Building Nations, Breaking Eggs

Matt Steinglass presents a troubling theory about ethnic cleansing and nation-building:

One thing nobody reflected on much back in 2003, when neo-cons were arguing that we built a democracy in postwar Germany so why not Iraq: as Tony Judt writes in Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945, the postwar settlement in Europe involved vast amounts of ethnic cleansing, which left the states the US (and USSR) proposed to rebuild neatly settled on linguistic and ethnic lines. Czechoslovakia and Poland expelled millions of Germans. Yugoslavia expelled Italians. Hungary expelled Rumanians and vice versa. And of course the Jews were dead, and those that weren’t soon left for Palestine. The map of Central and Eastern Europe was sorted of most of its troublesome Austro-Hungarian complexity. And as it turns out it’s much easier to build a nation when its population doesn’t have murderous long-running internal religious and ethnic differences.

Well, the ethnic cleansing carried out in Iraq under US control was pretty impressive too - just not out of the country, within it. Which is, of course, the worst of both worlds: evil and no solution. Still: we paid for it!