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When States Fail:
Causes and Consequences
Edited by Robert I. Rotberg

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Chapter 1




NATION-STATES FAIL when they are consumed by internal violence and cease delivering positive political goods to their inhabitants. Their governments lose credibility, and the continuing nature of the particular nation-state itself becomes questionable and illegitimate in the hearts and minds of its citizens.

The rise and fall of nation-states is not new, but in a modern era when national states constitute the building blocks of world order, the violent disintegration and palpable weakness of selected African, Asian, Oceanic, and Latin American states threaten the very foundation of that system. International organizations and big powers consequently find themselves sucked disconcertingly into a maelstrom of anomic internal conflict and messy humanitarian relief. Desirable international norms such as stability and predictability become difficult to achieve when so many of the globe's newer nation-states waver precariously between weakness and failure, with some truly failing, and a few even collapsing. In a time of terror awareness, moreover, appreciating the nature of and responding to the dynamics of nation-state failure motivate critical policy debates. How best to understand the nature of weak states, to strengthen those poised on the abyss of failure, and to restore the functionality of failed states, are among the urgent policy questions of the twenty-first century.

This book explores the nature of failure and collapse among developing world nation-states and examines how such faltering or destroyed states may be resuscitated.1 It establishes clear criteria for distinguishing collapse and failure from generic weakness or apparent distress, and collapse from failure. The volume further analyzes the nature of state weakness, and it advances reasons why some weak states succumb to failure, or collapse, and why others in ostensibly more straitened circumstances remain weak and at risk without ever destructing. Characterizing failed states is thus an important and relevant endeavor, especially because the phenomenon of state failure is underresearched, with the literature hitherto marked by imprecise definitions and a paucity of sharply argued, instructive, and well-delineated cases. Further, understanding exactly why weak states slide toward failure will help policymakers to design methods of preventing failure and, in the cases of states that nevertheless fail (or collapse), to revive them and assist in the rebuilding of their nation-states.

States are much more varied in their capacity and capability than they once were. They are more numerous than they were a half century ago, and the range of their population sizes, physical endowments, wealth, productivity, delivery systems, ambitions, and attainments is much more extensive than ever before. In 1914, in the wake of the crumbling of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, there were 55 recognized national polities. In 1919, there were 59 nations. In 1950, that number had reached 69. Ten years later, after the attainment of independence in much of Africa, 90 entities were nations. After many more African, Asian, and Oceanic territories had become independent, and after the implosion of the Soviet Union, the number of nations jumped to 191.2 With East Timor's independence in 2002, that number became 192. With such explosive numbers, the inherent fragility of many of the new recruits (15 of Africa's 54 states are landlocked), and the inherent navigational perils of the post-Cold War economic and political terrain, the possibility of failure among a subset of the total remains ever present.

The Nature of Failure: Performance Criteria

Nation-states exist to provide a decentralized method of delivering political (public) goods to persons living within designated parameters (borders). Having inherited, assumed, or replaced the monarchs of yore, modern states focus and answer the concerns and demands of citizenries. They organize and channel the interests of their people, often but not exclusively in furtherance of national goals and values. They buffer or manipulate external forces and influences, champion the local or particular concerns of their adherents, and mediate between the constraints and challenges of the international arena and the dynamism of their own internal economic, political, and social realities.

States succeed or fail across all or some of these dimensions. But it is according to their performances--according to the levels of their effective delivery of the most crucial political goods--that strong states may be distinguished from weak ones, and weak states from failed or collapsed ones. Political goods are those intangible and hard to quantify claims that citizens once made on sovereigns and now make on states. They encompass indigenous expectations, conceivably obligations, inform the local political culture, and together give content to the social contract between ruler and ruled that is at the core of regime/government and citizenry interactions.3

There is a hierarchy of political goods. None is as critical as the supply of security, especially human security. Individuals alone, almost exclusively in special or particular circumstances, can attempt to make themselves secure. Or groups of individuals can band together to organize and purchase goods or services that maximize their sense of security. Traditionally, and usually, however, individuals and groups cannot easily or effectively substitute privately arranged security for the full spectrum of public-provided security. The state's prime function is to provide that political good of security--to prevent cross-border invasions and infiltrations, and any loss of territory; to eliminate domestic threats to or attacks upon the national order and social structure; to prevent crime and any related dangers to domestic human security; and to enable citizens to resolve their differences with the state and with their fellow inhabitants without recourse to arms or other forms of physical coercion.

