The concept of “nation building” originated after World War II, with the Marshall Plan. That US-funded reconstruction of former enemy states is widely viewed by historians as having contributed to the democratization of the German and Japanese societies, and as a foundation of post-WWII peace. But is the Marshall Plan's reconstruction responsible for the re-emergence of Germany and Japan onto today's world stage? Both countries had a well-educated populace and cohesive governments prior to the war, and although US assistance provided the means, both countries already possessed the will to unify and to rebuild.
Compare other US-led “nation-building” activities since WWII. Arguably, South Korea has emerged from its civil war with a strong economy, although personal freedoms in that country are still restricted and two former prime ministers are currently in prison. But what about the many other nations the US has attempted to “build” in the 20th and 21st century. China, Costa Rica, the Philippines, Syria, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos, Guatemala, Equador, the Congo, Uruguay, Chile, Indonesia, East Timor, Angola, Zaire, Grenada, Panama, El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, the Domenican Republic, Somalia, the Balkans, Iran, Iraq, and most recently, Afghanistan have all enjoyed American military and diplomatic intervention. Which of those nations do you regard as proof of American success at building prosperous, peaceful, democratic societies?
While we have squandered trillions of dollars of national treasure and countless American lives in the pursuit of “nation-building” abroad our own nation is currently at one of the most perilous points in its history, facing massive unemployment, failing infrastructure, massive trade imbalances, record Federal deficits, a declining standard of living, decreasing high school and college graduation rates, and a ruinously expensive health care system (the US ranks #37 overall among the world's countries, behind Chile, Denmark, Domenica and Costa Rica in quality of health care, but #1 by far in its cost). Our military personnel and equipment are so overtaxed by the wars of the past decade in Iraq and Afghanistan that our enemies in North Korea and Iran have been emboldened to step up their nuclear and missile programs, knowing we cannot stop them. Personal income in the United States has declined in the past decade for all but the top five percent of wage earners, whose wealth has increased faster than at any time in our nation's history.
Involvement of US forces in continuous overseas wars has become a constant since the 1950's, and has become America's largest industry and our principal export. The service sector now represents the biggest part of our domestic economy, with an increasing number of our youth looking forward to careers selling Chinese merchandise at Wal-Mart or asking “Ya want fries with that?” We need to stop squandering American lives and dollars in building other nations, and use the remainder of our dwindling national treasure to rebuild our own country.