This issue of diplomacy is devoted to the issue of state-building. Carl Bildt, the former Prime Minister of Sweden discusses the problems and potential solutions concerning the revival of the so-called failed or failing states.
“State-building requires far more time, resources and patience than decision-makers are normally aware of,” he says. “That being said, one would have to look at each situation on its own merits”. Although normally, international troops and the missions of international organisations should stay in a country longer than the allotted time, there are places from where these forces should have already left – like Bosnia for example.
In Carl Bildt’s opinion, state-building is definitely a multilateral undertaking – a fact that is now being understood by the US. “They have obviously learnt a very hard lesson in Iraq and I can only regret that they went into that operation with so obviously simplistic notions of what they were going to encounter”.
Harri Tiido, Estonia’s Ambassador to NATO explains the unavoidability of state-building; otherwise instability would spread quickly from where it initially started. Elaborating on the state-building efforts in Afghanistan, he concludes that this is not just the business of the military, but offers also a great potential for civilian activity, as many factors that hinder normal life in Afghanistan – such as the lack of a banking system or information technology – are normally provided by civilian structures and private businesses.
Jean MacKenzie, the country director for Afghanistan at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting describes her daily work training independent journalists in Afghanistan. “Who cares about the press when well over half the country cannot read, when life expectancy is merely 44 years, when girls are married off at nine years old and warlords still rule much of the country“, she complains. “Then I pause to remember that the only reason I know about all of these horrors is that hundreds of foreign-trained Afghan journalists have written about them”.
Eerik Niiles-Kross writes about nation building and its relevance to the situation in Iraq. Niles-Kross begins by defining the evolution of the term nation building from it 19th century use to today. He is critical of the US government and media’s misuse of the term nation building with which they try to justify the very active political intervention in the forming of another nation. He also introduces German political scientist Jochen Hippler’s three processes for successful nation building and uses them to analyse nation building in Iraq. Niles-Kross argues that Iraq needs an idea or ideology to unite the people and to help facilitate nation building. He finishes by stating the questions of many Iraqis, what is the idea behind rebuilding Iraq and why is the coalition (read USA) doing it?
Author and analyst Jere van Dyk makes an attempt to explain why so many Islamic fundamentalists have come to hate the West so strongly. “Islamists, angry at Western domination, its infidels, and its fear of Islam, are on the march”. „Why do they hate us?“ They, like most people, hate and fear what is different. They hate Satan, in his many forms, particularly the West, the West, which does not know the true and only God, and is the enemy.
William Elliott, the Deputy Head of the British Embassy in Tallinn, writes about the importance of knowing well the country that is being changed by outsiders. “By the time you start trying to put a state back together again, it’s probably too late to start learning about it. You have to come armed with knowledge and understanding in advance”, he writes. Diplomacy is a means to gain and update this knowledge.
Peeter Torop, a Semiotics Professor at the University of Tartu discusses how a post-conflict society or a society that has undergone profound changes, can acquire a new identity that would make the society function better and allow the society to integrate on a new basis. “It takes massive ethical, political and professional efforts to create a new identity,“ he concludes.
The thoughts of Bruno Groppo, a Professor at the University of Sorbonne, go along the same lines. He discusses how to deal with the crimes of the past. It is not possible to simply forget about them, he says. In order to restore the trust necessary to create a functioning society, the injustice has to be undone as much as possible and the past must be thoroughly analysed by the whole society.
In his book review, Toomas Hendrik Ilves discusses the new book by Francis Fukyama, “State building”. “The same Fukuyama, who some time ago believed that free elections and privatisation could settle all the problems a society may have, has now concluded that the rule of law is more important when the goal is to create a functioning state”. Ilves discusses this theory, bringing examples from Estonia and Russia, concluding that after the demise of the Soviet Union, Estonia managed to quickly become a functioning effective state, but is now, in some areas, slowly moving backwards.
As for state-building, Ilves states that even the USA does not have enough military muscle to save all the failing or failed states. “A new paradigm is necessary, and Estonia definitely can weigh in to that discussion”.