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Failed and Failing States Essay

Every country would normally strive for freedom and independence, and the people are right to want freedom and independence. Often, Freedom and independence are linked with progress and development. However, if we look at the cases of many independent nations in the world, we can see that there is more to development and progress that independence and freedom. As such, this paper examines the case of four countries – Iran, Pakistan, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority.

In a recent report of the Center for Global Development (CGD) prepared by Rice and Patrick (2008), the index of the 141 weakest countries was listed. Among them were Iran, rank 66, Pakistan, rank 33, Lebanon, rank 93, and Iran was listed as one of the countries to watch in the Near East as one of those that are important for the US. In the Index, Pakistan is considered weak, while Lebanon is one of those in the upper bracket of the list of countries to watch. The Palestinian Authority was not mentioned in the report. But there are researchers and political analysts that consider the Palestinian Authority as a failed state like Abumunah (2006) and Morag (2006).

Purpose of the Study

The paper will first try to establish a definition of “failed states” and differentiate it with “failing states” and examine why and how the four countries mentioned are classified as failed states or failing states. The paper will try to find patterns in the characteristics of the political systems and the economic problems of the countries.

The findings in this paper will benefit readers with little understanding of failed and failing states and hopes to be a good contribution to the literature on failed and failing states. The paper will not recommend solutions for the problems, but describe the present condition of the states in focus based on the online articles and books that discuss their situations. However, it is hoped that the descriptions will help policy makers in arriving at the right decisions about what they can do to improve the situations of failed states and those on the verge of failing.

Research Questions

The paper wants to clarify certain issues and discrepancies between the 2008 report and the descriptions in published articles that the four countries in focus are failed states. So the first question to answer is “What is a failed state?” There will be a preliminary definition of the term in the literature review, but it will further be discussed in the body of the paper.

The three countries, Iran, Lebanon, and Pakistan have been listed in the index of the 141 weakest states. Does the Palestine Authority’s exclusion from the CGD 2008 list mean that it is not a failed state anymore? This is one issue that this paper will address. But it is also notable that the three other countries have not been listed in the ranks that can be considered failed states. So another question and definitely the most important questions to answer in this paper is, “Are the four countries in focus failed or failing states?”

Why do researchers and analysts consider these four countries as ‘failed states’ or failing states? Another important support question would be, “What pattern can be found, if any, from these four states that may have led to their failed or failing status?” It is believed that by answering these questions, this paper can contribute to the arrival at better decisions made by policy makers concerned.

Scope and Delimitation

The paper wants to clarify certain issues and discrepancies between the 2008 report and the descriptions in published articles that the four countries in focus are failed states. So the first question to answer is “What is a failed state?” There will be a preliminary definition of the term in the literature review, but it will further be discussed in the body of the paper.

The three countries, Iran, Lebanon, and Pakistan have been listed in the index of the 141 weakest states. Does the Palestine Authority’s exclusion from the CGD 2008 list mean that it is not a failed state anymore? This is one issue that this paper will address. But it is also notable that the three other countries have not been listed in the ranks that can be considered failed states. So another question and definitely the most important questions to answer in this paper is, “Are the four countries in focus failed or failing states?”

Why do researchers and analysts consider these four countries as “failed states” or failing states? Another important support question would be, “What pattern can be found, if any, from these four states that may have led to their failed or failing status?” It is believed that by answering these questions, this paper can contribute to the arrival at better decisions made by policy makers concerned.

Literature Review

The first thing this paper will do is to do is to clarify the term “failed state.” According to “The African Studies Centre, Leiden, The Transnational Institute, Amsterdam, The Center of Social Studies, Coimbra University, and The Peace Research Center- CIP-FUHEM, Madrid (2003),” a failed state is one that can be considered to be in the “pre-modern” stage in development, such that it has no power to control violence and the people. Moreover, it is unable to pay or is not willing to pay its international debts, and cannot control the occurrence of crimes that inflict collateral damage to the security and the economy of the country (The African Studies Centre, et. al., 2003, p. 3).

A stricter definition was used in 2007 to describe a country believed by a political analyst to be a failed state. According to Roberts (2007), a failed state is one that cannot stand without external intervention, for which he gave Israel as an example. He discussed how Israel has been dependent on the support of the United States, thus making it (Israel) a failed state. IT is notable here that Israel has not been listed in the index of 141 weak countries made by Rice and Patrick (2008), same as the Palestinian Authority.

In the current international system, no country can interfere unlawfully with the matters of another independent country. The people of that country are to decide whether they will call for outside help or solve their problems by themselves, because every state is considered to be equal to any other state (Failed and Collapsed States in the International System, 2003 p. 3). This is the “Westphalian” international system. Hence, even a more politically powerful state technically has only equal sovereignty as weaker states.

