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Economic Development & Nation Building

Lessons for Economic Development: Successful Paradigms

Following World War II and its devastation, and through the late 1950s and early 1960s, the United States attempted to "build" several nations and to model the political, social, and economic institutions of these nations upon those of the United States (Walker, 230). Nation building, an integrated effort to strengthen civil society, promote liberal democracy, and enhance government accountability, has always been about more than economic growth and social development. Consider, for example, the massive economic assistance and military support provided by the United States to bolster the regimes of the shah of Iran, Nicaragua under Somoza, and Chile under General Pinochet (Walker, 23-24).

The difficulties involved in nation building are myriad. According to Fareed Zakaria (28), nation building depends almost entirely upon achieving peace in a country. As long as a nation is struggling to achieve an end to hostilities between different political, ethnic, tribal, or religious groups, nation building is simply not possible. As Zakaria (28) points out, it is only after the guns have been put away that a stable government can be put in place and the institutions needed to support social and economic development created.

The idea of using nation building as a tool to combat terrorism and/or to foster an end to conflict and to strengthen economic development rests upon a set of assumptions that Christian Bourge (p. 1) considers to be dubious. Only when nation building is coupled with strict deterrence efforts can a failed state that has been a center for terrorist activities be strengthened or a state with limited infrastructure be economically assisted. Many of the countries of the Third or developing World may not have the historical backgrounds to become bastions of democratic principles. Democracy presupposes a specific cultural orientation that Bourge (p. 1) bel...

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