It has become fashionable among “conservative” interventionists who support some version or other of our current meddlesome foreign policy to reject efforts to “nation build.” They do this as if it is some big concession to their realist and non-interventionist critics. According to these anti-nation building interventionists, the invasion of Iraq was not unwarranted, but the subsequent effort to rebuild Iraq (which we tore down) and turn it into a functioning democracy was.
But it is meaningless to disclaim “nation building” and act as if that is some sort of movement in a prudent foreign policy direction. Who is for “nation building” these days anyway? Nation building was never really embraced by most on the interventionist right to begin with. It was primarily Utopian neocon ideologues who fantasized about establishing a “beachhead” of democracy in the Middle East which would, domino like, spread throughout the Middle East until they were all good little Western style liberal democracies. Most on the saber rattling right simply wanted to squash any and all potential enemies and likely considered any subsequent nation building on our part as a magnanimous gesture. Much talk of “spreading democracy,” “toppling dictators,” “liberating the Iraqis from a tyrant” and other such neoconish rhetoric made its way into the rationalizations of the pro-war drum beaters, but it is clear that their main concern was extracting a pound of flesh from some Muslims, any Muslims, in the wake of 9/11, and pre-emptively squashing the perceived menace of crusading Islamofascism.
It doesn’t take a lot of reading between the lines to understand that what many “conservativetive” interventionists mean when they say they are against nation building is that they just want to bomb Country X, whichever country is the latest boogieman, and leave it to them to pick up the pieces. The problem that weds most interventionists conservatives to their bellicose foreign policy is not an impulse to “nation build,” which is primarily the brainchild of grossly out of touch with reality neocon ideologues and muddle-headed liberals (think Darfur). The problem is the impulse to see preventative aggression first as a legitimate foreign policy tool. As well as the tendency to see every threat as a potential existential threat to our existence.