Fukuyama brings together esteemed academics, political analysts, and practitioners to reflect on the U.S. experience with nation-building, from its historical underpinnings to its modern-day consequences. The United States has sought on repeated occasions to reconstruct states damaged by conflict, from Reconstruction in the South after the Civil War to Japan and Germany after World War II, to the ongoing rebuilding of Iraq. Despite this rich experience, there has been remarkably little systematic effort to learn lessons on how outside powers can assist in the building of strong and self-sufficient states in post-conflict situations. The contributors dissect mistakes, false starts, and lessons learned from the cases of Afghanistan and Iraq within the broader context of reconstruction efforts in other parts of the world, including Latin America, Japan, and the Balkans. Examining the contrasting models in Afghanistan and Iraq, they highlight the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq as a cautionary example of inadequate planning.
Fukuyama begins State-Building with an account of the broad importance of “stateness.” He rejects the notion that there can be a science of public administration, and discusses the causes of contemporary state weakness. He ends the book with a discussion of the consequences of weak states for international order, and the grounds on which the international community may legitimately intervene to prop them up.