To Rebuild a Nation

The issue of “nation-building” and promotion of democracy within the U.S. foreign policy has a direct impact on how the U.S. will be received by other nations in the international community. We therefore cannot presume to allow ourselves to mindfully stomp all over another culture while waving a flag of human rights and democracy. On the other hand, when a nation is suffering under the oppressive rule of an authoritarian government, or if the government is unable to maintain a peaceful society; the nations citizens aren’t the only victims.

What happens in the international arena concerns all the member states involved, and can therefore have economic and political repercussions reverberate throughout it. One hopes the path the U.S. should follow would reveal itself by now, since the First World War the U.S. has engaged in the activity of trying to rebuild nations to fit our model, but we find ourselves in the midst of such a struggle already ten years into the twenty-first century.

Assessments from the U.S. and beyond of the effort to stabilize Afghanistan are mixed and often debated. The Administration notes progress on reconstruction, government, and overall security in many areas of Afghanistan, particularly the east section of the country. However, a November 2007 Bush Administration review of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan concluded that overall progress was inadequate.

There are several problems which begin to recur when we have an international system such as our own. For the most part, there is complete anarchy amongst the players in the international arena. Despite many efforts to make it otherwise, the sovereignty nations enjoy is something none of them want to surrender for the greater good. We also have so many nations with rich historical backgrounds, some developed in technological areas, some in others, some that haven’t recorded, and we must avoid ethnocentrism at all costs. We must leave our predispositions of good and bad, better or worse, at the door. Cultures are different, people are the same.

Having said that, there are many advantages we see to the way our particular nation functions, specifically in its use of democracy and enormous respect for human rights. To think of it being any other way is painful to any empathetic human being. It seems so simple to change the systems in place and open the world to our own institution. However, it isn’t. Often U.S. efforts to change and rebuild in foreign nations is met with hostility and aggression. We must learn from this that just because the system we have works for us, it doesn’t necessarily work for others.

Trends also change rapidly. Most people don’t consider that the rule of Mohammad-Rez? Sh?h Pahlavi in Iran was considerably more liberal than that of his successor the Ayatollah who declared the Republic of Islam. The Sh?h had a strong alliance with the U.S. over crude oil distribution which lasted through the Cold War and led Iran to support the U.S. over Russia. He was also a supporter of women’s rights, and drafted Iran’s first constitution. Several years later women are forced to cover their faces, people are stoned in the streets, and limbs are amputated as punishments.

Thus the U.S. foreign policy should not include military response to such nations during a reconstruction process. It needlessly puts the lives of U.S. soldiers in danger for the purpose of healing another nation that doesn’t pay taxes to the U.S. government. Contrary to history, the U.S. is not the savior of the world, it is a nation like any other. If a nation is suffering they must take it upon themselves to extradite themselves from the situation. The U.S.’s role in such situations is to provide political guidance to the nation’s government, and financial support for approved spending. The only times it becomes acceptable to enter the conflict is when:

A.    The struggle for power becomes so fierce there is no apparent central government within a nation; because then it’s citizens are unprotected, or

B.     There is a request from the nation’s governing bodies for U.S. assistance.

This way we limit our military expenditure and casualties, and we improve relations with all other nations as they will expect us to never breach their borders and take their resources. This policy also recognizes the sovereignty of each nation, if a nation is indeed free, than an uninvited military presence is a clear violation of that nation’s rights. We wouldn’t want foreign powers occupying our country during a national conflict, shooting our citizens, and controlling the forces, and we must apply that thought to this.

Alternatively, the foreign policy could allow for more legroom for the U.S. If a nation is under the control of a monarch dictator who ruthlessly tortures and murders at his/her whim, then it would be in the moral interests of the U.S. to intervene and put an end to it. It MUST however be a joint effort between the U.S. and other nations within the U.N. The procedure would go as follows:

A.    There is established a temporary interim government formed of member states of the U.N. The government is a collective force, and thus the individual interests of nations involved cannot be fulfilled.

B.     The authoritarian government is removed.

C.     The interim government is placed in control of the nation in question.

D.    The perpetrator is brought before the ICC to face charges of crimes against humanity.

E.     Once the perpetrator is sentenced, free elections will be held in the nation. If he/she is found innocent they will be free to run in the election.

Possible negative outcomes to consider with this proposal are the capabilities of the nation’s leaders to escape, fight, or hide, the rebellions against the new form of government, and the protests of international occupation of the nation.

The role of the U.S. in international politics is not a guardian or savior. We have many problems within our own nation to consider, without trying to solve another nation’s problems. It wouldn’t be in our national interest to occupy another nation and oversee it’s construction, our resources would be of better use in taking care of the U.S. population, it’s why we pay taxes after all. Leave it for another group or organization, maybe one has to be established, share the responsibility, and work collectively: because we all live on the same planet, hopefully we will for a long time.


Katzman, Kenneth, “Afghanistan : post-war governance, security, and US policy”, 30 Apr 2008CRS report for Congress,

Amin Saikal, “The Rise and Fall of the Shah 1941 – 1979”, Angus and Robertson (Princeton University Press) ISBN 0-207-14412-5