The delivery of a range of other desirable political goods becomes possible when a reasonable measure of security has been sustained. Modern states (as successors to sovereigns) provide predictable, recognizable, systematized methods of adjudicating disputes and regulating both the norms and the prevailing mores of a particular society or polity. The essence of that political good usually implies codes and procedures that together comprise an enforceable body of law, security of property and inviolable contracts, an effective judicial system, and a set of norms that legitimate and validate the values embodied in a local version of the rule of law.

Another key political good enables citizens to participate freely, openly, and fully in politics and the political process. This good encompasses the essential freedoms: the right to participate in politics and compete for office; respect and support for national and regional political institutions, such as legislatures and courts; tolerance of dissent and difference; and fundamental civil and human rights.

Other political goods typically supplied by states and expected by their citizenries (although privatized forms are possible) include medical and health care (at varying levels and costs); schools and educational instruction (of various kinds and levels); roads, railways, harbors, and other physical infrastructures--the arteries of commerce; communications networks; a money and banking system, usually presided over by a central bank and lubricated by a nationally created currency; a beneficent fiscal and institutional context within which citizens can pursue personal entrepreneurial goals, and potentially prosper; space for the flowering of civil society; and methods of regulating the sharing of the environmental commons. Together, this bundle of political goods, roughly rank ordered, establishes a set of criteria according to which modern nation-states may be judged strong, weak, or failed.

Strong states obviously perform well across these categories and with respect to each, separately. Weak states show a mixed profile, fulfilling expectations in some areas and performing poorly in others. The more poorly weak states perform, criterion by criterion, the weaker they become and the more that weakness tends to edge toward failure, hence the subcategory of weakness that is termed "failing." Many failed states flunk each of the tests outlined earlier. But they need not flunk all of them to fail overall, particularly since satisfying the security good weighs very heavily, and high levels of internal violence are associated directly with failure and the propensity to fail. Yet, violence alone does not condition failure, and the absence of violence does not necessarily imply that the state in question is unfailed. It is necessary to judge the extent to which an entire failing or failed profile is less or more than its component parts.

Strong states unquestionably control their territories and deliver a full range and a high quality of political goods to their citizens. They perform well according to indicators like GDP per capita, the UNDP Human Development Index, Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index, and Freedom House's Freedom of the World Report. Strong states offer high levels of security from political and criminal violence, ensure political freedom and civil liberties, and create environments conducive to the growth of economic opportunity. The rule of law prevails. Judges are independent. Road networks are well maintained. Telephones work. Snail mail and e-mail both arrive quickly. Schools, universities, and students flourish. Hospitals and clinics serve patients effectively. And so on. Overall, strong states are places of enviable peace and order.

Weak states (broadly, states in crisis) include a broad continuum of states: they may be inherently weak because of geographical, physical, or fundamental economic constraints; or they may be basically strong, but temporarily or situationally weak because of internal antagonisms, management flaws, greed, despotism, or external attacks. Weak states typically harbor ethnic, religious, linguistic, or other intercommunal tensions that have not yet, or not yet thoroughly, become overtly violent. Urban crime rates tend to be high and increasing. In weak states, the ability to provide adequate amounts of other political goods is diminished or is diminishing. Physical infrastructural networks are deteriorated. Schools and hospitals show signs of neglect, particularly outside the main cities. GDP per capita and other critical economic indicators have fallen or are falling, sometimes dramatically; levels of venal corruption are embarrassingly high and escalating. Weak states usually honor rule of law precepts in the breach. They harass civil society. Weak states are often ruled by despots, elected or not.

There is a special category of weak state: the seemingly strong one, always an autocracy, which rigidly controls dissent and is secure but at the same time provides very few political goods.4 In extreme cases, such as North Korea, the regime permits its people to starve. Cambodia under Pol Pot and Iraq under Saddam Hussein also qualify, as do contemporary Belarus, Turkmenistan, and Libya. Across recent times, the list of states that are fundamentally weak but appear strong is even more extensive.

Failed and Collapsed States

Failed states are tense, deeply conflicted, dangerous, and contested bitterly by warring factions. In most failed states, government troops battle armed revolts led by one or more rivals. Occasionally, the official authorities in a failed state face two or more insurgencies, varieties of civil unrest, different degrees of communal discontent, and a plethora of dissent directed at the state and at groups within the state.5

It is not the absolute intensity of violence that identifies a failed state. Rather, it is the enduring character of that violence (as in recent Angola, Burundi, and the Sudan), the consuming quality of that violence, which engulfs great swaths of states (as in Afghanistan, Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo--DRC--Liberia, and Sierra Leone), the fact that much of the violence is directed against the existing government or regime, and the inflamed character of the political or geographical demands for shared power or autonomy that rationalize or justify the violence in the minds of the main insurgents.

