Our Rickety Nation-Building


Unilateralism may be the answer for the neocons, but a new report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says unilateral efforts to export democracy are a flop. “The record shows that democratic nation-building is among the most ambitious and difficult of foreign policy undertakings for the United States,” says the Carnegie. “Of the sixteen over the past century, democracy was sustained in only four countries ten years after the departure of American forces. Two of these followed total defeat and surrender (in World War II), and two were in tiny countries (Grenada and Panama).” Only in Japan did a direct U.S. administration lead to democracy.

The U.S. has used armed force abroad on 200 occasions since the founding of the Republic. Most of them were for major wars; peacekeeping forces, as in Bosnia; surrogate wars, like in Angola and Nicaragua; covert ops, such as in Chile; and humanitarian efforts.

The wreckage of U.S. nation-building is strewn around the world. In Haiti and Nicaragua, there is immense poverty and misrule. After American troops left Cambodia, the ensuing regime carried out one of the worst genocides in history.

Additional reporting: Phoebe St John and Joanna Khenkine