• December 3, 2008

Grassroots Nation Building and US Foreign Policy

Grassroots Nation Building and US Foreign Policy

In today’s New York Times David Brooks highlights a major shift in Washington the Obama adminstration would do well to maintain: the move away from top-down militaristic attempts at democracy-building toward strengthening governmental legitimacy and efficacy from the bottom-up. “Some theoreticians may still talk about Platonic concepts like realism and neoconservatism, but the actual foreign policy doctrine of the future will be hammered out in a bottom-up process as the U.S. and its allies use their varied tools to build government capacity in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, the Philippines and beyond. Grand strategists may imagine a new global architecture built at high-level summits, but the real global architecture of the future will emerge organically from these day-to-day nation-building operations.”


Moreover, he points to the role Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has played in these efforts. “In recent years, the lines separating war, peace, diplomacy and development have become more blurred and no longer fit the neat organizational charts of the 20th century,” he said in Washington in July. Gates does not talk about spreading democracy, at least in the short run. He talks about using integrated federal agencies to help locals improve the quality and responsiveness of governments in trouble spots around the world.”