The civil wars that characterize failed states usually stem from or have roots in ethnic, religious, linguistic, or other intercommunal enmity. The fear of the other (and the consequent security dilemma) that drives so much ethnic conflict stimulates and fuels hostilities between regimes and subordinate and less-favored groups. Avarice also propels that antagonism, especially when greed is magnified by dreams of loot from discoveries of new, contested, pools of resource wealth such as petroleum deposits, diamond fields, other minerals, or fast-denuded forests.6

There is no failed state (broadly, a state in anarchy) without disharmonies between communities. Yet, the simple fact that many weak nation-states include haves and have-nots, and that some of the newer states contain a heterogeneous array of ethnic, religious, and linguistic interests, is more a contributor to, than a root cause of, nation-state failure. State failure cannot be ascribed primarily to the inability to build nations from a congeries of groups of diverse backgrounds.7 Nor should it be ascribed baldly to the oppression of minorities by a majority, although such brutalities are often a major ingredient of the impulse toward failure.

In most failed states, regimes prey on their own constituents. Driven by ethnic or other intercommunal hostility, or by the governing elite's insecurities, they victimize their own citizens or some subset of the whole that is regarded as hostile. As in Mobutu Sese Seko's Zaire or the Taliban's Afghanistan, ruling cadres increasingly oppress, extort, and harass the majority of their own compatriots while privileging a more narrowly based party, clan, or sect. As in Zaire, Angola, Siaka Stevens' Sierra Leone, or pre-2001 Sudan, patrimonial rule depends on a patronage-based system of extraction from ordinary citizens. The typical weak state plunges toward failure when this kind of ruler-led oppression provokes a countervailing reaction on the part of resentful groups or newly emerged rebels.

In contrast to strong states, failed states cannot control their peripheral regions, especially those regions occupied by out-groups. They lose authority over large sections of territory. Often, the expression of official power is limited to a capital city and to one or more ethnically specific zones. Plausibly, the extent of a state's failure can be measured by the extent of its geographical expanse genuinely controlled (especially after dark) by the official government. How nominal or contested is the central government's sway over peripheral towns and rural roads and waterways? Who really expresses power up-country, or in districts distant from the capital?8

Citizens depend on states and central governments to secure their persons and free them from fear. Unable to establish an atmosphere of security nationwide, and often struggling to project power and official authority, the faltering state's failure becomes obvious even before, or as, rebel groups and other contenders arm themselves, threaten the residents of central cities, and overwhelm demoralized government contingents, as in Liberia, Nepal, and Sierra Leone.

Another indicator of state failure is the growth of criminal violence. As state authority weakens and fails, and as the state becomes criminal in its oppression of its citizens, so lawlessness becomes more apparent. Criminal gangs take over the streets of the cities. Arms and drugs trafficking become more common. Ordinary police forces become paralyzed. Anomic behaviors become the norm. For protection, citizens naturally turn to warlords and other strong figures who express or activate ethnic or clan solidarity, thus offering the possibility of security at a time when all else, including the state itself, is crumbling. High rates of urban crime, and the rise of criminal syndicates, testify to an underlying anarchy and desperation.

Failed states provide only limited quantities of other essential political goods. They more and more forfeit their role as the preferred suppliers of political goods to upstart warlords and other nonstate actors. A failed state is a polity that is no longer able or willing to perform the fundamental tasks of a nation-state in the modern world.

Failed states exhibit flawed institutions. That is, only the institution of the executive functions. If legislatures exist at all, they ratify decisions of the executives. Democratic debate is noticeably absent. The judiciary is derivative of the executive rather than being independent, and citizens know that they cannot rely on the court system for significant redress or remedy, especially against the state. The bureaucracy has long ago lost its sense of professional responsibility and exists solely to carry out the orders of the executive and, in petty ways, to oppress citizens. The military is possibly the only institution with any remaining integrity, but the armed forces of failed states are often highly politicized, devoid of the esprit that they once demonstrated.

Failed states are typified by deteriorating or destroyed infrastructures. Metaphorically, the more potholes (or main roads turned to rutted tracks), the more a state will exemplify failure. As rulers siphon funds from the state coffers, fewer capital resources remain for road crews, equipment, and raw materials. Maintaining road or rail access to distant districts becomes less and less of a priority. Even once-maintained basic navigational aids along arterial waterways (as in the DRC) fall into neglect. Where the state still controls such communications backbones as a land-line telephone system, that form of political and economic good betrays a lack of renewal, upkeep, investment, and bureaucratic endeavor. Less a metaphor than a daily reality is the index of failed connections, repeated dialings, and interminable waits for repairs and service. If private entrepreneurs have been permitted by the state monopoly to erect cell telephone towers and offer mobile telephone relays, such telephone service may already have made the monopoly obsolete. Even, or particularly, because there is no state to interfere, in a collapsed state privately provided cell telephone systems prevail over what might remain of the land-line network, as in Somalia.

