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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Planning for nation building

Max Boot writes in the Los Angeles Times:

Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has been engaged nonstop in trying to rebuild war-ravaged lands. U.S. troops have taken the lead in Panama, Somalia, Haiti (twice), Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. has also offered considerable support to international efforts in East Timor, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Rwanda, Sudan and other places. A hundred years ago, this type of involvement in other countries' internal affairs would have been called, frankly, liberal imperialism. Today, we prefer euphemisms such as nation building, peacekeeping and stabilization. But whatever you call such operations, they are essential to stop the spread of problems such as infectious diseases, terrorism, genocide, narco-trafficking and refugee flows. The 9/11 attacks offered a nightmare scenario of what can happen if the U.S. ignores even a place as small and remote as Afghanistan. The issue is no longer whether we will do nation building but how well will we do it? So far, we haven't done a great job, in part because it is a notoriously difficult task, but also because we have not put the same kind of effort into postwar work that we have devoted to winning military campaigns. The costs of this neglect are all too apparent in Iraq, where the U.S. was grossly unprepared for the challenges we have faced since the fall of Baghdad in May 2003.
I have echoed this same theme myself numerous times. Boot goes on to describe the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization which has been created to address this issue and the difficulties it has recieving funding. In a globalized world, failed states will present a clear danger and not addressing them will be much more costly than addressing them. I think that the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization is far to modest of an attempt to deal with this issue seriously, but something is better than nothing.


Blogger The probligo said...

The U.S. has also offered considerable support to international efforts in East Timor...

That one instance is wrong, just totally wrong.

When Indonesia finally agreed, under some duress, to try and control the militias (some at least Indonesian army trained and sponsored), the US was approached to contribute to a peacekeeping force. The request was declined because (as I recall) "the US did not want to be involved in the internal affairs of a close friend".

The peacekeeping duties, supervision of the withdrawal of the militias, repatriation of the East Timorese being held in West Timor, the first elections and a good part of the reconstruction were undertaken by troops from Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Fiji, and Netherlands.

Not only did the US NOT make the offer, the request (from Indonesia through the UN) was politely declined.

11/17/2005 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

The U.S. contributed about 200 troops, mostly in logistics to that effort. Additionally I am sure a fair amount of U.S. money supported it.

Is that 'considerable support'? The term is somewhat vague, but I don't think you can say it is totally wrong.

If it was claimed that the U.S. took the lead in that effort I would agree with you, but it obviously did not claim that, it claimed the opposite.

11/17/2005 12:30:00 PM  

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