America’s Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq is the title of a 240-page strategic and historical study released in July 2003, four months after we invaded Iraq, by the RAND Corporation, an influential national-security institute that originally conducted special research for the U.S. Air Force.  The early intellectual leadership of the RAND Corporation is still influential among neoconservatives.  For example, the late Albert Wohlstetter and his friend Andrew Marshall (the long-serving and founding head of the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment—a very influential in-house think tank of the Department of Defense) have been mentors and strategic collaborators of Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, among others.

An implicit premise of the RAND study is that the U.S. military’s newly proposed “core mission” of foreign “nation-building” can and should be conducted simultaneously with its dissipating “Global War on Terror.”  This combination, even at first glance, appears irrational.

Nonetheless, this study explicitly supports a new “core mission” of concurrent “nation-building” for our military, even though the GWOT (as it is affectionately known) itself increasingly eludes definition.  Our military forces (including our reserves) are now exhaustingly overextended in their oft-reactive, yet pervasively inconclusive, operations without clearly knowing either the nature of the enemy or the kind of war we are in.  Therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude, even at the outset, that any such protracted and concurrent combination of these two new “core missions” for the U.S. military will very soon produce an irreversible, self-inflicted, and self-sabotaging “binary weapon” (a unique combination that causes a detonation, or disintegrating implosion).

The RAND study entirely omits any discussion of these momentous matters, let alone their longer-range implications for war and peace and the rootedness of ordered life.

The study mentions five nation-building projects spanning the last 12 years: Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Haiti (the only non-Muslim country).  With Iraq, however, the United States now “embarks on its most ambitious program of nation-building since 1945,” when we purportedly engaged in nation-building in Germany and Japan.  Both of those efforts were clearly, in the view of the RAND Corporation, “successful.”  It should be noted, however, that the study’s only criterion of “success” in nation-building is the attainment of “democratization” and of a “vibrant economy.”

The study argues that the United States did not invest sufficiently over recent years in the “capacity of the U.S. armed forces or of U.S. civilian agencies to conduct postcombat stabilization and reconstruction operations.”  (Notice the Newspeak and deliberate vagueness.)  It also addresses the willingness of the U.S. Armed Forces to conduct such nation-building, beyond their capability to do so:

Nation-building has been a controversial mission over the past decade, and the intensity of this debate has undoubtedly inhibited the investments that would be needed to do these tasks better.  Institutional resistance in the departments of State and Defense, neither of which regard nation-building among their core missions, has also been an obstacle.

It is worthwhile to consider these words very carefully.  The language is characteristic of the entire study, and the evasive style also reveals the authors’ mentality, which so often seems stiflingly superficial, equivocally vague, and altogether frigid and presumptuous.  RAND’s critique offers nothing concrete and specific about the military’s putative “institutional resistance” to engaging in nation-building or whether such resistance is intelligent (moral and strategic) or merely inertial.

Nor does the RAND study even mention the key arguments for or against such a demanding and deeply consequential (arguably neo-imperial and unconstitutional) mission.  Such omissions of important and indispensable substance are altogether unprofessional—as well as subtly sophistic.  For, like the sophists of ancient Greece, the RAND-study authors attempt to “make the worse seem better and the better seem worse.”

To what extent are our active-duty military officers fatalistically or supinely accepting this new orientation?  Do they even hold their civilian masters to a high standard of definition about what they dare to call nation-building before they comply with the new mission, or honorably resign?  The RAND study surely will not help our officers of discerning or inquiring intellect in that question.

Why should nation-building ever constitute a “core mission” for any deeply reflective military culture in the world, let alone for the U.S. military, which is already over-extended, linguistically unprepared, culturally and religiously undereducated, and exhausted by the tempo of its multifarious global operations?  Even the GWOT, moreover, implies that we are making war against a method of warfare and not against a clearly specified enemy.  (It is absurd to think that anyone could ever defeat “psychological warfare,” for example.  Yet terrorism is a form of psychological warfare.)  Nor do we seem to have even a consistent “image of the enemy.”

We should also ask why the RAND Corporation so disapprovingly calls the U.S. military’s firm resistance to the new “core mission” of nation-building an “obstacle”—an obstacle to what?  Are we to understand that this altogether rational and moral resistance to a disorienting “utopian deformation” is an obstacle to its further deconstruction as a military force?  Or is it, rather, merely an obstacle to the U.S. military’s further transformation into an imperial police force?