When a state has failed or is in the process of failing, the effective educational and medical systems are privatized informally (with a resulting hodgepodge of shady schools and questionable health clinics in the cities), and public facilities become increasingly decrepit and neglected. Teachers, physicians, nurses, and orderlies are paid late or not at all, and absenteeism increases. Textbooks and medicines become scarce. X-ray machines break down and are not repaired. Reports to the relevant ministries are ignored. Citizens, especially rural parents, students, and patients, slowly realize that the state has abandoned them to their own devices and to the forces of nature. Sometimes, when a failed state is effectively split, as in the Sudan, essential services may be provided only to the favored half, but naturally not to the half in rebellion and engulfed in war. Most of the time the destroyed nation-state completely underperforms. Literacy rates fall, infant mortality rises, the AIDS epidemic overwhelms any health infrastructure that continues to exist, life expectancies plummet, and an already poor and battered citizenry becomes even poorer and more immiserated.

Failed states offer unparalleled economic opportunity--but only for a privileged few. Those clustered around the ruler or the ruling oligarchy grow richer while their less fortunate brethren starve. Immense profits are available from an awareness of regulatory advantages and currency speculation and arbitrage. But the privilege of making real money when everything else is deteriorating is confined to clients of the ruling elite or to especially favored external entrepreneurs. The nation-state's responsibility to maximize the well-being and personal prosperity of all of its citizens is conspicuously absent, if it ever existed.

Corruption flourishes, not only in failed states, but in them it often thrives on an unusually destructive scale. There is widespread petty or lubricating corruption as a matter of course, but escalating levels of venal corruption mark failed states: kickbacks on anything that can be put out to fake tender (medical supplies, textbooks, bridges, roads, and tourism concessions); unnecessarily wasteful construction projects arranged so as to maximize the rents that they generate; licenses for existing and nonexistent activities become more costly; and persistent and generalized extortion becomes the norm. In such situations, corrupt ruling elites mostly invest their gains overseas, not at home, making the economic failure of their states that much more acute. Or they dip directly into the coffers of the shrinking state to pay for external aggressions, lavish residences and palaces, extensive overseas travel, and privileges and perquisites that feed their greed. Military officers always benefit from these excessively corrupt regimes and slurp ravenously from the same illicit troughs as their civilian counterparts.9

An indicator of failure, but not a cause of failure, is declining real national and per capita levels of annual gross domestic product (GDP, or GNI, in the World Bank's latest compilations). The statistical underpinnings of most states in the developing world are shaky, but failed states--even, or particularly, failed states with vast natural resources--exhibit overall worsening GDP figures, slim year-to-year growth rates, and greater disparities of income between the wealthiest and poorest fifths of the population. High official state deficits (Zimbabwe's reached more than 30 percent of GDP in 2002) fund lavish security expenditures and the siphoning of cash by friendly elites. Inflation usually soars because rulers raid the central bank and also print money. From the resulting economic insecurity, often engineered by rulers so as to maximize their personal fortunes and their own political and economic power, there are many rents to be collected by entrepreneurs connected to the prevailing regime. Smuggling soars. When state failure becomes complete, the local currency falls out of favor and one or more international currencies takes its place. Money changers are everywhere, legal or not, and arbitrage becomes a steady pursuit.

Sometimes, especially if there are intervening climatic disasters, the economic chaos and generalized neglect that is endemic to failed states lead to regular food shortages and widespread hunger--indeed, even to episodes of starvation and to major efforts of international humanitarian relief. Natural calamities can overwhelm the resources even of nonfailed, but weak, states in the developing world. Yet when state competencies have consciously been sucked dry by unscrupulous rulers and their cronies, as in failed states, unforeseen natural disasters or manmade wars can drive ignored populations over the edge of endurance into starvation. Once such populations have lost their subsistence plots and their sources of income, they lose their homes and their already weak support networks and are forced into an endless cycle of migration and displacement. Failed states provide no safety nets, and the homeless and the destitute become fodder for anyone who can offer food and a cause.

