The Case against a Standing Nation-Building Office

April 7, 2006
The idea that the United States needs a standing nation-building office has gained strong bipartisan support in Congress. The arguments in favor of such an office are rooted in the belief that failed states are threats to U.S. national security. But do failed states pose such a threat? Further, to the extent that they do, would a permanent nation-building office succeed in averting or remedying state failure? When interventions are absolutely necessary, do we need a standing nation-building corps to plan for the missions? Justin Logan will discuss his and Christopher Preble’s recent Policy Analysis, “Failed States and Flawed Logic: The Case against a Standing Nation-Building Office,” which explains why the presumption that state failure poses a threat to the United States is flawed. He will also explore the likely costs and risks of a foreign policy dedicated to nation building, given that U.S. nation-building projects in the past have had a highly dubious track record. Preble will explore the greatest foreign policy challenge facing the United States today — looming state failure in Iraq — and describe why it is unlikely that a standing nation-building office would have reduced the costs and risks of the current military mission there.

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