I know, I know . . . I gagged when I read it as well, but thus says neocon cheerleader Robert Kagan in his NYT review of a new book by a UT-Austin professor. The title says it all: "Liberty's Surest Guardian." His thesis? That America has been doing nation-building for a long time, and ought not shrink from doing it again.
Rick Perry has been after college profs lately, but I imagine he'll want to give this guy a bonus.
Thus fawns Kagan:
Suri, a professor of history at the University of Texas, Austin, argues not only that Americans have engaged in nation-building throughout their history, but that their impulse to do so springs naturally and inevitably from their character and experience as a people. Having built a single nation out of disparate parts themselves, having solved the problem of competing interests by channeling them through national representative institutions, Americans have continually sought to replicate this experience in foreign lands. They have “deployed their exceptional history in universalistic ways.” And while Suri acknowledges that these efforts have at times been quixotic, he insists that the American proclivity to engage in nation-building is smart. It is, he argues, the necessary compromise between isolationism and empire: a “society of states” that are independent, stable, capable of trading with one another and, above all, modeled after the United States. In response to realist critics, he writes that “the American pursuit of a society of states serves the deepest interests of a people forged in revolution.” Because “alternative forms of foreign government limit American influence, access and long-term trust,” the “spread of American-style nation-states, and the destruction of their challengers, matches the realistic interests of citizens in the United States.”
In other words, presumably because our own style of democratic state is the kind of polity to which all of humanity surely aspires, it's perfectly OK to invade other lands and try to clone them into little Americas. After all, it serves our deepest interests; and besides, other kinds of governments limit those interests, and our influence.
Seems to me that the Athenians tried that in the 5th century BCE, with the Delian League - and poleis (like that on the Cycladic island of Melos) that didn't accept the Athenian model were, well, conquered, and devastated.
Kind of like the Philippines, where the US military slaughtered Moro tribesmen in the tens of thousands - but which Kagan seems to feel was a success of US nation-building.
Kind of like Iraq - which Kagan nonetheless labels a "blindingly fast success."
Turns out that the US was so successful in Iraq that the Iraqis - whose military probably really could benefit from some US trainer/advisers - want nothing more to do with the US military. As AP reported today, the wringing of hands and imploring of Iraqi politicians is over. Evidently the US is going to be pulling out completely; no 5000 trainer/advisers. Maliki has told the US that he simply cannot get enough votes to support it in the Iraqi parliament.
The ghosts of Abu Ghraib and Haditha still haunt the souls of Iraqis.