A nation-state also fails when it loses legitimacy--when its forfeits the "mandate of heaven." Its nominal borders become irrelevant. Groups within the nominal borders seek autonomous control within one or more parts of the national territory or, sometimes, even across its international borders. Once the state's capacity to secure itself or to perform in an expected manner recedes, and once what little capacity remains is devoted almost exclusively to the fortunes of a few or to a favored ethnicity or community, then there is every reason to expect less and less loyalty to the state on the part of the excluded and disenfranchised. When the rulers are perceived to be working for themselves and their kin, and not the state, their legitimacy, and the state's legitimacy, plummets. The state increasingly comes to be perceived as being owned by an exclusive class or group, with all others pushed aside. The social contract that binds inhabitants to an overarching polity becomes breached. Various sets of citizens cease trusting the state. Citizens then naturally turn more and more to the kinds of sectional and community loyalties that are their main recourse in times of insecurity, and their main default source of economic opportunity. They transfer their allegiances to clan and group leaders, some of whom become warlords. These warlords or other local strongmen can derive support from external as well as indigenous supporters. In the wilder, more marginalized corners of failed states, terror can breed along with the prevailing anarchy that naturally accompanies state breakdown and failure.

A collapsed state is a rare and extreme version of a failed state. Political goods are obtained through private or ad hoc means. Security is equated with the rule of the strong. A collapsed state exhibits a vacuum of authority. It is a mere geographical expression, a black hole into which a failed polity has fallen. There is dark energy, but the forces of entropy have overwhelmed the radiance that hitherto provided some semblance of order and other vital political goods to the inhabitants (no longer the citizens) embraced by language or ethnic affinities or borders. When Somalia failed in the late 1980s, it soon collapsed. Bosnia, Lebanon, and Afghanistan collapsed more than a decade ago, and Nigeria and Sierra Leone collapsed in the 1990s. When those collapses occurred, substate actors took over, as they always do when the prime polity disappears. Those warlords, or substate actors, gained control over regions and subregions within what had been a nation-state, built up their own local security apparatuses and mechanisms, sanctioned markets and other trading arrangements, and even established an attenuated form of international relations. By definition illegitimate and unrecognized, warlords can assume the trappings of a new quasi-state, such as the internationally unrecognized Somaliland in the old north of Somalia. Despite the parceling out of the collapsed state into warlord fiefdoms, there still is a prevalence of disorder, anomic behavior, and the kinds of anarchic mentality and entrepreneurial endeavors--especially gun and drug trafficking--that are compatible with external networks of terror.

None of these designations is terminal. Lebanon, Nigeria, and Tajikistan recovered from collapse, and are now weak. Afghanistan and Sierra Leone graduated from collapse to failure. In 2003 Zimbabwe and Côte d'Ivoire were moving rapidly from strength toward catastrophic failure. Although a state like Haiti is termed endemically weak, most categorizations are snapshots. The quality of failed or collapsed is real, but need not be static. Failure is a fluid halting place, with movement back to weakness and forward into collapse always possible. Certainly, too, because failure and collapse are undesirable results for states, they are neither inevitable nor unavoidable. Whereas weak states fail much more easily than strong ones, that failure need not be preordained. Failure is preventable, particularly since human agency, rather than structural flaws or institutional insufficiencies, is almost invariably at the root of slides from weakness (or strength) toward failure and collapse.

Lebanon's experience is instructive. The inability of Lebanon's feuding sectoral leaders to adapt a 1943 power-sharing agreement to new political and social circumstances brought the divided state to its knees. During the nation's civil war of the mid-1970s, it collapsed. But once a cease-fire had been forged in 1990 and a new political compromise had been achieved through international mediation and the formal acceptance of Syria as a neighborhood hegemon, Lebanon could be revived as a functioning state, and slowly be reconstructed. Without guarantees of human security, and the cooperation of dueling leaders, which Syria compelled, any resuscitation of the post-collapse Lebanese state would have proven impossible.10

Contemporary State Failure, Collapse, and Weakness

This decade's failed states so far are Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Sudan.11 These seven states exemplify the criteria of failure sketched out earlier. Somalia is the remaining collapsed state. Together they are the contemporary classical failed and collapsed states, but others were also once collapsed or failed, and additional modern nation-states now approach the brink of failure, some much more ominously than others. Another group of states drifts disastrously downward from weak to failing to failed. What is of particular interest is why and how states slip from weakness toward failure, or not. The list of weak states is long, but only a few of those weak and poorly governed states need necessarily edge into failure. Why? Even the categorization of a state as failing--Colombia and Indonesia, among others--need not doom it irretrievably to full failure. What does it take to drive a failing state over the edge into failure or collapse? Why did Somalia not stop at failure rather than collapsing?

