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Guide Democracys Dilemma: The Challenges to State Legitimacy in Afghanistan

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If the Iraq war had depended on the freely expressed consent of "the world community", it would not have happened. But these uncertainties do not diminish its justified appeal. Other factors besides democracy's popularity explain the dangerous belief that its propagation by armies might actually be feasible.

Globalisation suggests that human affairs are evolving toward a universal pattern. If gas stations, iPods, and computer geeks are the same worldwide, why not political institutions? This view underrates the world's complexity. The relapse into bloodshed and anarchy that has occurred so visibly in much of the world has also made the idea of spreading a new order more attractive. The Balkans seemed to show that areas of turmoil required the intervention, military if need be, of strong and stable states. In the absence of effective international governance, some humanitarians are still ready to support a world order imposed by US power.

But one should always be suspicious when military powers claim to be doing weaker states favours by occupying them.


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Another factor may be the most important: Today's US is unchallengeable in its techno-military supremacy, convinced of the superiority of its social system, and, since , no longer reminded - as even the greatest conquering empires always had been - that its material power has limits. Like President Wilson, today's ideologues see a model society already at work in the US: All that remains is to remake the world in the image of this "free society".

This idea is dangerous whistling in the dark. Although great power action may have morally or politically desirable consequences, identifying with it is perilous because the logic and methods of state action are not those of universal rights. All established states put their own interests first. If they have the power, and the end is considered sufficiently vital, states justify the means of achieving it - particularly when they think God is on their side. Both good and evil empires have produced the barbarisation of our era, to which the "war against terror" has now contributed.

While threatening the integrity of universal values, the campaign to spread democracy will not succeed. The 20th century demonstrated that states could not simply remake the world or abbreviate historical transformations. Nor can they easily effect social change by transferring institutions across borders. The conditions for effective democratic government are rare: Without such consensus, there is no single sovereign people and therefore no legitimacy for arithmetical majorities.

Weinstein borrows from Charles Tilly to make this argument, which states that wars require large expansions in state capabilities, so the states that are more stable and capable will win wars and survive in the international system through a process similar to natural selection. Weinstein uses evidence from Uganda's successful recovery following a guerilla victory in a civil war, Eritrea's forceful secession from Ethiopia, and development in Somaliland and Puntland—autonomous regions of Somalia—to support his claims.

Weinstein does note that lack of external intervention can lead to mass killings and other atrocities, but he emphasizes that preventing mass killings has to be weighed against the ensuing loss of long-term state capacity. Capability trap means that countries are progressing at a very slow pace in the expansion of state capability even in the contemporary world, which is also the core problem of failed states. Local agents are therefore excluded from the process of building their own states, implicitly undermining the value-creating ideas of local leaders and front line workers.

It involves pursuing development interventions that engage broad sets of local agents to ensure the reforms are politically supportable and practically implementable. Larry Diamond argues that weak and failed states pose distinctive problems for democracy promotion. In these states, the challenge is not only to pressure authoritarian state leaders to surrender power but rather to figure out how to regenerate legitimate power in the first place.

There are mainly two distinct types of cases, and each of these three types of cases requires specific kinds of strategies for democracy promotion:. Generally speaking, order is the most important prerequisite for democracy promotion, which relies heavily on formal democratic mechanisms, particularly elections to promote post-conflict state-building. In the absence of an effective state, there are basically three possibilities: If there has been a civil war and a rebel force has ultimately triumphed, then the vacuum may be filled by the rebellious army and political movement as it establishes control over the state; second, there may be a patchwork of warlords and armies, with either no real central state as in Somalia or only a very weak one.

In this situation, the conflict does not really end, but may wax and wane in decentralized fashion, as in Afghanistan today; the third possibility is that an international actor or coalition of actors steps in to constitute temporary authority politically and militarily. This may be an individual country, a coalition, an individual country under the thin veneer of a coalition, or the United Nations acting through the formal architecture of a UN post-conflict mission.

Stigall, "the international community is confronted with an increasing level of transnational crime in which criminal conduct in one country has an impact in another or even several others. Drug trafficking, human trafficking, computer crimes, terrorism, and a host of other crimes can involve actors operating outside the borders of a country which might have a significant interest in stemming the activity in question and prosecuting the perpetrator".

A study of the Cligendael Center for Strategic Studies [35] explains why states that are subject to failure serve as sanctuaries used to plan, execute, support, and finance activities for terrorist organisations. When the government does not know about the presence of the organisation or if it is not able to weaken or remove the organisation, the sanctuary is referred to as a "Terrorist Black Hole". However, next to governmental weakness there need to be "Terrorist Comparative Advantages" present for a region to be considered as a "Terrorist Black Hole".

According to the study, social tensions, the legacy from civil conflict, geography, corruption and policy failure, as well as external factors contribute to governmental weakness. The comparative advantages are: Only the combinations of the two factors governmental weakness and Terrorist Comparative Advantages explain what regions terrorists use as sanctuaries.

The dangers of exporting democracy

Research by James Piazza of the Pennsylvania State University finds evidence that nations affected by state failure experience and produce more terrorist attacks. Contributing to previous research on the matter, Tiffiany Howard [38] looks at a different dimension of the connection between state failure and terrorism, based on evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa. She argues that "citizens of failed states are attracted to political violence because of the deteriorating conditions within this type of states". As a consequence, failed states are breeding grounds for terrorists, who then export their radical ideologies to other parts of the world to create terrorist threats across the globe" [38].

