This article discusses the attempts at state-building by international actors in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It uses this experience to discuss some of the obstacles and dilemmas facing external state-builders. I argue that attempts at state-building by foreign actors in the DRC have not had much success, and point out four reasons. First, insufficient resources have been provided. Second, donors have used a standardized approach that does not take local context sufficiently into account. Third, domestic power relations have been such that state-building has not served the interests of key actors. Finally, the policy has been based on a fixed, non-negotiable conception of what the state eventually should look like. Although all these factors have contributed to the failure to create a liberal state in the DRC, the last two appear to be more fundamental than the first and the second.