Has anyone noticed how since 1945, problems arising beyond the US and Europe with stable govts., have taken place in main, within those areas and geopollitical locations once occupied and claimed by the Colonial Powers from Europe over these past 200 to 300 years ?
WWII signaled an end to the Age of Colonialization, just as this collapse by the War and its consequences resulted in Colonial area experiencing their freedoms from rule by European Powers for the first time. 1945 marked an end to abilities of Europeans to retain their overseas Empires. This collapse played out during last half to the 20th Century, providing many chances for world-wide Communism to move against Democratic Govts., formed a baseline to those efforts thru exploiting Anti-Imperialism and Anti-Colonialist political movements and rehtoric as ideology.
It was the loss of these territories which has vexed American Military practice and history as US rejection of Colonialism historically, challenged to establish freedom and anti-communist expansions thruout former peoples and lands of the Colonial Empires.
One of the fortunate aspects of being a history teacher overseas is the institutions often expect you to teach a class or two in areas other than your primary background. For me, when I was in Mongolia for two-years consecutively and teaching, one of the areas for which I was immediately responsible was to teach the concept of State Formation. I studied a lot and very rapidly for that class as you can imagine and in the process it hardened a lot of what I had perceived through routine study of the Middle East.
In State Formation studies a consistent theme is that State Formation is a long process, it is often a process which can take one to two hundred years and is, by its very nature, a process of conflict, wherein oppositional groups and social pressures are often pressing against one another in pursuit of finding the optimal combination of contemporary forms of government legitimacy to conform to. I am not surprised that Middle East countries are still largely finding their way through the process of emerging from post-colonial societies into ones where colonialism is more in the rear view mirror and they must deal with their more recent past. I am especially not surprised given that they are attempting to meld Western democratic principles which are dependent on both Christian and post-Christian, Enlightenment principles and reconcile those with a religion that also serves as a world system or a religion which is all pervasive and encompasses governmental structure and use of force directives within its teachings and forms a major source and constant well of jurisprudence. In many instances the two forces are so oppositional that additional stress is built into the system and you have the outbreak of civil conflict. This is why I advocate for local systems to follow their natural, regional structural historical frameworks, with caveats that create opportunity for human rights and for principles that we might recognize as democratic. If we can accept at least semi-democratic authority structures we may see a much more peaceful, settled State Formation process.
The above is why I did not embrace the Arab Spring and why I was also cynical that it would really take root and effectively grow. The Middle East has historically, since ancient Sumer and Akkad, been built around strong, authoritarian regimes with strong militaries and with imperial designs. This trend did not abate and did not change in the post-World War One era in which Sheikh Hussein wanted to establish what would have been an Arab empire throughout the carved up remains of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East. To change what had brought effectively long periods of stability and peace (we are reading hundreds of years of history in paragraphs) is something of a pipe dream and an attempt to change mentalities that do not necessarily need changing. Arab Socialism and Arab Communism uniquely blended the authoritarianism that was pre-existent and gave it a new focus and drive to move against a specific object. It did represent a significant aspect of Middle East State Formation as they were ones of many different ideologies adopted and attempted to use to bring the Arabs together or help justify their division. We have seen how the Middle East has worn an ideology, tried it out, it brings chaos and destruction, and then it appears to slowly but surely abandon it for a whole new one. Incidentally, as the Middle East has abandoned both Arab Socialism and Communist as wide-ranging ideologies, still pockets exist, the amount of regional terrorism has reduced and we have seen the reduction of cellular terrorism and the advent of the paramilitary, militia par excellence.
I am not sure that I can write succinctly on how to apply State Formation theory to the conducting of Counter insurgency operations but the more we know about its causes and linkages I do think we can operate on a basis of understanding the limits of our ability to totally affect and change the outcome or end the conflict in total terms. The military can address the immediate security and restorative need while the policymakers and diplomats can work out the State Formation aspect to bring both under control at one time.
The basic mistake was to conflate nationalism with communism. The 2nd was to assume that all domestic left leaning groups took directives from Moscow. It was the alienation and rejection of many anticolonial nationalists by the US that pushed them into Soviet (and Chinese) arms.
The US has always favored stability through expediency with total disregard for local grievances. Local elites (which had previously cooperated with the Japanese) were reinstated to power and grass-root anti-Japanese resistance movements were brushed aside. The French were supported in their attempt to regain Indochina. Truman allowed US politics -heavily influenced by the Nationalist Chinese lobby- to maneuver his foreign policy. The what-if’s are so many that it is mind-boggling.