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Leaders in Glass Countries Shouldn’t Throw Stones - Page 4

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Leaders in Glass Countries Shouldn’t Throw Stones
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And Ferguson also provides a valuable (and humbling) lesson on the topic of “nation-building.” Think about it: The United States has been wrestling with the problem of race for over two centuries, and fought a bloody civil war over that very issue. Slavery was abolished 150 years ago, and while significant progress has been made since then, Ferguson is just another sign that the country still has a long way to go. Yet a little more than 10 years ago, U.S. foreign-policy elites from both political parties blithely assumed that the United States could topple governments in Iraq and Afghanistan and then quickly set up new institutions that would handle deep ethnic, sectarian, or tribal divisions in a just, equitable, and effective manner. And despite how that effort turned out, they repeated the same error in Libya in 2011. What could they have been thinking? The United States hasn’t been able to fix its racial divisions in a century and a half, but we thought we could settle some equally deep divisions in a few years in foreign countries that we barely understood. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the very definition of hubris.

 

More than 25 years ago, I wrote that “external conditions impinge on U.S. power; internal conditions generate it.” This is still true today. Because Uncle Sam’s position in the world is still so favorable, and because local powers will do more to contain serious threats if America doesn’t insist on doing most of the work itself, the United States can afford to take a relaxed view of most international developments. Ironically, one lesson of Ferguson is that the United States might be more secure, more prosperous, and more just — in short, a healthier society — if it paid more attention to events at home and devoted less effort and energy to quixotic crusades abroad.



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