A Review on Fukuyama's "Nation-Building"


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Francis Fukuyama who is best known as the author of The End of History and the Last Man is the director of the International Development Program at the Johns Hopkins University. Fukuyama is his latest book “Nation- Building” gathers a number of essay all written in a way related to US desire of nation-building. We will consider the essays by himself (Introduction), David Ekbladh, francis X. Sutton and Minxin Pei and Samia Amin.

“I don’t think our troops ought to be used for what’s called nation-building. I think our troops ought to be used to fight and win war”. (October 11, 2000)

“I sent American troops to Iraq to make its people free, not to make them American. Iraqis will write their own history, and find their own way”. (May 24, 2004)

Fukuyama started his introduction by Bush’s claim on that they do not plan for nation-building in Iraq and they are over there just to free people of Iraq and not to tell them how to decide for themselves. He then mentions the transformation in Bush’s policies over nation-building and comparing the Democrats and Republicans on this issue. “Conservatives have always been skeptical about nation-building as a kind of international social welfare, whereas liberals have seen the efforts to create a democratic Iraq as an extension of the American empire”. Both Democrats and Republicans are making efforts for nation-building at different times; “ Conservatives as part of the “war on terrorism” and liberals for the sake of humanitarian intervention”.

US international nation-building strategies have intensified and expanded in the post-Cold war era. American nation-building has a long history in US foreign policy as david Ekbladh, Francis X. Sutton, and Pei also wrote in their essays, although it has raised after 1989 rapidly. In line with many people in countries that are under US nation-building process, Europeans as well do criticise America’s nation-building. “Europeans often criticize American for the use of the term nation-building, reflecting as it does the specifically American experience of constructing a new political order in a land of new settlement without deeply rooted peoples, cultures, and traditions”. Europeans believe such nations will never be built.

According to him nation-building has two process; reconstruction and development. Reconstruction means restoration of “war-torn societies” and development indicates promotion of new institutions and economic condition. US had several experiences of nation-building after Civil war like in Philippines and Caribbean. Yet, institution learning for Americans was so low and they forgot their experiences and pitfalls in their other projects especially after Bush administration. “Unfortunately, few of the officials responsible for the Iraq reconstruction had personal experience with these earlier efforts”. He then compare the nation-building process in Iraq and Afghanistan and concludes that US made a big mistake in Iraq, considering it an easy task to perform.

Daivd Ekladh mostly talks about the post-war career of nation-building in US foreign relations. “David Ekbladh demonstrates the self-confidence of Americans in their ability to help poor countries develop was quite high soon after World war II and then during the Vietnam war”. Many US policymakers and actors would consider nation-building a collective activity after World War II. Many nongovernmental organizations, private business and international organizations and institutions were US ganets in this realm of reconstruction and development in the other countries. Foreign aid programs had evolution like USAID with the “mobilization of such private resources by the US government”. Even some US universities, such as Michigan State, University were active to help US reach its goal in nation-building in places like Vietnam. “taken as a whole, the Voetnam era was the “perfect storm” to rearrange not only the key institution in US but also the basic goal of development aid”.

Sutton in line with other essay discusses the role of some corporations in US nation-building process. Ford is specifically examined. Pei claims the US is the greatest nation-builder among western countries; 200 cases of the use of force by the United States since 1900 from 17 are certainly done for nation-building. There are three elements by which military intervention and nation-building efforts are distinguished: first, is the practical effort of the US intervention to change regimes; second is the deployment of large numbers of US ground troops- as the case of Guatemala in 1954- and the last element is the use of civilian personnel in the administration of the target countries. Establishing democratic regimes by election constitute another important phase of US nation-building process.

Michele A. Flournoy shows the reader another dimension of this process; the unlearned lessons of the US administration. Bush administration was poorly noticing the experiences US had before and committed very repeated mistakes in the Iraq and Afghanistan. He review some the lessons that Clinton thought the US learned from its nation-building. Having comprehensive strategy, control arrangements, and public support are the most important factor.

After all, all essayist meant that US in its nation-building process in Iraq and Afghanistan- especially Iraq- made several mistakes that it could prevent.

Currently, MA Student in American Studies, university of Tehran. I did my BA in English Language and Literature at the Faculty of Foreign Languages, university of Tehran. I am mostly interested in American history, foreign policy and Hollywood.


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