Conflict, stability, security and fragility are immensely awkward notions and practices with which to work. That has not stopped particularly those in the West, however, from trying very hard and at considerable cost in the post-Cold War era to bring ‘order’ to ‘chaos’, ‘democracy’ to ‘anarchy’, and to spread the other benefits of their way of life. There have been ‘successful’ cases where outside involvement has made an important positive difference. However, the record of intervention has been mixed. Considering that the issues and problems facing policy-makers in addressing conflict, stability and security are as pressing as ever, it is timely to re-assess how the record might be improved in the future.