Sunday, January 18, 2004

Nation-Building: We'd Better Get Used to It

Francis Fukuyama highlights the transformation of an administration that began its tenure promising to avoid the use of American troops for nation-building. Of course, 9/11 changed that policy. Fukuyama notes that we have taken on a nation-building activity every other year since the end of the Cold War; clearly we'd better get used to it and learn how to do it.

Regarding Iraq, Fukuyama argues that unexpected problems do not necessarily mean planning failures because "it is not possible to anticipate every contingency." The desire to reach Baghdad quickly and prevent oil field destruction meant using a small, nimble force which, after the war, was incapable of policing a more destabilized country than had been anticipated. Oil fields were not destroyed and no humanitarian or refugee crises emerged thanks to the constant flow of food during the war.

Perhaps the administration could have anticipated widespread chaos and the utter failure of government ministries. But more multilateral approaches making use of peacekeeping forces such as the Italian carabinieri did not prove effective in Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. According to Fukuyama, the administration's "most serious planning mistakes were to set up its postwar-reconstruction organization at the last minute, to endow it with insufficient authority, and to put it under the overall control of the Pentagon, which did not have the capacity to do the job properly."

Fukuyama goes on to detail these failures in the rest of the piece and even provocatively suggests the creation of a standing U.S. government office to manage nation-building.


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