Nation-Building in the Middle East Is an Illusion

(National Interest) Amitai Etzioni - The notion that the U.S. can engage in nation-building in the Middle East is a sociological illusion. The U.S. sank half a trillion dollars into nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq over fifteen years. Afghanistan has a regime that cannot protect itself or pay for itself. In Iraq, the military and police trained and advised by the U.S. are often used by the Shia government to kill and harass Sunnis. The U.S. did succeed in stabilizing Germany and Japan and turning them into democratic societies, but different conditions existed in these two countries. They included a full cessation of all hostilities before any nation-building, a high level of domestic security, and local acceptance of the foreign occupation and the democratization drive. In addition, these nations had strong national unity, competent government personnel, and a low level of corruption. Furthermore, they had strong economic fundamentals, including strong industrial bases, established infrastructure, educated populations, and vigorous support for science and technology, corporations, business and commerce. Their cultural values included hard work, high levels of saving, and other forms of self-restraint and capacity to defer gratification, essential for democratic development. Not even one of these conditions exists in the contested nations in the Middle East. The writer is professor of international affairs at George Washington University.

2016-08-31 00:00:00

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