In a September 23 article published on the Council of Foreign Relations website, Lessons in Nation-Building
, David Phillips chides United States’ unilateralism in Iraq as the root cause of the ineffective nation-building he sees evident in Iraq.
“Without a clear vision of the end-state, government agencies and international organizations will not know what to do ... organizations must define their respective responsibilities to develop a shared understanding, reduce redundancy, and maximize resources”
Phillips, a Charter Honoree of this Chronicle, sees the United Nations as the Vehicle of Choice,
“through which the international community organizes collective action. Encompassing various aspects of nation-building—from peace and security to humanitarian relief and reconstruction—the UN has undertaken forty-one missions since 1990.”
Ok, which 41 nations have been successfully rebuilt in the past 15 years? Did I miss something? Is this the last quarter of a Rip van Winkle winkle?
It is notable that Phillips did a very short stint in the UN bureaucracy himself in those 15 years.
Phillips goes on to explain how everyone in the current international world order are uniquely qualified to play their part and the only thing holding them back is a mismanaged and bumbling 800 pound gorilla dressed in red white and blue. His only tip o’ the hat to the United States is this backhanded comment,
“The United States should not be concerned about losing control of the nation-building process”
Phillips concludes with this sage advice,
“The United States needs to bridge the gap during the early stages of a crisis or when negotiations become bogged down at the UN Security Council. To create a secure environment for nation-building, the military needs a clear mission and adequate resources for addressing security and related challenges. The military must pivot quickly from combat operations to civilian administration. To this end, civilian planning and civil-military relations should be integrated into all phases of planning and post-conflict stability operations.”
Ok, time to start feeding.
Phillips explores his “clear vision of the end-state
” with this admonishment,
“Clarity of purpose is critical. What was the reason for intervention? Was it to stop aggression, to prevent ethnic cleansing, to eradicate weapons of mass destruction, or to create a liberal democracy?”
Ok, so where is the lack of clarity? Stop Aggression? Yes. Prevent ethnic cleansing? Yes. Eradicate WMD? Yes. Create a liberal democracy? AND Yes.
Maybe Phillips is a one-trick pony and can’t understand converging interests. There is no lack of clarity here. Just because France, Germany, China, Russia and al Qaeda don’t like what the US is doing, doesn’t mean that clarity is lacking.
Ok, so the UN is uniquely qualified for the tasks at hand? You mean the same UN that bickered and dickered as hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were being slaughtered by Saddam; as ethnic cleansing killed nearly a million in Rwanda; as tens of thousands of Sudanese are being killed, right now, in Dafur?note: those figures of Iraqi, Rwandan and Sudanese murdered victims are straight from the UN. If I were a raving lunatic and conspiracy nutcase, I might start comparing the UN’s excellent body counting skills with the meticulous skills exhibited by German accountants during WWII. But that is extreme hyperbole; I won’t go that far.
also: here is an interesting UN Press Release, that addresses all three of the examples I laid out. Would not Phillips also view as critical to effective nation-building, some measure of success in a timely fashion? This press release is dated 27 November 1996, nine years ago.
Ok, the long and short is that the UN is good at counting dead bodies and good at producing reports. But far from demonstrating competence in world affairs, they can’t even effectively manage a competent, honest bureaucracy.
And I don’t think the US is terribly concerned about losing control over rebuilding Iraq. In fact, America is all gung ho to let Iraq take over as soon as they establish a new government. We just don’t want to see Johnny-come-latelys assume they have a major voice in the process. Not when they stood at the sidelines bickering and heckling when other efforts would have been tremendously valuable.
And as far as Phillips’ advice on what to do when “negotiations become bogged down at the UN Security Council
”, I think America has clearly demonstrated we would rather do something than just sit around and wait for yet another useless round of negotiations. At some point you have to start implementing something. But now, in just the past couple years, after bypassing years and years of fruitless talk, Saddam is in jail, the Iraqis had a national election, a draft constitution has been put to the people. Next week Iraqis vote on it.
After more than 30 years of brutal Tyranny at the hands of Saddam.
America should not have to wait for the UN to catch up. When they can clean their own house and get themselves up to speed and demonstrate an ability to function as a true international institution, and not a sophomoric (in every sense of the word) debating society, then we’ll talk.
I do take solace that all hope is not lost on Phillips. After all, he did recognize all the clear reasons for going into Iraq, though he felt we should be only picking one. And he does inadvertently make this telling comment.
“If PIC members contribute to nation-building, they are also entitled to a reasonable share of the decision-making.”
Maybe he just forgot that we went to the UN with our hands held out, and they spurned it. So, by Phillips own standards, everything is progressing smoothly.
As the French would say, “No?”