The Rise of the Nation Builders
By Nathan Hodge
Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, Hardcover, 9781608190171, 338pp.
Publication Date: February 15, 2011
In May 2003, President George W. Bush declared victory in Iraq. But while we won the war, we catastrophically lost the peace. Our failure prompted a fundamental change in our foreign policy. Confronted with the shortcomings of "shock and awe," the U.S. military shifted its focus to "stability operations": counterinsurgency and the rebuilding of failed states. In less than a decade, foreign assistance has become militarized; humanitarianism has been armed.Combining recent history and firsthand reporting, "Armed Humanitarians" traces how the concepts of nation-building came into vogue, and how, evangelized through think tanks, government seminars, and the press, this new doctrine took root inside the Pentagon and the State Department. Following this extraordinary experiment in armed social work as it plays out from Afghanistan and Iraq to Africa and Haiti, Nathan Hodge exposes the difficulties of translating these ambitious new theories into action.
Ultimately seeing this new era in foreign relations as a noble but flawed experiment, he shows how armed humanitarianism strains our resources, deepens our reliance on outsourcing and private contractors, and leads to perceptions of a new imperialism, arguably a major factor in any number of new conflicts around the world. As we attempt to build nations, we may in fact be weakening our own.
Nathan Hodge is a Washington, D.C.-based writer who specializes in defense and national security. He has reported from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, and a number of other countries in the Middle East and former Soviet Union. He is the author, with Sharon Weinberger, of "A Nuclear Family Vacation," and his work has appeared in "Slate," the "Financial Times," "Foreign Policy," and many other newspapers and magazines.
“Drawing on an enormous amount of location research in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, the Republic of Georgia, and elsewhere, Hodge exhibits a startling grasp of the primary challenges to our national security… Equal parts inspiring and frustrating, this is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand U.S. foreign policy.” —Booklist “In his fast-moving, well-argued assessment, [Hodge] warns about a military stretched too thin, distracted from its primary mission of fighting and winning wars; about a U.S. treasury strained to the breaking point; and about the huge and clumsy footprint often left by the new class of soldier/diplomats. For a civilian readership increasingly alienated from the culture of its military, Hodge provides an important guide to what the reformers have wrought.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Hodge calls for a national conversation on the issue of nation building, and his carefully reported and sprightly written critique is a good place to begin.” —Publishers Weekly“An important, timely book: Nathan Hodge, one of the nation’s best defense reporters, tells a compelling story about U.S. soft power, showing how military force and humanitarian aid has coalesced during missions abroad. A must read.” —Tara McKelvey, author of Monstering: Inside America’s Policy of Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War
“A fascinating and important first-hand account of the new American way of war.” —Sean Naylor, author of Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda“A fascinating and alarming examination of one of the least explored trends in American policy: the militarization of foreign aid. As Hodge powerfully illustrates with a storyteller's eye for detail, time and again in recent years the American military has been called to a task it is ill-equipped to perform—nation-building—with disastrous consequences. In the process, the work of 'bona-fide' civilian foreign assistance workers has become infinitely more suspect, complicated and perilous. An indispensable guide for anyone who wises to understand the terrible price being paid for the outsourcing of American foreign policy.” —Scott Anderson, author of The Man Who Tried to Save the World