These questions are answered in this opening chapter and, explicitly and implicitly, in nearly all of the remaining contributions to this volume. Of the failed and collapsed cases, not each fully fills all of the cells of the matrix of nation-state failure. However, to qualify for failure a state needs to demonstrate that it has met most of the explicit criteria. How truly minimal are the roads, the schools, and the hospitals and clinics? How far have GDP and other economic indicators fallen? How far beyond the capital does the ambit of the central government reach? Has the state lost legitimacy? Most important, because civil conflict is decisive for state failure, can the state in question still secure its borders and guarantee security to its citizens, urban and rural?12

Somalia, a nation-state of about nine million people with a strongly cohesive cultural history, a common language, a common religion, and a shared history of nationalism--failed, and then collapsed. How could that have happened? There are many possible explanations, but destructive leadership predominates. Similar but more conclusive than the experience elsewhere in Africa and Asia, the first elected, proto-democratic, postinde-pendence civilian governments of Somalia proved to be "experimental, inefficient, corrupt, and incapable of creating any kind of national political culture."13 General Mohammed Siad Barre, commander of the army, decided that the politicians were ruining the country, so he grabbed power in 1969, suspending the constitution, banning political parties, and promising an end to corruption.

Twenty years and many misadventures later, Siad Barre had succeeded in wrecking any semblance of national governmental legitimacy. Backed first by the Soviet Union and then by the United States, Siad Barre destroyed institutions of government and democracy, abused his citizens' human rights, channeled as many of the resources of the state as possible into his own and his subclan's hands, and at the end of the Cold War deprived everyone else of what was left of the spoils of Somali supreme rule. All of the major clans and subclans, other than Siad Barre's own, became alienated. His shock troops perpetrated one outrage after another against fellow Somalis. By the onset of civil war in 1991, the Somali state had long since failed. The civil war destroyed what was left, and Somalia collapsed onto itself.

In Afghanistan, Angola, the DRC, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, a series of fateful Somali-like decisions by rulers and ruling cadres eviscerated the capabilities of the state, separated each government from its subjects, created opposition movements and civil warfare, and ultimately ended the Potemkin-like pretense of international stature. Reno shows how President Stevens (1968-85) systematically reduced human security within Sierra Leone so as to maximize his own personal power, and how that rise in personal power permitted a quantum leap in his control over the country's rents and riches. Stevens "sold chances to profit from disorder to those who could pay for [it] through providing services."14 He created a private military force to terrorize his own people and to aggrandize, especially in the diamond fields. As the official rule of law receded, the law of the jungle, presided over by Stevens, took its place. Institutions of government were broken or corrupted. The state became illegitimate, and a civil war over spoils, encouraged and assisted from outside, turned failure into a collapse. In 2002, after hideous atrocities, a brutal intervention by a West African peace enforcement contingent, much more war, and the arrival of British paratroopers and a large UN peacekeeping detachment, Sierra Leone recovered sufficiently to be considered failed rather than collapsed. That is, by late 2001, peace was largely restored and a government began to function, if only in limited ways. An election in 2002 capped the process of recovery back to mere failure.

Mobutu used analogous tactics in the patrimony of Zaire. As his people's self-proclaimed guide, or as the personalist embodiment of national leadership during the Cold War, he deployed the largesse of his American and other Western patrons to enhance his personal wealth, to heighten his stature over his countrymen, and to weave a tightly manipulated web of loyalties across the army and into all aspects of Zairese society. Every proper political and democratic institution was an obstacle to the edifice that he created. So was civil society, politics itself in the broad sense, and economic development. Letting the country's Belgian-built infrastructure rot, maintaining a colonial type of resource extraction (of copper, other metals, and diamonds), rebuffing the rise of a real bourgeoisie, and feeding his people puffery and false glories instead of real substance and per capita growth, he accentuated his own power, wealth, and importance. As with Stevens and Siad Barre, the modernizing state was the enemy. Mobutu had no sense of noblesse oblige. Lemarchand says that for Mobutu's state, patronage was the indispensable lubricant. Ultimately, however, "the lubricant ran out and the Mobutist machine was brought to a . . . standstill . . . The inability of the Mobutist state to generate a volume of rewards consistent with its clientelistic ambitions is the key . . . [to] . . . its rapid loss of legitimacy."15

The warring divisions of the failed Sudanese state, north and south, reflect fundamental ethnic, religious, and linguistic differences; the consequences of Egyptian and British conquest and colonial administrative flaws and patterns; postindependence disparities and discriminations (the north dominating the south); and disagreements about who owns petroleum reserves located in the south. A weak state in the north, providing political goods at minimal levels for its mostly Muslim constituents, became the nucleus of a truly failed state when its long war with the south (from 1955 to 1972 and from 1983 through 2003) entered the equation. The Sudanese war has the dubious distinction of having inflicted the largest number of civilian casualties (over two million) in any intrastate war, coupled with the largest internally displaced and refugee population in the world (about four million). Slavery (north against south) flourishes, as well. Moreover, in the south, the central government's writ rarely runs. It provides no political goods to its southern citizens, bombs them, raids them, and regards black southerners as enemy. As a result, the Sudan has long been failed. Yet, northerners still regard their state as legitimate, even though the southern insurgents do not, and southerners have sought either secession or autonomy for decades. So long as oil revenues shore up the north, the Sudan is unlikely to collapse entirely.16

