A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting at a dinner next to Stephen Krasner, a Stanford political scientist who used to head the State Department’s policy planning staff. Steve isn’t a national security lawyer, but he works on the sort of questions that inform the work of Lawfare readers. And partly for that reason, he serves with me on the Hoover Institution’s Task Force on National Security and the Law, which put on the conference we were both attending. Steve and I spent the dinner discussing his current book project, a completely fascinating study of the circumstances in which states can—and cannot—successfully encourage democratic development in other states. Why was the United States able to create stable democratic government in Japan and Germany but not in Iraq or Afghanistan? Does building institutions in failed or weak states do any good? And if not, how should the United States think about improving governance in countries like Yemen, Somalia, and Mali? After thinking about our discussion, I asked Steve the following day to record an episode of the podcast on the subject. I did this not because Steve here is addressing an important legal question, but because he is addressing a critical foreign policy question which, in turn, begs a great many of the legal questions on which this site spends its time. It’s the question that lies behind the Afghanistan project, behind COIN, behind much of our policy in Yemen. Steve’s thesis, which he is still developing, is subtle and rich–and he has unearthed a group of surprising examples not only of failures but of successes too.