Message from the Editor

In the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, we Americans and our allies, who had won the war in Europe, imposed harsh penalties on the vanquished Germany. Among other painful terms of the treaty, it obligated Germany to pay a huge sum of money in reparations—a sum well beyond its means—for the damage done by the war. Resentment grew steadily in Germany, and we ultimately had to go back and fight all over again about 20 years later.

In 1945, we and our allies won the war against Germany and Japan but made fundamentally different choices. Instead of punishing the defeated adversaries, we embarked on an unprecedented project of nation-building. We invested heavily to steer the conquered lands toward democracy, and we have not had to go back and fight since.

At present, it is unclear whether we in America in 2003 are repeating the history of 1919 or of 1945. We have won two recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have not leveled draconian postwar penalties against either country as in 1919, but neither have we invested nearly as generously as in the years following 1945. Meanwhile, Afghanistan's reconstruction is faltering, and a tide of resentment seems to be growing in Iraq. Our rebuilding efforts in these countries beg the troubling question: Have we forgotten some of the most important lessons of the 20th century?

As former ambassador James Dobbins delineates in his cover story, American efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq have yet to reflect some of the hard-learned lessons from either the 1940s or the more recent—and, in some respects, more relevant—nation-building experiences of the 1990s. In his accompanying essay, James Quinlivan underscores that we have yet to provide the levels of troops historically required for stabilizing war-torn countries, completely aside from building them into vibrant democracies.

Together, the Dobbins and Quinlivan essays enumerate what has succeeded in the past, what has failed, and what is needed now. The authors provide illuminating comparisons of the levels of troops, money, and time that America and its allies have devoted to the most instructive cases of nation-building over the past 60 years.

In a separate essay, Jennifer Brower and Peter Chalk argue that the transnational threat of infectious diseases deserves more attention from national governments than it has received thus far. The authors propose several steps that the U.S. government can take to help protect the American people from such diseases at home and abroad.

In California, the workers' compensation courts have served as the foundation of a vital social contract between employers and employees for 90 years. Today, however, the vitality of the court system is in doubt. Nicholas Pace and Robert Reville explain what the state can do to help ensure that the courts continue to perform their vital role.

—John Godges