"Most armed interventions deployed to improve a failed state's government capabilities -- whether you call it nation building or something else -- do not have to contend with Somalian levels of anarchy. The United States and the United Nations have learned by watching the big failures (in Angola and Liberia as much as Somalia), and operate with a measure of greater sophistication. The track record has actually improved since the early 1990s. The failures have been big, public, and humiliating, but the United States and the United Nations have also racked up better outcomes in Namibia, Mozambique, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, East Timor, Liberia (the second time around), Sierra Leone (which came back from the brink of failure), and possibly Burundi.
Few of those countries are fully rebuilt, modern, stable, liberal democracies. Most are not particularly nice places to live. But the international interventions changed their trajectories. They are better off now than they were at the nadir of their respective wars and failures. That makes a real difference in human lives and is usually good enough to secure whatever interests led us to intervene in the first place."
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