Small Wars Journal

No Nation-Building in Afghanistan? Easier Said Than Done, Experts Say

No Nation-Building in Afghanistan? Easier Said Than Done, Experts Say by Laura King - Los Angeles Times

Over the decades, the concept of nation-building has been in and out of favor with successive American administrations. President Trump says he wants no part of it in Afghanistan.

But past presidents have found that when it comes to foreign interventions, it’s very difficult to achieve and sustain military gains in the absence of a stable, functioning government and the institutions that go along with it. That’s one of the main arguments in favor of nation-building — or state-building, as some, including President George W. Bush’s Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice chose to call it.

Here’s a look at where broad assistance has worked and where it hasn’t, and some of the lessons about why…

Read on.


So, re: "nation-building," let us first look at the concluding portion of our article above:


He (President Trump) presumably doesn’t want to see the Afghan government’s authority deteriorate to the point that it becomes a failed state and a terrorist haven. But he also signaled indifference as to whether Afghanistan’s fragile democracy survives, so long as the government doesn’t fall apart completely, analysts said.

That might include a political role for the Taliban, Trump acknowledged in his address Monday night.

“What he’s saying is that he’s not interested in values and principles” on which Afghanistan’s system of governance is based, said Harris Mylonas, associate dean for research at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs and the author of “The Politics of Nation-Building.”

The message from the White House, Mylonas said, is a stark one: “We don’t care on what basis you build a functioning state.”


Now, let us consider the following critique of these such ideas:


What’s entirely missing in the new policy is an understanding that Islamist extremist groups have not just guns but ideas -- what the president called an “evil ideology.” To defeat their guns, our own military efforts in support of local police and military operations are necessary -- and here the president was quite right to continue and expand those efforts. But policemen and soldiers cannot provide the ideas that are needed to defeat Islamist extremism. Put another way, the president’s emphasis on “killing terrorists” is right, but he has overlooked the other half of the necessary formula: preventing those who are killed from being replaced by new armies of extremism. He did at one point say we will “dry up their recruitment,” but he did not say how we plan to do this throughout the Muslim world.


In case we have forgotten:

a. The premise/the basis upon which the critical need for "nation-building" -- apparently on a worldwide/a very large scale indeed -- apparently was and is based. And

b. Who the effort of "nation-building" was/is actually supposed to benefit.

As to these such critical matters, consider the following from a 2011 "Prism" article entitled "Nation-Building Interventions and National Security: An Australian Perspective" -- by Major General Michael G. Smith (Ret.), founding Executive Director of the Australian Government’s Asia Pacific Civil-Military Centre of Excellence, and Rebecca Shrimpton, the Centre’s Peace and Stabilisation Operations Program Manager:


In their compelling book "Fixing Failed States," Ashraf Ghani (yes, the current President of Afghanistan) and Clare Lockhart offer a sobering prognosis for global stability and human security. They assert that “[f]orty to sixty states, home to nearly two billion people, are either sliding backward and teetering on the brink of implosion, or have already collapsed.” ... According to Ghani and Lockhart, the situation “is at the heart of a worldwide systemic crisis that constitutes the most serious challenge to global stability in the new millennium.” ... History suggests that states undertake foreign interventions primarily in pursuit of national security interests rather than through a desire to build capacity for independent and competent governance in other countries per se.

(Item in parenthesis above -- re: Ashraf Ghani -- is mine.)