Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What's Wrong with Nation Building?

I tell my friends that I'm so liberal I support the war in Iraq. What I typically mean by that is that if American soldiers pulled out (even today), there would be a civil war and millions of people would be killed. For the same reason, I support peacekeeping missions in general, and even, horror of horrors, nation-building missions. These are all attempts, at their heart, to improve the lives of people living in other countries. I am not a fan of unrestrained capitalism, and but I am a fan of unrestrained development. And sometimes, the military is the best tool for that job, especially when people are killing each other and sometimes you just need a tank or two to get in the way and make it stop.

How many American troops do you think would have been necessary to keep Rwanda from becoming a bloodbath? Reading the accounts of both UN Peacekeepers and the survivors of the genocide there, I personally think it wouldn't have needed very many. Considering that UN forces were unable to actually run missions, and still managed to save quite a few lives (most well known at the Hotel des Mille Collines, but also in many other areas of the country) simply through their presence, how effective do you think a couple tanks and twenty soldiers who were able to defend themselves would have been? Yes, there is the possibility that this would have made the hotel more of a target, but as we saw in Somalia, twenty soldiers are capable of dealing out a hell of a lot of damage on under-armed and poorly trained insurgents in a stand-up fight.

But getting back to my point - in a recent article in Time magazine, a line caught my eye: "With his advisers split between advocating a full-scale counterinsurgency, which some Democrats say amounts to nation-building". Now, seriously, what is wrong with nation building? We performed nation building in Germany and Japan after World War II, South Korea, the Philippines, and these are all thriving nations, with a solid, democratic, and peaceful government, who are relatively staunch allies of the United States.

And the liberal part of me points to the "relatively" qualifier as the most important part of that phrase. These are not puppet governments in some imperialistic American attempt to take over the world. These are governments which are looking after the interests of their own people, not falling into lockstep with American desires. That those interests tend to coincide with America's is not an indication of any conspiracy or imperialism, its simply that democracies tend to get along with other democracies, and this is overall a good thing for the world.

1 comment:

Momagain said...

The problem with Afghanistan is that it would take a lot more than a tank or two. Not to mention, which nation do you build? There appears to be more than just a country involved, and even more than two countries. The talk of 40,000 more troops there doesn't sound like nation-building to me. And just to continue the analogy, tanks are useless. Not to mention th recent New Yorker article (which I tried to send to you but couldn't "attach")on Richard Holbrooke that makes it sound like a long drawn-out process.

I agree with you on some of your points but I think you need more than a couple of paragraphs to explain.