The successful democratisation of West Germany and Japan has in recent years been used both by (especially American) policy makers and some academics as a proof of the viability of foreign-led nation-building. But is a comparison between the German and Japanese cases and the modern crop of so-called nation-building exercises really fruitful?
While several comparative studies of differences and similarities between Germany, Japan and other US military interventions as nation-building exercises have been done, there exists practically no in-depth look at Germany and Japan as a nation-building exercise. The goal of this thesis is to remedy this, with a thorough look at the American occupation of Germany through the lens of nation-building.
In addition to diverging factors emphasised in other nation-building literature, this study is the first one within the field of nation-building research to point out that US policy in Germany was to weaken state power, not to strengthen it. What emerged at the end of the occupation was hardly the Carthagian peace envisioned in the Morgenthau plan. But neither was it the end result of a targeted set of American reforms to strengthen a nation. And although the goals changed as the occupation progressed, the end product, the West German state, was weakened in certain core areas.
In addition, I draw a new connection between the post-war occupations and recent nation-building exercises, seeing them as in many ways influenced by the strong moralistic tint to US foreign policy. Like strong anti-fascism during and after the war, and anti-communism a few years later, US intervention policy after the Cold War has likewise been cloaked in a rhetoric of fighting against anti-democratic forces.