A "failed state" is one that has a "shattered social and political structure." For example, in a September 10, 2002 article, CNN said that, Afghanistan, "after more than two decades of constant warfare," was "a nation in ruins." Towns and cities had become "reduced to rubble" and its social and political structure had become "torn apart by years of bitter conflict. ... It was this failed state, [said] Western leaders, that allowed Afghanistan to become a home to terrorists -- in turn paving the way for the events of September 11[, 2001]."
In August 2001, Pakistan was described as having "failed to achieve political stability, sustained economic growth or a clear sense of national identity."
Daniel Thürer, Dr. jur., LL.M. (Cambridge), Professor of International Law, European Law, Constitutional Law and Administrative Law at the University of Zurich, writing for the International Review of the Red Cross December 1999, says "Failing States are invariably the product of a collapse of the power structures providing political support for law and order, a process generally triggered and accompanied by anarchic forms of internal violence." He says that the "former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, described this situation in the following way:
- "'A feature of such conflicts is the collapse of state institutions, especially the police and judiciary, with resulting paralysis of governance, a breakdown of law and order, and general banditry and chaos. Not only are the functions of government suspended, but its assets are destroyed or looted and experienced officials are killed or flee the country. This is rarely the case in inter-state wars. It means that international intervention must extend beyond military and humanitarian tasks and must include the promotion of international reconciliation and the re-establishment of effective government.'"
"States in which institutions and law and order have totally or partially collapsed under the pressure and amidst the confusion of erupting violence, yet which subsist as a ghostly presence on the world map," Thürer says, "are now commonly referred to as failed States or Etats sans gouvernement."
Thürer states that, "However, neither expression is sufficiently precise. Failed is too broad a term, for, going to the opposite extreme, the aggressive, arbitrary, tyrannical or totalitarian State would equally be regarded as having failed -- at least according to the norms and standards of modern-day international law. On the other hand, "State without government" is too narrow, since, in the type of State [Thürer disccuses in his] article, it is not only the central government but all the other functions of the State which have collapsed." For this reason, Thürer says the term failed State should be understood to mean disintegrated or collapsed State."
An important caveat about these claims is that, as John Pilger says, "Poor countries are 'failed states'; those that oppose America are 'rogue states'; an attack by the west is a 'humanitarian intervention'." In other words, that the phrase failed state is an aspect of neo-colonialism where outsiders with superior technology and what they claim is a superior culture, assess the value of a state or what powers they say a state must have. Accordingly, some opponents of Imperial terror have lately begun to use the "failed state" rhetoric to describe both the United States, and Israel, arguing that these states have never managed to exist without conflict with their neighbours, and have inherently colonial mandates rooted in religious doctrines that are, at best, incompatible with the postmodern world. As Gwyn Dyer says, "these are modern states in a postmodern world." Examples of this counter-rhetoric are provided below.
However, there is some consensus that there ought to be a formal definition of a failed state for purposes of justifying humanitarian invention by the UN.
Related SourceWatch Resources
- Horn of Africa
- New Iraq
- Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan)
- Operation Iraqi Freedom: Beginnings of a Quagmire
- Pax Americana
- Pax Americana, Africa
- Post-war Iraq
- Third world
Articles & Commentary
- Henry C.K. Liu, "World Order, Failed States and Terrorism," Asia Times, February 3-May 24, 2005. Ten-part series with all links on main page in descending chronological order.
Iraq as a "failed state"
- "Kuwaiti minister calls Iraq 'failed state'", CNN, February 11, 2003.
- Pauline H. Baker, "Iraq as a Failed State: A six month progress report. Executive Summary and Recommendations. Report #1: Pre-war through September 2003," Fund for Peace (www.fundforpeace.org), September 2003: "The fundamental pre-war planning flaw was in not understanding how states fail, how far Iraq had deteriorated in this regard, and what would likely follow a military invasion. The security meltdown over the first six months of the occupation is a continuation of the persistent breakdown. Now it is responsibility of the US to rebuild that state. The current strategy - to fast-track the political transition - will not work because it measures success solely on the speed with which the ancien regime is replaced. It does not take into account the need to build the institutions through which elected leaders must govern." Complete Report.
- Carolyn Preston, "U.S. Policies Should Treat Iraq As A Failed State, Report Says," UNWire, December 4, 2003: "The newly adopted U.S. strategy of speeding up the transfer of authority to Iraqis fails to take into account the preconditions necessary for achieving effective elected government and may leave the country without the capacity to govern itself, according to a report released today by the Fund for Peace, a think tank that seeks to prevent war."
Somalia as a "failed state"
Afghanistan as a "failed state"
- "Afghanistan: Rebuilding a 'failed' state," CNN, September 10, 2002: "After more than two decades of constant warfare Afghanistan is a nation in ruins."
- "UN: Afghanistan Could Become 'Failed State' If Opium Production Rises," katv.com, October 29, 2003.
Pakistan as a "failed state"
- Syed Ahmed Tariq Mir, "Pakistan, A Failed State": Mir, Member of the Central Co-ordination Committee, MQM, said October 1, 2000, in the SAPRA conference, that the effects of partition are visible in Pakistan even after 53 years of independence. He said Pakistan is ruled by 46 families and that the Mohajir population of over 30 million is being kept hostage by the Punjabi dominated Pakistani establishment."
- Javed Amir, 24 "A Failed State with Nuclear Weapons," Dawn, November 24, 2002.
- "Pakistan: The world's next failed state?" pakistan-facts.com, February 28, 2003.
- Amir Mir, Commentary: "Pakistan's sectarian monster," Asia Times, June 8, 2005.
Liberia as a "failed state"
- Jamie Martin, "Liberia Intervention Could Prevent Terrorist Attacks, Experts Say," U.S. Department of State, July 21, 2003.
- Abdullah Dukuly, "UN Seeks to Transform Liberia from Failed State to Nation at Peace," Inter Press Service, October 6, 2003.
Guinea as a "failed state"
- "Guinea is fast becoming a failed state," guinea-forum.org, September 18, 2003.
Solomon Islands as a "failed state"
- Michael Field, "Solomon Islands: failed state or Adam's 'lost paradise'?" October 24, 2003.
- "Solomon Is: Failed State or Not Failed State?," pacificislands.cc, October 29, 2003.
Russia as a "failed state"
- "Russia: a Failed State?" excerpt from the RAND Corporation, December 14, 2002; Olga Olika and Tanya Charlick-Paley, "Assessing Russia's Decline: Trends and Implications for the United States and the U.S. Air Force," RAND. The whole publication, 10 chapters plus bibliography (2002).