Friday, December 01, 2006

Failed states

This past week there was a ridiculous debate about whether Iraq was in a state of civil war or some lesser state of violence ("a territorial arglebargle of regional qualms" in the words of John Oliver on The Daily Show). This is all masking the fact that it is actually worse than a civil war. A civil war has clearly identified sides and some sort of termination condition (one side winning). What we've got here is a chaos of competing armed factions, with no clear picture of who is in charge, what they want, or how to manage them. John Robb fills in some of the details. It's easier to break a state than make one, and the most of the factions in Iraq have no interest in having the state succeed. Certainly none is strong enough to impose a victory.

But his following post is even more disturbing, revealing that we may end up with another failed state much closer to home: Mexico, where the failure of the ostensibly losing side to concede a close election is threatening the institutions of the stat. Like Iraq, Mexico has gone from stable, corrupt autocracy to a state of uncertainty. The monopoly on violence has been broken up and its time the entrepenurs to take over. As a former anarchist, I must say, strong stable government has never looked so good. I guess this is a shadow of the ridiculous "bring back Saddam" meme that was also floated last week.

Robb has an obsession with infrastructure attacks, and he claims Mexico's oil and energy infrastructure is unusually vulnerable. Mexico is our third-biggest supplier of foreign oil, supplying about 14% of the total. A flailing Mexico could disrupt this and make our current immigration problems look trivial

1 comment:

goatchowder said...

It is anarchy, as in "The Coming Anarchy" described by Robert Kaplan (

Most of west Africa has been for decades in the state that Iraq is entering now. Kaplan posits that the whole world is heading this way. Dunno about that, but we certainly learned that Neocon idiots were capable of it. I hope we put a stop to that on November 7th.