Thursday, March 26, 2009

Book Review: Fool's Errands

Dempsey, Gary. Fools Errands: America's Recent Encounters with Nation Building. Washington D.C.; The Cato Institute, 2001.

This book was a series of case studies to demonstrate the by no means exhaustive list of what causes a nation-building exercise to fail.

Nation building will fail if:

(a) the nation in question is not a vital security interest to the nation builder.
(b) the local population still supports the elite.
(c) the security dilemma has not been resolved.
(d) the belligerent's war objectives have not been achieved.

His last criterion seems awfully vague to me. If he had written that nation building can't happen when the situation was still in the peacekeeping stage, that would seem reasonable to me. He didn't write that. The way it is written, he is seemingly advocating letting them fight into a stalemate before nation building can occur--because Kosovo would have been so much better off if the ethnic cleansing had been allowed to proceed violently, rather than through emigration.

All in all, this book was subpar. Points (a) and (b) are common sense (outside of D.C. anyway). Point (c), however, needs to be made, and could have filled a book on its own. Despite the team-building-exercise style of nation building, people like to deal with each other on their own terms. It is better for them to have their own countries, and reach out than to be placed in a single country and withdraw.



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1:20 AM  

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