Can the US 'Build a Nation' in Iraq?
One way of assessing whether the United States will be able to meet its objective of building a stable, democratic polity in Iraq is to look at its record in other parts of the world. Minxin Pei and Sara Kasper use three criteria to define nation building efforts: (a) an American armed intervention that led to regime change or the survival of a regime that would otherwise have collapsed; (b) the deployment of a large number of US troops on the ground; and (c) the use of American military and civilian personnel in the administration of the target countries. On this definition, there have been 16 US attempts at nation building since 1900. How successful have they been in establishing stable democratic rule?
The record is at best 'mixed'. There are only two unambiguous successes: Japan and West Germany after World War Two. Grenada (1983 intervention) and Panama (1989 intervention) might also be counted among the successes, although Pei and Kasper suggest that Grenada is a rather easy case because of its very small population. 'Nation building generally is less challenging in small societies'. The overall success rate is therefore only about 25%.
Many 'policy briefs' fail to live up to their label; this one scores very highly.
Source: Minxin Pei and Sara Kasper, 'Lessons from the Past: The
American Record of Nation Building' Policy Brief 24, Carnegie Endowment
for International Peace, May 2003. This paper is available at
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