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Nation-Building: Beyond Afghanistan and Iraq (Forum on Constructive Capitalism) 1st Edition
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A valuable resource filled with critical reflection and evaluation and offering valuable suggestions to reduce future mistakes... a sober testimony and very highly recommended.(Bookwatch 2006)
This is an important collection, indeed, offering a clear analysis of the lessons of the past, mistakes made in the present, and humane yet pragmatic recommendations for the future.(Fatima Raja McGill International Review )
A significant contribution to the very young literature about America's experience in nation-building.(Benjamin Zyla Canadian Army Journal )
About the Author
Francis Fukuyama is the Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of The End of History and the Last Man (1992) and State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century (2004). Dr. Fukuyama is director of SAIS's International Development Program, member of the Board of Directors of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and chairman of the editorial board of The American Interest.(2006)
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Fukuyama's introductory chapter lays out key concepts as well as the purpose of this volume. As in earlier works, he explains the slipperiness of the concept of "nation-building." He goes on to distinguish two aspects of this phenomenon, "reconstruction" (". . .the restoration of war-torn or damaged societies to their preconflict situation" [Page 5]) and "development" (". . .the creation of new institutions and the promotion of sustained economic growth. . . ." [page 5]). He laments the loss of American institutional memory on nation-building, noting that the Bush Administration essentially ignored the lessons from history as to how to carry out "nation-building." At the heart of this volume is a comparative case study of Iraq versus Afghanistan, and Fukuyama takes some time to distinguish these two interventions.
The first full section of the book examines the historical experience of and lessons from nation-building. The various authors consider post World War-II nation-building, the Ford Foundation's experience of the 1950s and 1960s, the American track record in the 20th century. Part II focuses on the Afghan experience of the United States. Starr's chapter suggests some potential "happy ending," as a result of the U. S. changing course in 2003 and 2004. He concludes that (page 124): "As of this writing, there is extensive evidence that the new approach is contributing directly and powerfully to nation-building in that long-suffering land." Weinbaum suggests that Afghanistan may actually be more likely to be a success story than Iraq, and indicates why. Goodson contends that the facts "on the ground" in Afghanistan may work out--but that the facts on the ground in Washington, D. C. undercut efforts in Afghanistan Iraq? Part II features essays exploring matters there. Larry Diamond's assessment is consistent with many others'--the US blew the nation-building after the successful military invasion, even though there is still the hope that matters will work out. Forman notes simply that (page 211): ". . .the mistakes made in the occupation of Iraq have made. . .the postconflict reconstruction program more difficult."
Fukuyama concludes the volume with suggested guidelines for future nation-building ventures.
In the final analysis, this is an important contribution to the relevant literature. One may not agree with all of the contributors or with various themes raised throughout the volume. But it is a thoughtful effort to address what is at stake in successful nation-building.
Fukuyama has put together a very good collection of articles that will help the reader put current nation-building projects in perspective by including a section at the beginning of the book that talks about nation-building in general. This section discusses what the U.S. has learned from its past foreign adventures, and unfortunately what it hasn't learned, and also what the Bush administration actively unlearned. This first section has a lot to offer in the way of historical analysis and explains how the U.S. got to where it is now, and all four of the articles contributed important perspectives.
The second section deals with Afghanistan. The imbalance of coverage between Iraq and Afghanistan in a more general sense is almost criminal, so any literature on the latter should be welcome. The first article by S. Frederick Starr is fantastic and will probably tell you more about Afghanistan than a year of reading the newspapers or watching relevent news shows. The other two articles on Afghanistan are not nearly as good as Starr's though. The content in these articles are important, but I felt Starr dealt approached them with more care and precision.
The final section about Iraq is also quite good. The chapters by Diamond and Dobbins are fantastic, but the Forman article did not compare. All three dealt with specific mistakes the U.S. has made in Iraq and how these mistakes could have been avoided. I believe Forman's weakness comes from the fact that she appears to be more of a Latin American specialist, rather than someone with experience in Iraq. That doesn't mean her comments aren't relevant, but when you're only going to put three articles about Iraq in a book called Nation-Building, I think a chapter by someone like Noah Feldman that had spent time as a CPA advisor would have been a much more appropriate choice.
Aside from these few minor weaknesses, this is a fantastic book. The more people that read this book the better. While not necessarily a book for beginners, it would be entirely appropriate for grad students, and an absolute necessity for any scholar that deals with the Middle East and/or nation-building in general.