U.S. President George W. Bush came to power emphasizing that he did not regard nation-building as an appropriate activity for the U.S. military. As he prepares to run for re-election, the United States is engaged in two of the most ambitious nation-building projects in its history in Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. undertook a lead role in part because of the circumstances in which the two conflicts commenced, but also as an extension of the present administration's more general opposition to multilateral institutions such as the United Nations. Though the United States determined that it did not need the UN going into Iraq, however, it appears that it has belatedly realized it might need the UN in order to get out.
Simon Chesterman is Executive Director of the Institute for International Law and Justice at New York University School of Law. Prior to joining NYU, he was a Senior Associate at the International Peace Academy and Director of UN Relations at the International Crisis Group in New York. He had previously worked for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Belgrade and at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha.
He is the author of You, The People: The United Nations, Transitional Administration, and State-Building (Oxford University Press, 2004) and Just War or Just Peace? Humanitarian Intervention and International Law (Oxford University Press, 2001), which was awarded the American Society of International Law Certificate of Merit. He is the editor, with Michael Ignatieff and Ramesh Thakur, of Making States Work: State Failure and the Crisis of Governance (United Nations University Press, forthcoming) and of Civilians in War (Lynne Rienner, 2001). He regularly contributes to international law and political science journals, as well as mass media publications such as the International Herald Tribune. His has taught at the Universities of Melbourne, Oxford, Southampton, and Columbia.