Nation-Building Fuels Civil Destruction
By Pierre Tristram
Nation Building , 2007 [->0]
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"The strength of the West in relation to the East has never been in its impositions and colonialisms."
Pierre Tristam argues in this viewpoint that the U.S. nation-building in Iraq mimics circumstances involving the United States in Southeast Asia over thirty years ago. In both instances, he believes the United States has exaggerated its nation-building efforts to cover up the destruction it wages against the societies it is involved with. Tristam predicts, based on his historical reading, the United States will blame the Arabs for our own failures in Iraq and ...view middle of the document...
Sure, the destruction of a revered Shiite mosque in Samarra, allegedly by Sunni militants, was not going to get a kinder reception than the destruction of the 16th Century Babri mosque in Ayodhya, in India, by Hindus, in December 1992. That barbaric eruption led to riots across India and Pakistan that left more than 1,000 people dead and renewed fears of a sectarian breakdown on the subcontinent, possibly even another reason for India and Pakistan to go at it a fourth time in six decades. The fears were exaggerated. The discovery that religion is south Asia's radioactive variant was not. It's that very variant the neo-cons [neoconservatives] ignored when they celebrated the invasion of Iraq as a turning point in Mideastern destiny.
Military Force Is Not Nation-Building
It has been a turning point, with the wrong assumptions at gunpoint. The problem wasn't Iraq's WMDs [weapons of mass destruction] or Iran's nukes. It's the region's religious warheads. There's no easier way to arm them than with Western-fueled resentment, no quicker way to set them off than with the permanent reminder of an alien army of provocateurs, the same Anglo provocateurs whose boots not so long ago, in every grandfather's memory, flattened the culture with colonialism and called it progress. Conversely, there are more credible, more Wilsonian ways to diffuse the warheads, beginning with Woodrow Wilson's aversion to assuming mandates and protectorates over regions better left to sort out their issues on their own, but with available help when requested.
That's the approach Francis Fukuyama, the ex-neocon, is now advocating in his belated berating of the neocon catastrophe in Iraq: "[T]he United States does not get to decide when and where democracy comes about. By definition, outsiders can't 'impose' democracy on a country that doesn't want it; demand for democracy and reform must be domestic. Democracy promotion is therefore a long-term and opportunistic process that has to await the gradual ripening of political and economic conditions to be effective." In other words, the so-called "liberal" approach advocated all along by those who don't see bombs as quite compatible with democratic nation-building.
The strength of the West in relation to the East has never been in its impositions and colonialisms. That's when it's been at its weakest, at its most repugnant, morally and politically. Western strength has been derived, paradoxically, from restraint: by valuing example above force, persuasion above imposition. (World War I and II were not battles between East and West but primarily within the West.) That strength, at the moment, has been made null and void by the American occupation of Iraq—by Abu Ghraib [torture of Iraqis by U.S. personnel at this Iraqi prison], by Guantanamo [Bay, Cuba, where the United States holds enemy combatants deemed terrorists], by the parody of democracy in Afghanistan and the emerging tragedy of democracy in Iraq, Iran and Palestine, where...