Appetite for Construction

Nation-building always looks so easy on paper. Time to let reality be a harsh teacher.

Issue: Sept-Oct 2007

WHAT IF George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice were right the first time? Remember when he said in the second debate with Al Gore back in 2000,

I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called nation building. . . . I mean, we're going to have some kind of nation-building corps from America? Absolutely not.

You don't hear that rhetoric from the mainstream on either side this time, as candidates from Giuliani to Obama have rushed to pick up nation-building's fallen standard.

You also don't hear a more critical question. Not whether Western democracies should interfere in the affairs of collapsed states-it seems we will often have no choice-but whether in fact we can accomplish anything like what the phrase "nation-building", with all its can-do Americanism, implies.

Nation-building is not for wimps. It's time we ask ourselves whether it is for modern democracies.

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