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Is it really nation-building that we are after?

Reader comment on item: Reflections on the Invasion of Iraq

Submitted by stuffagain (United States), Mar 27, 2013 at 00:21

Dr Pipes points out that our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan included projects (hospitals, water wells, schools. etc.) that can be characterized as a "temptation to nation build". He further points out that this goal is both unattainable and inappropriate and therefore the sacrifice fruitless. If nation-building is the goal all this is true. However, these infrastructure measures can be justified from a completely different standpoint.

Post 9-11 we concluded, correctly, that (a) an enormous threat to the west emanates from the Middle East and southwest Asia, (b) a prime responsibility of the federal government in the foreseeable future, is to undertake those steps necessary to ensure that the threat does not materialize, and (c) managing the threat requires a military presence in-country, the main mission of which is to prevent a threatening force from seizing power. Given this outlook, the purpose of the infrastructure projects is not to nation-build, but rather to foster an acceptance of foreign troops amongst the population so that their mission can be more effectively carried out.

Similarly, the purpose of a rapid follow-on to an elected government, once the threatening government is ousted, (as opposed to installing a strong man of our choosing) is not an impatient desire to get to a western-style democracy as quickly as possible. Rather the purpose of rapid elections is to quickly direct responsibility for governance, and for whatever ensues, toward an indigenously chosen government and away from the western military presence.

The Obama administration has decided that a military presence in-country is not required to managing the threat. In this case, no national security interest is served by the infrastructure projects. It should keep any Middle East analyst awake at night wondering how this will unfold.

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