Notes on the Atrocities Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...
Thursday, February 05, 2004
Nation Building, Introduction
If the issue of nation building was a fairly prominent feature of George Bush's foreign policy in the last election, this year it may be the defining one. In 2000, Bush opposed what he saw as Clintonian intervention--export bleeding heartism. Ironically, Democrats are currently running against nation building in the Bush mode--imperial national interest.
What these positions obscure is that both liberal and conservative are mostly in agreement that nation building is good policy. It's only perceived radicals who oppose it, either collectivist, pro-UN types like Dennis Kucinich, or isolationist, anti-UN types like Pat Buchanan. So for very different reasons, nation building has become the default position for everyone from Tom Friedman to Paul Wolfowitz (there's even the enlightened Machiavellian approach of Robert Kaplan).
But these positions are far from cohesive, and lead to fractured, incoherent implementation like we're seeing in Iraq. Are we there to bring democracy (either to Iraqis or the region), defeat terror, set up a military beachhead to replace Saudi Arabia, or stabilize Mideast oil production? Without a clear sense of why the US should build nations, our foreign policy will continue to suffer from the riptide of competing interests.
Over the next few days, I'm going to take a look those competing interests: national security, national interest, promoting democracy, promoting national self-determination, global cooperation, imperialism, and of course, fighting terror.
Nation building isn't a monolith. Understanding the motivation and efficacy of these strategies is critical in crafting a coherent, effective foreign policy.