Building the Nation: Missed Opportunities in Iraq and Afghanistan by Heather Selma Gregg

Gregg believes that U.S. security needs will always drive Washington to attempt to salvage failed or fragile states. So the United States needs to understand why it failed to build nations in Afghanistan and Iraq and how it might do better elsewhere. It must focus on creating a shared sense of national destiny, Gregg says, which will require devolving reform to the local level so that the people own the process. Gregg sees the U.S. military as the right agent to achieve this. The military can even make Afghan peasants better farmers, she says. Nearly every part of Gregg’s analysis contains problems. She largely ignores the literature on democratic transitions and counterinsurgency and barely mentions the role of external actors, such as Pakistan’s intelligence services, in supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Worst of all, she offers no examples of successful nation building by an occupying power. In the success stories Gregg does tell, such as Rwanda, reform came from the inside.

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