“Nation-Building” Is Back: Now with Contractors

My latest, published in LobeLog, a great publication on U.S. foreign policy. Here’s how Antony Loewenstein, the great Australian investigative journalist, just introduced the article on Twitter:

@TimothyS on interest in making $ from “nation-building” in the #MiddleEast; #disastercapitalism by any other name.


Last month, President-elect Donald Trump told The New York Times that the United States under his watch will not “be a nation builder.” It was a variation on a comment he had made dozens of times during the campaign as he attempted to lay out a vision for a new foreign policy that will avoid the pitfalls of his predecessors, particularly the Bush administration’s decision to invade and occupy Iraq.

Ironically, Trump made that proclamation at a time when the term has reentered the vernacular of the U.S. military and foreign policy elite. Long identified with the war in Iraq and the US-NATO counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan, the phrase “nation-building” has renewed currency as the U.S. military and its allies confront a humanitarian catastrophe in the Middle East that has produced the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Barely two weeks before Trump’s election, in fact, I heard the term used several times by senior defense and State Department officials. “We may not be interested in nation building, but nation building is interested in us,” a senior Pentagon official said on October 26 at a Washington conference on how US government agencies should confront the social chaos engulfing the Middle East.

He called the situation in Syria “an unprecedented emergency” that offers “lots of opportunities at the nexus of development and humanitarian assistance” that closely resemble what U.S. military and civilian agencies tried in Iraq and, later, Afghanistan.

Opposition to the idea of nation-building, another Pentagon official explained at the same conference, “doesn’t mean we won’t be conducting long-term stabilization operations.” Americans, she added, must “get over the hangover of Iraq and Afghanistan” because “stability and security translates into victory.”

To read on, click here.




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