Skip to comments.Absolutely vital for U.S. to lead in nation-building
Posted on 07/01/2002 3:47:50 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
BUDAPEST, Hungary -- In a place where adventure, idealism, passion and romance abound, I was not surprised to hear top officials talk ardently about the need for the United States to adopt a consistent, caring and comprehensive stance toward failing or failed nations such as Afghanistan.
The Hungarians are right, of course.
Only the United States has the ability to lead in assisting, working with or -- in the worst cases -- intervening in failing or failed nations.
In fact, because such countries easily can fall prey to terrorists or other extremists, a strong, proactive U.S.-led campaign to help them would promote vital American interests.
Gone are the days when failing or failed nations could be summed up in heart-wrenching, humanitarian terms, sent a few crumbs of aid and subjected to benign neglect.
Today, those countries present serious dangers not only within their own borders but potentially to other nations -- including the United States.
This is not the time for Americans to keep the world at arm's length, shy away from nation-building, or allow delusions of superpower invincibility to carry them to blatant foreign-policy unilateralism and arrogance.
The world that emerged from the Cold War -- which many people, in fanciful anticipation of things to come, thought would lead to widespread stability, peace and economic prosperity -- has turned into an even scarier place.
Uncertainty has expanded. Dissatisfaction remains common, largely because meaningful economic improvements have reached only a minority of the global population. And contentious groups -- including transnational terrorists -- have proliferated.
When President George W. Bush took office, many of his foreign-policy principles appeared based more on the world that never materialized than on the one at hand. But Americans should take comfort in the president's ability to adapt to changing circumstances and shape policies that reflect the new realities.
The biggest example of his flexibility thus far has been the U.S. response to the terrorist challenge. Bush reversed, albeit temporarily in some cases, various emergent foreign-policy positions.
Suddenly, nations with a few question marks over their heads, namely Russia and China, became best friends. Instead of going it mostly alone in the world, the Bush administration appeared ready to cooperate more fully with its allies. Involvement in far-flung trouble spots slowly came into vogue.
Indeed, despite his reluctance to take on nation-building, Bush has done so -- not only in Afghanistan but in a tentative way in the Middle East. Whether critics liked or hated Bush's recently outlined vision for that region, part of it pointed squarely toward the establishment of a Palestinian state. If the United States systematically promoted development in, provided aid to and cooperated with such a new entity, that nation would stand a better chance of succeeding.
Addressing the challenges of failing or failed nations simply is not an option anymore. What happened in Afghanistan easily could repeat itself in another country where hope dims and chaos looms in the face of despair and disorder.
Just imagine how different the outcome might have been in Afghanistan if, after the Soviets withdrew in the late 1980s, the United States and other countries had mounted a robust recovery effort. A fraction of the billions of dollars that have been spent to unseat the Taliban, dislodge and hunt down al-Qaeda, and create a new government in Kabul would have gone a long way toward restoring order and optimism in Afghanistan a decade ago.
Instead, the United States and other countries must deal with at least another decade of shelling out billions more to stabilize Afghanistan.
Yes, the Hungarians are right. Reaching out proactively to failing or failed states, once perceived as merely nice, has become a necessity.
Sentinel foreign-affairs columnist John C. Bersia is the special assistant to the president for global perspectives and a professor at the University of Central Florida. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
America has prided itself on being the first non-imperial superpower, but the viability of that strategy was demolished on September 11th. For its own security, it needs to do what it did to Japan and Germany after the war: civilize them. It needs to take up (in Kipling's words), "the white man's burden," a phrase that will have to be modified in the age of Colin Powell and Condi Rice but whose spirit is generous and admirable.***
Who Is To Blame for Africa's Woes?***Everything that is happening in Zimbabwe is being done in full accord with the doctrines of post-colonialism. If every evil is caused by colonialism, then the heart of the problem must be the colonists themselves. In Zimbabwe, that means thousands of white British farmers who settled in Zimbabwe's sparsely populated countryside and built a prosperous agricultural economy. The settler's use of Western agricultural techniques, combined with the benefits of British law and order, made Zimbabwe into the breadbasket of southern Africa, an exporter of grain on which all of its neighbors relied. But in accordance with leftist philosophy, Zimbabwe's post-colonial ruler, Robert Mugabe, denounced the white farmers and hatched a scheme for "land reform."
In the language of tin-pot dictatorships, "reform" means "theft." For years, Mugabe has allowed armed gangs to occupy white-owned farms, sometimes murdering the owners, as a precursor to a plan to seize the farms, allegedly for redistribution to poor blacks. (In reality, the farms are going to Mugabe's cronies.) The result? People are starving in Zimbabwe, not because there is a drought, but because hundreds of thousands of acres of crops have not been planted. Some farms are fallow because they are occupied by armed thugs. Others are unused because of a law threatening white farmers with two years in prison if they plant without government permission, which has not been given. Other farms are unplanted simply because no one in his right mind would go to the trouble of planting crops that will be seized before he can harvest them. When you make war on the farmers, what can you expect but famine?***
The perils of designer tribalism***The logic of aggression is at work in Third World solidarity, and this has made it a continuation of the Cold War by other means. Being non-European is enough to put one on the side of right. Being European or being supported by a European power is enough to make one suspect. The bloody messes in banana republics, and butchery of political opposition and the dictatorial lunacy by their petty chieftains are all brushed aside. Such trifles will not restrain the progress of these peoples toward socialism. What seems criminal in Cuba, Angola, and Guinea has the real purpose of washing away the far greater crime of colonialism.***