The Era of Nation Cultivation

(…..) What would happen if we changed terminology and no longer spoke of “nation building” but of “nation cultivating”? Cultivation fosters a different mindset. One can do everything “right” in cultivation, seedling can perish; there is no expectation following planned checklist guarantees success. Despite best intentions of the cultivator, bad weather and poor soil, can lead to catastrophic failure. Nation building is an inherently revolutionary proposition that believes it is both possible and desirable to sweep away past and install new institutions by fiat. Nation cultivation, in contrast, rests on the observations of Edmund Burke that sustainable, evolutionary change is possible only by working within the existing frameworks bequeathed by tradition, experience. Nation cultivation must start with an assessment of the raw material at hand. Many nation-building failures of the last 2 decades, Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, resulted from the hasty and rapid importation of institutions that had no way to take root in local society. Western liberal-democratic norms, for instance, depend on things such as concept of loyal opposition, the peaceful transfer of power (with those handing over power in turn free from persecution or harassment), and existence of a neutral state that transcends local, linguistic, tribal, ethnic and religious loyalties. In retrospect, a nation cultivator might have supported the restoration of the monarchy in Afghanistan as a first step toward recreating a central authority capable of providing some degree of national unity and identity, rather than settling on elections as source of sovereignty. After all, to have a democracy, one must have a “demos”, a people. As in Iraq, as in Bosnia and Afghanistan, voters cast their ballots not for national politicians but for ethno-sectarian representatives. In contrast, it has been the autocratic but modernizing monarchies, places like Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, which have been able to provide a sense of national unity and introduce gradual but sustainable political reforms. Similarly, quasi-monarchial leaders, in places like Taiwan and Singapore, have helped lay the groundwork for positive change. Michael Hudson noted it is indeed very difficult for countries to engage in nation building. What they can do, however, is offer assistance in growing and nurturing institutions must be organically rooted in the target society if they are to have any chance of success. Seeing this process as cultivation rather than building also changes expected timeline. In agriculture, one may need to wait years before a first crop can be expected. This, of course, runs up against the famous “three-year” rule expressed in The National Interest several years ago by Steven Metz, Americans are not willing to support counterinsurgency/nation-building campaigns that threaten to stretch out beyond a thirty-six-month horizon. But nation cultivation might force a new and more honest dialogue with American people, asking them to commit to longer-term time horizons when it can be shown that nation cultivation is truly in the country’s interests, as it certainly proved to be the case in East Asia (…..)



Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional


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