For each of the seven historical cases of nation-building, we at RAND compared quantitative data on the "inputs" (troops, money, and time) and "outputs." The outputs included casualties (or lack thereof ), democratic elections, and increases in per capita gross domestic product (GDP).
Troop levels varied widely across the cases. The levels ranged from 1.6 million U.S. troops in the American sector in Germany at the end of World War II to 14,000 U.S. and international troops currently in Afghanistan. Gross numbers, however, are not the most useful numbers for comparison, because the size and populations of the nations being built have been so disparate. We chose instead to compare the numbers of U.S. and foreign soldiers per thousand inhabitants in each occupied territory. We then compared the proportional force levels at specified times after the conflict ended (or after the U.S. rebuilding efforts began).
Figure 1 shows the number of international troops (or in the German and Japanese cases, U.S. troops) per thousand inhabitants in each territory at the outset of the intervention and at various intervals thereafter. As the data illustrate, even the proportional force levels vary immensely across the operations. (The levels vary so tremendously that they require a logarithmic, or exponential, scale for manageable illustration.)
Bosnia, Kosovo, and particularly the U.S.-occupied sector of Germany started with substantial proportions of military forces, whereas the initial levels in Japan, Somalia, Haiti, and especially Afghanistan were much more modest. The levels generally decreased over time. In Germany, the level then rose again for reasons having to do with the cold war. Overall, the differences in force levels across the cases had significant implications for other aspects of the operations.
Figure 2 compares the amount of foreign economic aid per capita (in constant 2001 U.S. dollars) provided to six of the territories during the first two years. Although Germany received the most aid in raw dollar terms ($12 billion), the country did not rank high on a per capita basis. Per capita assistance there ran a little over $200. Kosovo, which ranked fourth in terms of total assistance, received over $800 per resident. With the second-highest level of economic assistance per capita, Kosovo enjoyed the most rapid recovery in levels of per capita GDP. In contrast, Haiti, which received much less per capita than Kosovo, has experienced little growth in per capita GDP.
Germany and Japan both stand out as unequaled success stories. One of the most important questions is why both operations fared so well compared with the others. The easiest answer is that Germany and Japan were already highly developed and economically advanced societies. This certainly explains why it was easier to reconstruct their economies than it was to reconstruct those in the other territories. But economics is not a sufficient answer to explain the transition to democracy. The spread of democracy to poor countries in Latin America, Asia, and parts of Africa suggests that this form of government is not unique to advanced industrial economies. Indeed, democracy can take root in countries where neither Western culture nor significant economic development exists. Nation-building is not principally about economic reconstruction, but rather about political transformation.
Because Germany and Japan were also ethnically homogeneous societies, some people might argue that homogeneity is the key to success. We believe that homogeneity helps greatly but that it is not essential, either. It is true that Somalia, Haiti, and Afghanistan are divided ethnically, socioeconomically, or tribally in ways that Germany and Japan were not. However, the kinds of communal hatred that mark Somalia, Haiti, and Afghanistan are even more pronounced in Bosnia and Kosovo, where the process of democratization has nevertheless made some progress.
What principally distinguishes Germany, Japan, Bosnia, and Kosovo from Somalia, Haiti, and Afghanistan is not their levels of Western culture, democratic history, economic development, or ethnic homogeneity. Rather, the principal distinction is the level of effort that the United States and the international community have put into the democratic transformations. Among the recent operations, the United States and its allies have put 25 times more money and 50 times more troops on a per capita basis into post-conflict Kosovo than into post-conflict Afghanistan. These higher levels of input account in significant measure for the higher levels of output in terms of democratic institutionbuilding and economic growth.
Japan, one of the two undoubted successes, fully meets the criterion regarding the duration of time devoted to its transformation. In the first two years, Japan received considerably less external economic assistance per capita than did Germany, Bosnia, or Kosovo, indeed less than Haiti and about the same amount as Afghanistan. Japan's correspondingly low post-conflict economic growth rates reflect this fact. Japan's subsequent growth of the 1950s, spurred by American spending linked to the Korean War, helped to consolidate public support for the democratic reforms that had been put in place in the immediate postwar years. As with the German economic miracle of the 1950s, the experience in Japan suggests that rising economic prosperity is not so much a necessary precursor to political reform as a highly desirable successor and legitimizing factor.
In proportion to its population, Japan also had a smaller military stabilization force (or, as it was then termed, occupation force) than did Germany, Bosnia, or Kosovo, although the force was larger than those in Haiti and Afghanistan. The ability to secure Japan with a comparatively small force relates to both the willing collaboration of the Japanese power structures and the homogeneity of the population. A third important factor was the unprecedented scale of Japan's defeat—the devastation and consequent intimidation wrought by years of total war, culminating in the fire bombing of its cities and finally two nuclear attacks. In situations where the conflict has been terminated less conclusively and destructively (or not terminated at all), such as Somalia, Afghanistan, and most recently Iraq, we have seen more difficult post-conflict security challenges. Indeed, it seems that the more swift and bloodless the military victory, the more difficult can be the task of post-conflict stabilization.
The seven historical cases have differed in terms of duration. The record suggests that although staying long does not guarantee success, leaving early assures failure. To date, no effort at enforced democratization has been brought to a successful conclusion in less than seven years.
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