The study, however, expresses its satisfaction with President Bush’s readiness to undertake the project of nation-building, which is a necessary element for an imperial state:

In Iraq, the United States has taken on a task with a scope comparable to the transformational attempts still under way in Bosnia and Kosovo and [on] a scale comparable only to the earlier U.S. occupations of Germany and Japan.  Nation-building, it appears, is the inescapable responsibility of the world’s only superpower.

The first paragraph of the Executive Summary should further alert—and perhaps provoke—the attentive reader:

The goal of the work documented here was to analyze and extract the best practices in nation-building from the post-World War II experiences of the United States.  To do this, we examined U.S. and international military, political and economic activities in postconflict situations since World War II, identified the key determinants of the success of these operations in terms of democratization and the creation of vibrant economies, and drew implications for future U.S. nation-building operations.

Clearly, Iraq is the strategic focus.  In fact, after Chapter Nine on “Lessons Learned” from history, the study’s concluding chapter is a lengthy and unexpectedly sobering consideration of Iraq herself, especially her vulnerable geography and some of the other formidable barriers to any U.S. mission of “nation-building” there.  But the treatment of the deeper religious factors is very poor, indeed—even dangerously shallow.

A second essay could be written on the RAND Corporation’s two very superficial case studies of U.S. attempts at nation-building in Germany and Japan after World War II.  For RAND’s measures of the reality and essence of an historic nation are, indeed, insulting and embarrassing.  “Democratizations” and “vibrant economies” simply will not do—especially with regard to Germany and Japan!

All those who know the actual history of the occupation and “reeducation” of Germany and Japan—and especially the distorting long-range effects on the “guilty” German nation and its youth—will be justly indignant.  The young were made to feel ashamed essentially of all German history and culture, and their parents were often humiliated and prohibited from speaking of their own wartime griefs and terrors.

However, did the United States really build the German nation or the Japanese nation?  Are such deeply formed cultures of long history ever to be “built” by “outsiders”?  Can a slowly growing, well-rooted, and fruitful nation ever be “engineered,” even by “insiders”?

What, indeed, is the substance of the historic culture of this purported “Iraqi nation” that we are now building?  Was there ever such a thing?  And is it in any way comparable to the continuity of the coherent (and unified) German or Japanese nations?  What cultural substance is the United States now to draw upon, so as to conduct (or inflict) a new nation-building operation there?  Or are we really talking about “democratization” and a “vibrant economy,” once again?  And how many years would it take to build even a slightly deeper “democratic political culture” in Iraq?

A nation is not a product to be engineered.  Nor does a nation have a “modular” structure capable of being changedand rearrangedin various artificial permutations. What does it really mean to “build” a nation, or even to reconstructand reforma militarily defeated nation, especially a purposely humiliated nation?  A nation grows slowly over time in and through its deeply shared experiences and vivid, living memories, even (and sometimes especially) memories of intimately shared sorrow and of tragic but heroic military defeats, as with the Serbs and Hungarians against the Turks.

More generally, how does any foreign culture—especially an increasingly intrusive and very secularized culture such as that of the United States—“build a nation” during its military occupation of a religiously Muslim society?  After a preemptive, supposedly “preventive” war of aggression (in defiance of current and long-standing international law), could any foreign “interventionist” armed forces really build a nation—even if it were linguistically competent and culturally sensitive, as well as religiously respectful?

It is important to remember that the United States of today is not at all the United States of 1945.  This is still “Clinton’s America,” in the discerning moral sense conveyed by Joseph Sobran in Hustler, his book on the Clinton legacy.  The United States is now so culturally Balkanized, and even religiously Lebanonized, and sufficiently decadent that she can now (contrary to Gen. Yehoshafat Harkabi’s expectations in his 1988 book, Israel’s Fateful Hour) be easily manipulated to become a more docile “proxy force,” or “useful idiot,” for the intelligently advancing grand strategy of Israel.  Even those who are afraid to speak it openly know that this is so.

The U.S. military has effectively become an instrument for propagating the Clinton legacy abroad, often under the guise of progressive globalism or “transparent finance” or “economies without borders.”  This includes the whole ideology of rootless and restless neoliberal capitalism.

Well-rooted, just-minded, and far-sighted Americans (following the late James Burnham, the author of The War We Are In) should neither welcome nor tolerate these developments.  Moreover, the moral and strategic resistance of our military officer corps to such destructive and self-destructive conduct (and its underlying policy and strategy) should intelligently and courageously grow, as part of the fulfillment of their oath of office, which constitutes a very high moral obligation, indeed.  If the officer corps would take the time to read the RAND study carefully, they might well be awakened to what is being planned for them—and act.