The paradigm of failure so well explored in the Somali, Sierra Leonean, Congolese, and Sudanese cases holds equally well, with similar but differently detailed material, in Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, and Liberia. Indeed, Angola's killing fields and internally displaced circumstances were almost as intense and certainly as destructive as the Sudan's from 1975 to 2002. The wars in these four countries have been equally traumatic for ordinary combatants and hapless civilians unwittingly caught up in a vicious and interminable battle for resources and power between determined opponents. On the World Bank's Control of Corruption and Rule of Law indices, for example, Angola ranked very close to the bottom in 2000 / 2001. Burundi's majority-minority war has produced fewer deaths in recent decades, but it continues an enduring contest for primacy that antedates the modern nation-state itself. From birth economically weak and geographically limited, Burundi over the past ten years has found its capacity to perform fatally crippled by majority-backed insurgencies against autocratic minority-led governments. Burundi ranked very low on the rule of law indicator, counts a pitifully low GNI per capita for 2000 ($110), and its much abused citizens are estimated to have a life expectancy at birth of forty-two years, the lowest in our failed state sample except for Sierra Leone (thirty-nine years).17 Liberia's recurring intrastate war renewed in 2003, with shadowy insurgents capturing a number of provincial towns and threatening Monrovia, the capital. President Charles Taylor had come to power in the same manner in the 1990s after his semi-literate predecessors had gutted the state from within.

Weakness and the Possibility of Failure

The terms "collapsed" and "failed" designate the consequences of a process of decay at the nation-state level. The capacity of those nation-states to perform positively for their citizens has atrophied. But, as the foregoing examples indicate, that atrophy is neither inevitable nor the result of happenstance. To fail a state is not that easy. Crossing from weakness into failure takes will as well as neglect. Thus, weak nation-states need not tip into failure. Nelson Kasfir's chapter in this volume indeed suggests that anarchy, security dilemmas, and predation all combine synergistically to tip a weak state into a failing or failed mode. At several stages, preventive or avoidance measures could arrest the downward movement, but once non-state actors have a cause and a following, and access to arms (as Michael Klare describes), halting the desperate spiral of failure is difficult. By this time, leaders and states engaged in self-destruction usually possess too little credibility and too few resources to restore trust and claw back from the brink of chaos. Many leaders hardly recognize or care (although Nicolas van de Walle is less negative in his chapter) about the depths of their national despair. Instead, they focus on the rents and advantages that are still to be had as the state succumbs and as warfare spreads.

There are several interesting cases that test the precision of the distinction between weakness and failure, and how and in what circumstances weak or even conflict-prone states survive.

Sri Lanka has been embroiled in a bitter and destructive civil war for twenty years. As much as 15 percent of its total land mass was, at times in the past decade, controlled by the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a Tamil separatist insurgency. Additionally, the LTTE with relative impunity was able to assassinate prime ministers, bomb presidents, kill rival Tamils, and, in 2001, even destroy the nation's civil air terminal and main air force base. But, as unable as the Sinhala-dominated governments of the island were to put down the LTTE rebellion, so the nation-state remained merely weak, never close to tipping into failure. For 80 percent of Sri Lankans, the government always performed reasonably well. The roads were maintained, and schools and hospitals functioned, to some limited extent even in the war-torn north and east. The authority of successive governments extended securely to the Sinhala-speaking 80 percent of the country, and into the recaptured Tamil areas. Since the early 1990s, too, Sri Lanka has exhibited robust levels of economic growth. For these reasons, despite a consuming internal conflict founded on intense majority-minority discrimination and deprivation, and on pronounced ethnic and religious differences, Sri Lanka from the 1990s projected authority throughout much of the country, suffered no loss of legitimacy among Sinhala, and successfully escaped failure.

Indonesia is another case of weakness avoiding failure despite widespread insecurity. As the world's largest Muslim nation, its far-flung archipelago harbors separatist wars in Aceh in the west and Papua (formerly Irian Jaya) in the east, plus large pockets of Muslim-Christian conflict in Ambon and the Malukus, Muslim-Christian hostility in northern Sulawesi, and ethnic xenophobic outbursts in Kalimantan. Given all of these conflictual situations, none of which has become less bitter since the end of the Soeharto dictatorship, it would be easy to conclude that Indonesia is approaching failure. Yet, only the insurgents in Aceh and Papua want to secede and are battling the state. The several other battles take place within the state, not against it. They do not threaten the integrity and resources of the state in the way that the enduring, but low-level, war in Aceh does. In Aceh and Papua, the government retains the upper hand. Overall, most of Indonesia is still secure. In most of the country, the government projects power and authority. It manages to provide most other necessary political goods to most of Indonesia despite dangerous economic and other developments, including the growth of terroristic movements, in the post-Soeharto era.