The common scenario, however, is that there is a superpower intervening in the affairs of other sovereign states because the superpowers can offer political and economic support (Ibid). This intervention is done under the conditions that the superpower’s interventions are under the law of the land the state keeps its sovereignty (Ibid.).

The superpowers were very dominant especially during the time of the Cold War. The superpowers were so dominant then that by the time the Cold war ended, when the superpowers withdrew from the countries that they intervened in, the many of the countries either failed or collapsed:

“However, with the end of the Cold War and, in its wake, the withdrawal of superpower intervention in various (regional) theatres of confrontation, this system came under increasing pressure – by now possibly to or even beyond breaking point. The emergence, during the last decade, of a whole series of failed and even collapsed states represents the most serious point of strain in the current international system, as this evolved in the ways described above (Failed and Collapsed States in the International System, 2003 p. 3).”

As early as 2002, there has already been an indication that Pakistan was already stating to fail. Weaver (2002) said that because of Pakistan’s political problems, it “could well become the world’s newest failed state – failed state with nuclear weapons.(Weaver, 2002, p. 10).” Another article in 2004 strongly suggests that by that time, Pakistan was already a failed state saying,

“The West is placing too much attention about nuclear proliferation risks from Iran and North Korea instead of focusing on ‘failing states’ such as Pakistan and Russia, according to a think-tank set up by Prime Minister Tony Blair (Payvand’s Iran News, Oct. 2004).”

The text has directly branded Pakistan as a failed state, while it suggests that by that time, Iran has not yet been considered as a failed state. However, another article published on Dec. 16, 2008 stated that Iran and Lebanon are close to being failed states (Spengler, 2008). Here, there are two things that can be threshed out. One is that Iran and Lebanon are not yet failed sates, but probably failing states. Second is the definition of a failing state, which is, a state that is on the verge of being a failed state.

Furthermore, considering that Iran and Lebanon have been listed in the index of weak states, we can say that a failing state is a weak state. It may still have good chances of getting back to a better status before its present status, but its economic, judicial, and political and security are not going very well.

Eisenstadt (2007) explicitly mentioned that the Palestinian Authority is a failed state (p. 11), and he enumerated the failures of the Palestinian government to “provide the security and welfare of its citizens (p. 4).  He further added the four major characteristics of the Palestinian Authority – chaos, internal strife, lawlessness, and corruption.

This characterization can be used to define a failed state as one where there is a domination of chaos, internal strife, lawlessness, and corruption. Hence, a failing state is one in which these four elements are starting to become uncontrollable. When one or more of these has become beyond the power of the state, then it is a failing state. So, considering Eisnstadt (2007), a weak or failing state is one with a government that is not able to provide the needs of the people because of violence, discrimination, and corruption.

Among the three countries listed in the index of weak countries, Pakistan has the lowest rank – 33 as compared to Iran (rank 66) and Lebanon (rank 93). The criteria for the weak states were well set by Rice and Patrick (2008). The indicators were grouped into four categories with five indicators each – Economic (GNI per capita, 2006; GDP growth 2002-2006; Income Inequality, 2006; Inflation, 2002-2006; and Regulatory Quality), Political (Government effectiveness, 2006;

Rule of Law, 2006; Voice and Accountability, 2006; Control of Corruption, 2006; Freedom Ratings, 2006)  Security (Conflict Intensity, 1992-2006; Political Stability and Absence of Violence, 2006; Incidence of Coups, 1992-2006; Gross Human Rights Abuses, 1992-2006; Territory Affected by Conflict, 1991-2005), and Social Welfare (Child Mortality, 2005; Primary School Completion, 2005; Undernourishment, 2004; Percent Population with Access to Improved Water Sources, and with Access to Improved Sanitation Facilities, 2004; and Life Expectancy, 2005).

Methodology

To achieve the purpose, different books and articles about failed states and the countries in focus have been studied. The paper uses a qualitative approach via collection of published documents. The definition of “failed states” was first analyzed based on the different documents and tried to arrive at a comprehensive definition. This is followed by close look at the situations of the four countries, also based on published articles and books. The rising patterns of development into statehood were studied and then the patterns of falling prey to failure.

The research looks objectively at the data from different sources and weighs the opinions of different writers of books and articles printed and online.  The research suspended prejudicial views of the four countries as failed states and based its statements regarding the status of the states on the data from the documents found.

We also cannot avoid looking at sample cases of countries that are declared as failed states to have a point of comparison for the four countries in focus, so the data analysis will also touch on the status of the weakest countries in the index prepared by Rice and Patrick. However, Rice and Patrick’s index will not be the sole basis of the study of the circumstances where the concerned states are in.


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