Nations damaged severely in WWII (suffered major economic collapse and civilian casualties) such as Japan, Germany and Poland have not only recovered but are doing better than ever before. Most of these nations are economically developed and are heavily competitive in the global market.

Nations damaged in most major wars/civil wars after WWII such as Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Somalia etc. have continued to suffer. (China and Vietnam are an exception). Most of these nations are far from developed and continue to suffer from corruption.

Is there an explanation why those nations continue to suffer?

closed as too broad by Tomas By, Schwern, Giter, José Carlos Santos, DevSolar Jul 22 at 7:57

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    VTC for too broad. I have the feeling you are trying to promote an opinion (also), but am not really sure what that is. – Tomas By Jul 21 at 23:13
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    There are various obvious reasons for some of this, eg the Marshall help and equivalent US help in Japan. – Tomas By Jul 21 at 23:14
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    Probably, but I don't know where would be good. You can try to narrow this down here and ask a more specific question, but comparing WW2 to recent fairly limited conflicts in less developed parts of the world does not really seem so meaningful. – Tomas By Jul 21 at 23:18
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    Have you checked to see if your examples show a pattern. The countries that bounced back were typically well developed beforehand so the culture existed to rebuild. I'm not aware of any issues with Iran but the others have ongoing sectarian and religious issues. Vietnam and China are relatively homogeneous nations. – Daniel Jul 21 at 23:35

This question is too broad, but I'll give you some avenues of research.

Note all the countries you use as examples mention were puppet states and colonies right up until, and a bit after, WW2. Iraq and Libya were carved from former Ottoman states, and the Ottoman Empire was not known for its efficiency. These territories were seized by the Allies after WW1 and saddled with colonial or puppet governments or unstable dictatorships. Nigeria was a British colony. And Somalia was a British and Italian colony. Being about exporting raw materials, they have little existing economic, governmental, nor industrial base to build upon. Many are formed from arbitrary lines on a map and have little national identity. While relatively unravaged by war compared to Europe, their governments were western puppets until independence in the 50s and 60s leaving little chance to develop stable governments.

Iran had continuity as Persia, and its history is more complicated. In the 18th century they were one of the most powerful nations. But the early 19th century saw its northern territories gobbled up by Russia. The late 19th and early 20th century saw famine, protest, the forming of a constitutional government, Russian occupation followed, Ottoman invasion and genocides, famine, and British occupation. They came out of WW2 mostly intact with a democratic government. Unfortunately his nationalization of the oil industry made the US and UK nervous, so he was overthrown in 1953 and replaced with a dictator. This proved very unpopular in Iran and lead to the 1979 Iranian Revolution and Iran as we know it today.

In contrast, Japan and Germany were well-established industrialized nations with functioning governments and national identities. Though devastated by war, they retained the foundations of their economies and government: skilled workers, teachers, traditions, relationships, resources, geography etc... After a brief occupation they retained their identity and (for West Germany, East Germany would come later) continuity of government. Western Europe received massive post-war aid from the Western Allies in the form of the Marshall Plan. Japan's reformed government engineered an economic miracle, bolstered by its use as a base of supply for the Korean War. In all cases the Western Allies had an interest in keeping the people of Western Europe and Japan happy and not communist.

As an interesting contrast, consider Turkey. While not spectacularly well off, they are relatively stable. Like the others they were also a former Ottoman state. Unlike the others they had a strong identity as Turks and resisted being carved up by the Allies after WW1, forged their own government, and have largely been left to their own devices.

The question is very broad, my answer is very broad. You can see the through line of negative foreign influence and meddling in a nation's history. I encourage you to look further into the history of each region, and what sort of foreign influences and interference they've had over the centuries.

  • Persia was not part of the Ottoman empire. – Tomas By Jul 22 at 0:45
  • (and Libya was an Italian colony before WW1) – Tomas By Jul 22 at 0:46
  • @TomasBy Like I said, broad brush. Libya was Ottoman until the 1911, close enough. Persia/Iran you are correct, I painted a bit too broadly. – Schwern Jul 22 at 0:49
  • @TomasBy Ok, I've fixed up Iran. Same basic story: foreign meddling. – Schwern Jul 22 at 1:07
  • Note that it's simplistic to claim that the 1953 coup was was the end of democracy in Iran; the overthrown prime minister had effectively formed a dictatorship with "emergency powers" – Orangesandlemons Jul 22 at 7:15

TLDR: The cold war

Start by reading this article about the Marshall Plan

Starting with a few quotes (emphasis mine):

The goals of the United States were to rebuild war-torn regions, remove trade barriers, modernize industry, improve European prosperity, and prevent the spread of Communism.


The purpose of the Marshall Plan was to aid in the economic recovery of nations after WWII and to reduce the influence of Communist parties within them.


Congress, under the control of conservative Republicans, agreed to the program for multiple reasons. ... Senator Robert A. Taft (R-Ohio) hedged on the issue. He said it was without economic justification; however, it was "absolutely necessary" in "the world battle against communism."

