We believe that nation building is incredibly difficult and expensive. America should only pursue this in situations where a cultural basis exists to support a democratic society and as part of a broad international coalition.
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America had great success with nation building in post WW II Germany and Japan and more generally throughout Western Europe with the Marshall plan. We also had success with helping to build a vibrant democracy in South Korea. We have also had some abject and expensive failures. It remains to be seen whether post-invasion Iraq will be a viable democracy.
One thing is certain, the efforts at nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan have been unbelievably expensive. In the future, America needs to consider less expensive alternatives for dealing with regimes that threaten us, or appear to threaten us, including actions that are purely punitive. In those cases where we do pursue nation building, we should only do so as a part of a broad international coalition.