The link between state failure and its characteristics and terrorism, however, is not unanimously accepted in the scholarly literature. Research by Alberto Abadie, which looks at determinants of terrorism at the country level, suggests that the "terrorist risk is not significantly higher for poorer countries, once the effects of other country-specific characteristics such as the level of political freedom are taken into account".

This link is also questioned by other scholars, such as Corinne Graff, who argues that 'there is simply no robust empirical relationship between poverty and terrorist attacks'. Moreover, "problems of weakened states and transnational crime create an unholy confluence that is uniquely challenging. When a criminal operates outside the territory of an offended state, the offended state might ordinarily appeal to the state from which the criminal is operating to take some sort of action, such as to prosecute the offender domestically or extradite the offender so that he or she may face punishment in the offended state.

Failed state

Nonetheless, in situations in which a government is unable or unwilling to cooperate in the arrest or prosecution of a criminal, the offended state has few options for recourse". The first argues that the term lends itself to overgeneralization, by lumping together different governance problems amongst diverse countries, and without accounting for variations of governance within states. Furthermore, the use of the term 'failed state' has been used by some foreign powers as a justification for invading a country, or determining a specific prescriptive set of foreign policy goals.

Following , Call notes that the US stated that failed states were one of the greatest security threats facing the country, based on the assumption that a country with weak — or non-existent — state institutions would provide a safe haven for terrorists, and act as a breeding ground for extremism. Call suggests that instead of branding countries as failed states they could be categorised in more relevant understandable terms. For example, a 'collapsed state' would refer to a country where the state apparatus completely falls apart and ceases to exist for a couple of months.

This would only apply to a country where absolutely no basic functions of the state were working, and non-state actors were carrying out such tasks. A 'weak state' could be used for states whereby informal institutions carry out more of the public services and channelling of goods than formal state institutions. A 'war-torn' state, might not be functioning because of conflict, but this does not necessarily imply it is a collapsed state.

Rotburg argued that all failed states are experiencing some form of armed conflict. However, the challenges to the state can be very different depending on the type of armed conflict, and whether it encompasses the country as a whole and large territories, or is specifically focused around one regional area.

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Another type of state that has been traditionally put under the umbrella term 'failed state' could be an 'authoritarian state'. While authoritarian leaders might come to power by violent means, they may ward off opposition once in power and as such ensure there is little violence within their regime. Call argues that the circumstances and challenges facing state-building in such regimes are very different to those posed in a state in civil war. These four alternative definitions highlight the many different circumstances that can lead a state to be categorised under the umbrella term a 'failed state', and the danger of adopting prescriptive one-size-fits-all policy approaches to very different situations.

Pakistan has been used as an example of how intrastate variations in governance undermine the concept of state failure.

Eric Hobsbawm: The dangers of exporting democracy | US news | The Guardian

The British writer Anatol Lieven draws a distinction between "genuinely failed and failing" states in Sub-Saharan Africa with states in South Asia , whose rulers he says "have not traditionally exercised direct control over Although he concedes that Pakistan might be considered "failed" when compared to the industrialized states of Western Europe , he criticizes how commentators use the War in North-West Pakistan to brand Pakistan as "failed". In addition to the previous critiques of the 'failed state' concept, Alex Maroya argues that the term 'failed' is limited in its approach.


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  • He suggests that "it is the model of statehood based on territorially sovereign, extensive central government that has failed much of the world, and the frontier areas of the former European empires in particular. The author, in fact, argues for more radically decentralised concepts of the state, instead of the rigid borders which have contributed to conflict and instability. In , Maroya argued that certain so-called "failed states" might be better off under a decentralized government. Instead of merely labelling these states as 'failed' and almost 'doomed' to perpetual conflict, the literature should focus on alternatives such as multiple levels of governance and regional integration.

    In other words, "the international relations discourse needs to move away from blithe talk of 'state failure' and towards a critical understanding of the kinds of states that have developed in former frontier regions. The concept has been criticised for being teleological, ahistorical and reflecting a Western bias of what constitutes a successful state.

    They are sometimes described as incubators for international terrorism. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about the political state. For other uses, see Failed state disambiguation. It is not to be confused with government failure. What Does "State Fragility" Mean? Empirical Questions and Policy Dilemmas". Successful country, failed cities? Critical Perspectives on Conceptual Hybrids". International Political Science Review. European Journal of International Relations. A new paradigm for development.

    Decaying Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda and Haiti". The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty. Annual Review of Political Science. Archived from the original on Retrieved 29 January Archived from the original on 27 June Retrieved 25 January Welcome back — Staatszerfall als Problem der internationalen Politik', in Schneckener, Ulrich, , ed. Break-down, Prevention, and Repair', in: Causes and Consequences Princeton: The Journal of Development Studies.

    A review essay on dependency and state building in sub-Saharan Africa. Center for Global Development Working Paper. Shapiro; Erin Troland Retrieved May 19, Center For Global Development. Strong societies and weak states: Taiwan Journal of Democracy. A study into terrorist sanctuaries and governmental weakness. Clingendael Centre for Strategic Studies. Piazza, Incubators of Terror: Archived at the Wayback Machine.

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    A Brave New World Revisited. Issue 3 , p. Failed states and the spread of terrorism in Sub-Saharan Africa. Weak states, state failure and terrroism. Terrorism and Political Violence 19 4: The Ideology of Failed States. The Political Invention of Fragile States: The Power of Ideas. Archived from the original on 6 February Lists of countries by political rankings. Bribes Corruption barometer Corruption perceptions. Composite Index of National Capability.