James Traub on Building Democratic Institutions

Traub: The paradox of this is… and we rightly fault the Bush Administration for imagining that somehow they could smash regimes at Afghanistan or Iraq and then these places will rebuild themselves organically.  We would say happy to have helped and now we know you guys want to do this on your own, on the one side.  On the other side, there is neo-colonial problem.  And so, there both is the need to recognize this is a long-term slow process and you’ve got to be there and it cost money and commitments beyond the term of an individual president.  At the same time, you have to recognize this is no longer the United States and the Philippines in 1908.  Countries do not like to be seen as submitting even to the most benevolent colonial master.  So, we have to find the way of asserting a positive role without triggering the nationalist impulse, which says, “I don’t care whether you’re good for us or not, I don’t want to have you here anymore.”

The challenge, says James Traub, is to promote institutions without seeming like a colonizer.

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