Trust, nation-building, and development

The article “How Technology Almost Lost the War: In Iraq, the Critical Networks Are Social – Not Electronic” is very longwinded but informative in the end. The wars of Iraq and Afghanistan illustrate that using network-centric warfare, the US military has demonstrated its mastery/superiority of identifying and destroying targets anywhere on earth and invading nations using conventional means with both small numbers of troops and minimal troop losses compared to earlier wars. As the battlefield shifts from invasion to nation building, it looks like the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan are forcing the military to learn a completely modern version of fighting Internet-enabled insurgencies amidst civilian populations (COIN/HTT) – a capability it lacked going into Iraq, and one of the reasons GHW Bush apparently stopped short of removing Saddam in 1991. The next war of preemption whenever it happens may turn out a lot different if the Pentagon plans ahead.

Blaming the protracted war in Iraq to insufficient troop numbers or technology is a bit simplistic. A recent documentary “No End In Sight” was filmed pre-surge and so it did not incorporate the progress/changes as a result of Patreus’ new strategy. However it points out that post-invasion planning for Europe during WWII began two years before the invasion, and in case of Iraq the DoD planning apparatus for post-invasion was almost nonexistent even though DoD was placed in charge – excluding the State Department. This wired article doesn’t quite address the strategic planning failures at the pentagon pre-invasion that might have contributed to some of the Iraqi security problems we see today. The piece “Who Lost Iraq?” in Foreign Affairs tries to expose that more clearly.

In failures of postwar planning, the root issue is local institutions and (absence of) social capital needed to build them. There is a book (2006) called “Nation Building beyond Iraq and Afghanistan”. I read the introductory chapter by Fukuyama “Nation Building and the Failure of Institutional Memory” (pages 1-18) which explains how politics between the defense/state departments got in the way of post-war planning, and it tends to corroborate the picture painted by interviews in the documentary “No End In Sight.”

“the frequency and intensity of US and international nation-building have increased since the end of the Cold War…there has been roughly one new nation building intervention every two years since the end of the Cold War… What is remarkable is how little institutional learning there has been over time; the same lessons about pitfalls and limitations of nation-building seemingly have to be relearned with each new involvement. This became painfully evident after the American occupation and reconstruction of Iraq after April 2003.”

“Nation-building encompasses two different types of activities, reconstruction and development. Although the distinction between the two is often blurred, it was always present to nation-builders and earlier generations dealing with post-conflict situations. The official title of the World Bank is, after all, the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development, and most of its activities fell under the first heading. Reconstruction refers to the restoration of war-torn or damaged societies to their preconflict situation. Development, however, refers to the creation of new institutions and the promotion of sustained economic growth, events that transform the society open-endedly into something that it has not been previously… Development, however, is much more problematic, both conceptually and as a matter of pragmatic policy. The development phase by contrast requires the eventual weaning of local actors and institutions from dependence on outside aid… it is seldom the case that local institutions are actually strong enough to do all the things they are intended to do.”

After reading Fukuyama’s book “Trust” (1996) where he explains the role of social capital in the world’s economies (in addition to intellectual capital, financial capital, or natural resources), the lack of social capital in these nation-building efforts explains why completely new local institutions in Iraq and Afghanistan take decades to gel and become productive.

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One Response to “Trust, nation-building, and development”

  1. » Trust, nation-building, and development Building Societies on The Finance World For News and Information Around The World On Finance: Find Info, News and More on Building Societies Says:

    […] nation-building, and development Published in January 22nd, 2008 Posted by in Uncategorized Trust, nation-building, and development Reconstruction refers to the restoration of war-torn or damaged societies to their preconflict […]

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