So what was the Marshall Plan? Basically, 3 years after the end of WWII the economy of France and Britain was still quite weak. The US feared[1] Soviet Union was planning to spread its influence through Europe and later the world. So it decided to inject money to stop the spread of communism.

After WWII US policy experts had the Morgenthau Plan which would leave Germany destroyed. The Morgenthau Plan had decreed that it would

take no steps looking toward the economic rehabilitation of Germany [or] designed to maintain or strengthen the German economy.

It appears that US policy makers had a change of heart when they realized that an impoverished Germany was (1) fertile ground for the spread of Soviet influence, and (2) that France and Britain would find economic recovery slow without Germany. Quoting a quote again from Wikipedia:

Thereafter, JCS 1067 was supplanted by JCS 1779, stating that "an orderly and prosperous Europe requires the economic contributions of a stable and productive Germany."

So US military technocrats realized they needed strong allies in not just France, Italy, and Britain, but also Germany. The US secretary of state, George Marshall, was a retired general who was instrumental in organizing the US war economy. He bought into the idea, and created the plan that bears his name, "Marshall Plan". With the ascent of communism via the CCP and Mao in China, it was decided that the US also had a strategic interest in a strong Japanese economy.

Thus, without the threat of communism, the Americans likely would have done nothing to help the Germany or Japan, nor honestly, anybody else.

So, now onto your question, which is "but countries war-torn in most wars, later, continue suffering?"

Directly answering your question:

Let's consider Iraq. So The US invaded Iraq in 2003. The right thing, after conquering this territory, would have been to build a strong democracy with a modern economy. This would have required a huge investment and 20-30 years of work. However, without the threat of communism or a cold war, Americans didn't really have enough motivation, or concentration to do that.

When I look at this list of occupied countries, I see most wars and occupations by the US as being fairly short. For example, Panama. Only Iraq and Afghanistan had a lengthy post war US occupation and nation building measures.

Other nations that have been conquered were not conquered by a wealthy counrey capable of rebuilding. For example, when India annexed Goa, India was per-capita poorer than Goa, so it wouldn't make any sense for India to make Goa as wealthy as Japan.

Controversial addendum: The US motivation to invade Iraq is fundamentally unclear to most people. It was purely about economic growth, as was was viewed by the Bush administration as a key to GDP growth.

[1] This statement does not address if the Soviet Union was actually expanding. All that matters, in the context of that Marshall Plan, was that the establishment in the US feared the spread of communism. However, Greece did have a communist insurgency.


@jamesqf has provided the following correct critique to this answer. He wrote it elegantly, so I quote it in full:

This is only a partial answer. What you miss is that the WWII losers were already prosperous, industrialized countries prior to their defeat, so they only needed to be RE-built. The people already understood how to run an industrial economy. Iraq, Libya &c were not developed prior to their invasions and/or civil wars, so why should that magically cause them to become developed? They just followed a similar course to most undeveloped countries that weren't invaded

I think what I left unstated is that generally, nations that are conquered do not recover as well as Japan and Germany did. They were aided in their recovery after WWII did due to the cold war. That makes them more of an exceptional case then a general rule.

  • Ahm, that 'list' and "only Iraq": please add the info that the list is temporally limited. Then think about Korea, Austria, Germany, Vietnam, Afghanistan, etc and how useful that list is for building your argument? The 'time' is but one aspect. In case of Germany there are 2 further individual aspects: both USSBS and Marshal plan are 'overrated'. 'Zero hour' was substantially above 'zero industry'. – LangLangC Jul 22 at 8:32
  • Korea, Austria, Germany - that's WWII conquered nations. Although Korea wasn't conquered during WWII, I think it still counts. Vietnam, the US didn't conquer. And I forgot Afghanistan - thanks! – axsvl77 Jul 22 at 8:51
  • An the OP seems to ask about Poland - which was also conquered during WWII. There is probably a parallel situation with rebuilding, but I don't know about that. – axsvl77 Jul 22 at 8:57
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    This is only a partial answer. What you miss is that the WWII losers were already prosperous, industrialized countries prior to their defeat, so they only needed to be RE-built. The people already understood how to run an industrial economy. Iraq, Libya &c were not developed prior to their invasions and/or civil wars, so why should that magically cause them to become developed? They just followed a similar course to most undeveloped countries that weren't invaded &c. – jamesqf Jul 23 at 1:02
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    @axsvl77: Note that I'm not critiquing your answer as such, but the false premise of the question. WRT Korea, I think the second invasion of the South by the North & China is particularly relevant. The invaded South built a prosperous economy; the invading North remains poor. Everything I see suggests that war damage is irrelevant to economic development in the long term. Once the conflict ends, the country soon returns to where it was (barring Communist or theocratic regimes taking power). Other factors then determine its economic development. – jamesqf Jul 24 at 16:52

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