No, We Don't Need Nation Building

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We don't need nation building

It's somewhat disingenuous of Max Boot to equate a desire not to engage in nation building with "isolationism" but I'd prefer to focus on this part of his recent op-ed:

Since the U.S. left Somalia, tail between our legs, it has become a haven for terrorists and pirates. Now an Islamist movement modeled on the Taliban, known as the Shabab, threatens to take over the country. If this were to happen, it would replicate the disaster that struck Afghanistan in the 1990s — another example of what happens when the U.S. refuses to help build a viable state in a country desperately in need of one.

If you want yet another example of how costly our aversion to nation-building has been, look no further than Iraq. The Bush administration associated nation-building with the hated policies of the Clinton administration and refused to prepare for it. The result was that Iraq fell apart after U.S. troops had toppled its existing regime.

What's fascinating about Boot's argument is where it begins - after the U.S. has intervened in Somalia and Iraq. What these two interventions have in common is not simply that the U.S. failed in its efforts at nation building but that neither were necessary at all. Understanding why the U.S. fails at nation building misses the point - it's like complaining that you're not good at plumbing after you've dismantled your sprinkler system and left hoses spewing water everywhere. If you know you don't know what you're doing - and what you're trying to "fix" isn't all that vital - don't do it! Why is this so hard to understand?

UPDATE: Larison pounces as well.

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