Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A look at nation-building

The Rand Corp., the Santa Monica-headquartered think tank, publishes some amazing stuff, such as this recent and fascinating report titled The Beginner's Guide to Nation-Building (free dl here), which is based on the study of major US and UN interventions since WWII. Nation-building, in case you haven't heard, is what powerful countries and/or international coalitions do when the actions of less-powerful countries become intolerable. The goal of nation-building, according to the authors of this report, "is to leave behind a society likely to remain at peace with itself and its neighbors once external security forces are removed and full sovereignty is restored."

The report offers several conclusions that give pause. It says, for instance, that democratization and economic development are less important in the establishment of peace than security and further states: "Establishing a modicum of security requires a military force that is large enough – as many as 20 soldiers per thousand inhabitants – to disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate former combatants." Iraq, by the way, had a population of about 26.7 million in mid-2006, which means a military force of 500,000 men and women. (There are about 150,000 coalition troops there now and maybe that many again in Iraq's armed forces?) The 300-odd page report also says that:

"[F]ull-scale peace enforcement actions are feasible only when the intervening authorities care a great deal about the outcome, and even then, only in relatively small societies. Thus, the effort needed to stabilize Bosnia and Kosovo has proved difficult to replicate in Afghanistan or Iraq, nations that are eight to 12 times more populous. It would be even more difficult to mount a peace enforcement mission in Iran, which is three times more populous than Iraq, and nearly impossible to do so in Pakistan, which is three times again more populous than Iran."
Hope the head nation-builders read these things.

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