Arab Israeli Conflict - 4

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Tamar Abramson
Nation Building
Nation building is a flawed art, a method that greatly fails. According to Paul Collier, Professor of Economics at Oxford University, “40 percent of all post-conflict situations, historically, have reverted back to conflict within a decade. In fact they’ve accounted for half of all civil wars.”[1] Although there are many reasons as to why nation building fails so often, the focus is what can be done to increase its success rate? What nation building needs in order to work successfully can be said it one word, organization. Organization is the key to the process of nation building and without it, the venture is sure to end up in failure.

Before engaging in nation building in a country in a post-conflict situation, the nation-builder must have clear goals set in a stable plan. Nation building, as we know it, is largely a failure. People just don’t seem to be aware of “how infrequently post-conflict nation-building has succeeded”[2] and that more often than not it has failed at creating stable societies, and instead reverted to conflict. A reason why nation building has failed so often is simply that the nation builder does not have a central plan. As stated by John Montgomery and Dennis Rondinelli in their article, The Proverbs of Nation Building, nation builders are far more likely to achieve their social and political purposes if they recognize their long-term goals in official statements “rather than lurking in the obscurity of a hidden agenda”.[3] This concept can be seen in numerous cases of nation building, such as Somalia: The United Nations and United States entered Somalia unprepared and as a result, “what began as a humanitarian mission to feed people starved by rival warlords became a misguided attempt at ad hoc nation building”.[4] Having a plan means that the nation builders know what they’re doing; unfortunately this is rarely the case. Interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq prove “how haphazard and unfocused nation building is in practice.”[5] In both these cases, there was no central and principled plan for establishing some form of a democratic government. In fact, when invading Afghanistan, the Bush administration did not even think of political arrangements following a military defeat over the Taliban. This poor planning continued in the US invasion of Iraq, and as a result both Iraq and Afghanistan remain unstable. Lieutenant General William Wallace fittingly called this method of nation building the “We’re making this up here as we go along” technique.[6] In contrast, when nation builders entered East Timor they followed a plan, and were not “dragged into a situation [they] could not control.”[7] Thanks to this plan, nation building in East Timor has resulted in a democratically elected government, increased employment and a transformation of former guerillas to soldiers in their country’s defense system. The results are not perfect. Marina Ottaway asserts that, “East Timor is still a construction site, but it is not a quagmire.”[8] As shown through the examples above, one aspect of successful nation building heavily relies on the nation builder being prepared before engaging in a post-conflict country. A plan often means the difference between certain failure and a chance of establishing a successful nation.

Another aspect of the need for organization centers around following a give order in tackling this task. For nation building to work, democracy cannot be imposed on a country before security has been established. The conventional approach to nation building focuses largely on the political goal of creating a democratic state. However, this often collapses, simply because holding an election generally does not create a responsible government, but rather winners and losers. In the resulting, “zero-sum game”[9] the loser is never reconciled. This leads to bitterness, which eventually touches off violence. Because of this, security must be ensured first. Montgomery and...
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