v8n1_08 - Rethinking Nation-Building The Contradictions of...

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Rethinking “Nation-Building:” The Contradictions of the Neo-Wilsonian Approach to Democracy Promotion by Roberto Belloni I nternational intervention in weak states is the post–Cold War response to fragmentation and conflict. International operations have been deployed across much of the world, from Afghanistan to Bosnia, Cambodia, Kosovo, East Timor, Iraq, and Somalia, to cite just a few of the most prominent cases. These operations have taken place in different circumstances, with some of them justified in the name of the War on Terror, and others more broadly conducted in view of implementing recently achieved peace agreements. All of these operations face similar constraints and dilemmas. The context in which international intervention takes place is one of extreme political, economic, and social instability. Years of war destroy physical and economic infrastructure, provoke massive human displacement, and leave the population traumatized. Moreover, rarely does war end with a clear victory for one of the parties involved. Instead, conflicts frequently terminate with the signing of a peace agreement, which reflects a difficult and unstable compromise. Perhaps unsurprisingly, half of the countries emerging from conflict revert to violence within five years. Even when a return to violence is averted, these countries remain politically, economically, and socially volatile. Accordingly to one estimate, at present around seventy current or potential conflicts exist across the world. 1 This situation calls for both a theoretically informed understanding of the goals, possibilities, and limits of international intervention in support of peace processes as well as country-specific knowledge to tailor such intervention so as to maximize its effectiveness. Unfortunately, even the basic vocabulary used to describe international involvement is contested and confusing, with analysts using terms such as “peace-building,” “nation-building,” and “state-building” to describe the same general phenomenon of international intervention in weak states. This paper begins with a brief attempt at conceptual clarification. Second, it explores the limits of the template adopted by international interveners. Wilsonianism, named after the American President who argued that democracy and self-determination are necessary conditions for domestic and international peace and stability, offers a basic Roberto Belloni is Assistant Professor in the School of Politics, International Studies, and Philosophy at Queen's University, Belfast. In 1998, he served as NGO Development Coordinator for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), in Sarajevo. Between 2002–2004 he was a research fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The author would like to express many thanks to Laurence Cooley and Neophytes Loizides for their comments on a previous draft. 97
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v8n1_08 - Rethinking Nation-Building The Contradictions of...

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