Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science

First Committee Member

David Fott

Second Committee Member

John Tuman

Third Committee Member

Mark Lutz

Fourth Committee Member

Michelle Tusan

Number of Pages



Nation-building has historically and contemporaneously been a significant part of the foreign policy of the United States, and has been embraced by Republicans and Democrats alike at one point or another. It is therefore worth delving into this matter with a new frame of reference--i.e., that of liberty promotion--to determine whether this fundamental value has been furthered by the process of nation-building. Does nation-building promote liberty in the local nation, the intervening nation, both, or neither? This question, though seemingly fundamental, has not attracted the consideration it deserves, and warrants further investigation on both theoretical and empirical grounds. It is important to address whether nation-building may possibly promote liberty as well as whether it has yet done so. This is where the connection between theory and case studies comes into play. If indeed liberty is found to be promoted, or potentially promoted, in either or both nations, our very understanding of nation-building may undergo a fundamental change. A typical protestor who opposes the US's interventions abroad is likely to wield a sign or display a bumper sticker declaring "No blood for oil," yet how many Americans would wave a banner that proclaimed "No blood for liberty?"

Montesquieu and John Stuart Mill both exalted liberty as the highest form of human achievement, yet both also approved of colonization and suggested that so-called "good despotism" may offer the best means for ultimately attaining this liberty where it does not already exist. While Montesquieu proposed that commerce, with an appeal to human nature, provides the proper path to liberal colonization, Mill advocated for a foreign government comprised of experts who had the true interests of the colony and its people in mind. The case of US nation-building in Japan demonstrates that the promotion of liberty within the "mother country" as well as within the "dependent country" through the process of nation-building, when conducted properly, ispossible. The case of Iraq, conversely, demonstrates that success and liberty are far from guaranteed when nation-building is attempted. While a victory, such as the Japanese case, may offer a shining example of hope for future nation-building endeavors, the case of Iraq ought to emphasize the weightiness of such a decision. The promotion of liberty, for both nations involved, should come more into play as leaders contemplate such drastic foreign policy measures as nation-building. Approaching nation-building from the standpoint of dual liberty-promotion will eliminate unnecessary recourse to doomed strategies and disingenuous or unrealistic goals.


International relations; Iraq; Japan; Liberty; Mill; John Stuart; 1806-1873; Montesquieu; Charles de Secondat; baron de; 1689-1755; Nation-building; United States


International Relations | Political Science

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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