“Nation building” seems to have fallen into disrepute in the West, but it should not. It is vitally important — as the successes of Germany, Japan and South Korea attest.
Over the past few years, in our foolishness, we in the Middle East swallowed the deceptive bait of “democracy” dangled before us, even though we knew that it could not, in the misguided way it was presented, be implemented in the Middle East.
The idea was superb, but here in the Middle East, possibly in being impatient to “get credit” before the diplomats’ term of office were over, no one ever took the time to establish the institutions of democracy — equal justice under law, freedom of speech, property rights, the primacy of the individual rather than the collective, separation of religion and state — to show us in the Middle East how democracy actually operates, and to allow those institutions to take root before ever holding an election.
So eager were Western leaders to take credit right away that they refused “let the rice bake.” Had the West introduced democratic elections to Japan and South Korea (where they eventually worked brilliantly) in the same way it muscled democracy into Iraq, it would never have taken root in those countries either. Had the Germans had been asked to vote right after World War II, they would most likely have reelected the Nazis — that was what they knew. It took seven years to re-educate the public to understand and accept a Konrad Adenauer.