Jul 28, 2003
From Germany to Iraq
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The post-World War II occupations of Germany and Japan set standards for postconflict nation-building that have not since been matched. Only in recent years has the United States has felt the need to participate in similar transformations, but it is now facing one of the most challenging prospects since the 1940s: Iraq. The authors review seven case studies — Germany, Japan, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan — and seek lessons about what worked well and what did not. Then, they examine the Iraq situation in light of these lessons. Success in Iraq will require an extensive commitment of financial, military, and political resources for a long time. The United States cannot afford to contemplate early exit strategies and cannot afford to leave the job half completed.
"James Dobbins' 'America's Role in Nation-Building' must become essential reading among Washington's bureaucrats and in all six American war colleges. The author, an experienced nation-building (or reconstruction) practitioner, and his co-authors have written a no-nonsense, spare, well-analyzed and lucid volume that illuminates the path for those engaged in this difficult and thankless, but necessary mission. The authors cover two successes, Germany and Japan; two abject failures, Haiti and Somalia; Bosnia, a 'mixed success'; Kosovo, a 'modest success'; and one case too early to tell, Afghanistan. The final chapter is an application of lessons from all these case studies to the reconstruction effort in Iraq… There is outstanding wisdom in this book."
- Washington Times
"Committed multilateralists could be forgiven for shivering at the title of this book. They should not. In many respects Washington is the Rome of our time: its cohorts and legions are unchallenged, while its monetary system and language are increasingly ubiquitous. Like it or not, the US is in the nation-building game and in all probability must lead it. This report is less a comprehensive analytical work than a set of important and correct policy recommendations aimed at the US establishment and backed up by convincing case-studies taken from both good and bad national experience. Irrespective of its wishes, further nation-building challenges will be presented to the Rome of our time over the coming decades. The policy recommendations contained in this study should be taken to heart and then further researched and refined for future use… Undeniably, the key conclusions of the report are: the importance of unity of command, the inverse correlation between the size of the stabilization force and the level of risk, the either benign or malign influence that neighbouring states can bring to bear and that accountability for past injustices is difficult but necessary if reconciliation is a strategic aim. There is no quick route through nation-building and on balance the most important variable factor under the control of intervening forces is the level of effort measured in time, manpower and money… This report is a valuable first step down a long and difficult road which the US must tread, simply because of its pre-eminent position. Its main messages are utterly in accord with the broader experiences of the peace-building community. It is important that future studies continue to shed light on how the US can manage the nation-building process more effectively."
- International Affairs
"James Dobbins has long been one of those troubleshooters who never seem to miss a crisis. As the special United States envoy for Afghanistan, Mr. Dobbins was responsible for finding and installing a successor to the Taliban after they were toppled in 2001. During the 1990's, Mr. Dobbins hop-scotched from one trouble spot to another as he served as special envoy to Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti and Somalia. So when he offers a critique of the Bush administration's nation-building effort in Iraq, it is worth paying attention. Now out of government, Mr. Dobbins, who has worked for Republican as well as Democratic administrations, does not have a partisan ax to grind."
- New York Times
"While the authors note that post-World War II Germany and Japan set the standard for post-conflict nation-building, all the case studies are thorough. Each examines that area's postwar inputs, such as assistance funding, and outputs, like an electoral process and variance in gross domestic product… As for what these experiences portend for nation-building in Iraq, this text is clear and concise. While the RAND authors don't necessarily offer a rosy picture of what rebuilding in Iraq will be like, their predictions aren't all that dreary, either. Calling the challenge 'ambitious' on the scale of Germany and Japan, they clearly lay out the country's pre-existent civil administration infrastructure and oil-related financial independence as aides to future growth. With any luck, those playing a role in the execution of this unwieldy task will pick up a copy of 'America's Role In Nation-Building' to help guide their way."