have a war-ravaged modern history. What's more, Afghans and Liberians both lack a sense of national identity as such and often identify first by ethnic group and second as Afghan or Liberian. These factors are challenges for creating a national army in a place where the majority of the population is illiterate, tribal or local loyalties trump patriotic allegiance, and ethnic blood feuds are ancient and deep.
Here, then, is an account of some of the decisions and obstacles we wrestled with in Liberia — an experience that taught me the challenges of creating soldiers and policemen whom children run toward for protection, rather than away from in fear.