Forgeting the Present, Remembering the Past, and Repeating It Anyway

Aboard the good ship USS State of Denial is such a meal that I haven’t begun to digest it yet.

[E]ven the most recent media dismantling of the administration’s various explanations for war seems to have affected the President’s supporters and the administration itself only marginally. No matter how many times these explanations have been torpedoed and sent to the bottom, they (or their cousins) just pop up again like so many Schmoos.

The most pitiful of the damned are those who are condemned both to remember the past and to repeat it. With that in mind, let’s review Lessons from the Past: The American Record on Nation Building.

The record of past U.S. experience in democratic nation building is daunting. The low rate of success is a sobering reminder that these are among the most difficult foreign policy ventures for the United States. Of the sixteen such efforts during , democracy was sustained in only four cases ten years after the departure of U.S. forces. Two of these followed the total defeat and surrender of Japan and Germany after World War Ⅱ, and two were tiny Grenada and Panama. Unilateral nation building by the United States has had an even rougher time — perhaps because unilateralism has led to surrogate regimes and direct U.S. administration during the postconflict period. Not one American-supported surrogate regime has made the transition to democracy, and only one case of direct American administration has done so.