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Building democracy in quicksand: America, altruism and empire

By Jean-Paul Faguet


The new era of American empire commenced with decisive military victories in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the aftermath of war has proved surprisingly difficult and violent. Explanations of America’s failure to win the peace have largely overlooked the inherent difficulty of planting democracy in so inhospitable a social environment as Iraq’s. This paper examines the prospects for American empire, focusing on the problem of nation-building, and in particular the role of a well-functioning civil society in making democracy work

Topics: JK Political institutions (United States)
Publisher: Crisis States Research Centre, London School of Economics and Political Science
Year: 2003
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Research Online

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  1. A refuge for ex-presidents.”
  2. Afghanistan offers clues of problems U.S.
  3. Allies unleash their firepower.”
  4. Allies unleash their firepower” and “Second night of bombing under way.”
  5. (2002). and World News, “Central America's longest civil war comes to a close.”
  6. And religious and linguistic fractures as well.
  7. as America’s will and intentions become less ambiguous, empire may also come to mean the bloodless capitulation of foreign governments to American domination without war – when faced with overwhelming US power and an obvious willingness to use it.
  8. Especially concerning Iraq, less so Afghanistan.
  9. (1902). Hobsbawm provide excellent treatments of the concept of imperialism. Two of the earliest and most influential analyses of the modern form of imperialism are Hobson
  10. (1993). is the most famous treatment of this topic. Faguet
  11. Lecturer in the Political Economy of Development, Development Studies Institute and Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics,
  12. (2002). p.3. Rodgers points out that criminal violence has increased by 10 percent per year every year since the democratic transition in 1990, “and the number of violent crimes leading to injury increased by 135 percent between
  13. (2000). and x. In Panama, the report notes, the rich are very rich and the poor are very poor.
  14. Postwar US Iraq Deaths Exceed Toll During War.”
  15. (2002). Reasonable estimates of the ordnance expended during the first three months of the Afghanistan war range from 10,000-30,000 bombs and missiles carrying upwards of 17 million pounds of explosives. See Cordesman
  16. Such a minimalist approach is consistent with arguments on both sides of the debate over the role of oil in motivating the second Gulf war, a murky question that I do not address here.
  17. (2001). The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation.” American Economic Review, 91:1369-1401. Amnesty International. doi
  18. The Economist (9/9/03) quotes Paul Bremer as saying that elected Iraqi authorities would take over from the US interim authority he leads by mid-2004.
  19. The Economist Global Agenda. “Pushing towards
  20. The Economist Global Agenda. “The air war begins.”
  21. (2003). The Economist. “In the fog of war.” 27
  22. The first two could be remedied directly by Presidential order, while the third would admittedly require perseverance and a measure of luck.
  23. (2002). The Lessons of Afghanistan: War Fighting, Intelligence, and Force Transformation, Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies. World News. “Central America's longest civil war comes to a close.”
  24. This research was supported by the Crisis States Programme, Development Studies Institute, London School of Economics. I am grateful to Nick Beldecos,

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