What about Colombia? An otherwise well-endowed, prosperous, and ostensibly stable state controls only two-thirds of its territory, a clear hint of failure. Three private armies project their own power across large zones carved out of the very body of the state. The official defense and political establishment has renounced and lost authority in those zones to insurgent groups and drug traffickers. Moreover, Colombia is tense and disturbed, with bombings in Bogota, the capital, and in provincial cities. It boasts the second highest annual per capita murder rate in the world. Its politicians and businessmen routinely wear armored vests and travel with well-armed guards, a clear indication of the state's inability to ensure personal security. Even so, in much of Colombia, the state still delivers schooling and medical care, organizes a physical and communications infrastructure, provides economic opportunity, and remains legitimate. It also remains comparatively wealthy, with a per capita GNI of $2,020 in 2000.18 Colombia is weak because of its multiple insurgencies, but is comparatively strong and well performing in the areas over which it maintains control. When and if the government of Colombia can reassert itself over the disputed zones and further reduce the power of drug traffickers, the state's reach will expand. Then this weak, endangered state will be able to move farther away from possible failure toward strength.

Zimbabwe is an example of a once unquestionably strong African state that has fallen rapidly through weakness to the very edge of the abyss of failure. All Zimbabwe lacks in order to join the ranks of failed states is a widespread internal insurgent movement directed at the government. But that could come, particularly if the political and economic deterioration of the country continues unchecked. In 2000 and 2001, GDP per capita slid backward by 10 percent a year. Inflation galloped from 30 to 116 percent and then to 275 percent in 2003. The local currency fell against the U. S. dollar from 38-1 in 2001 to 400-1 in the first half of 2002 and to 1700-1 in the second half. Foreign and domestic investment ceased. Unemployment rose to 80 percent in a country of 12 million. Health and educational services vanished. HIV infection rates climbed to 30 percent, with about 3000 Zimbabweans dying every week (2003). Respect for the rule of law was badly battered and then subverted. Political institutions ceased to function fully. Agents of the state preyed on its real and its supposed opponents, chilling free expression and shamelessly stealing a presidential election in 2002. The government's legitimacy vanished. Corruption, meanwhile, flourished, with the ruling elite pocketing their local and DRC war gains and letting most Zimbabweans go hungry. Real starvation appeared in mid-2002, despite food aid from abroad. All of this misery, and the tendency to fail, resulted (as it did earlier in the DRC and Sierra Leone) from the ruthless designs and vengeance of an omnipotent ruler.

Côte d'Ivoire slid rapidly in late 2002 from weakness to the edge of failure as two ethnically and religiously based rebel groups divided the once strong state into three segments. The intervention of 3000 French troops reduced the level of carnage and, in 2003, enabled a negotiated settlement to be crafted. But it conceded concurrent authority to northern Muslims, to the displeasure of the once dominant southern Christians. The northerners also gained physical control over key central and northern towns on the edge of the critical cocoa-growing areas of the south, and a key port was held by westerners. Presaging this sudden descent into near failure, with a national government being unable (since late 2002) to control its territory or perform the other routine tasks of a well-managed nation, was a decade of steady discrimination by southerners against northerners, the rigging or falsification of two presidential elections, and a government-sponsored pillorying and ousting of northerners. Whereas Côte d'Ivoire remained relatively prosperous throughout the 1990s, northerners perceived that they were steadily being denied access to that prosperity, and that southerners were more and more determined to keep exclusive control of the country's resources. Coups d'état, effective and attempted, and the exercise of military power, contributed to the state's growing lack of legitimacy in the north and west, and to the shift to insurgency in 2002. Weakness became near-failure rapidly. Côte d'Ivoire could easily join neighboring Liberia in full failure in 2003 or 2004.

Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe are but five among a large number of early twenty-first-century nation-states at risk of failing. They each escape the category "failed," but only for the time being, and only if they each manage to arrest their descent toward economic and political failure, accommodate their insurgency or insurgencies, and strengthen their delivery of political goods to all, or almost all, of their citizens.

Tajikistan is a sixth state that harbors the possibility of failure, in this case of renewed failure. From 1992 to 1997, the government of Tajikistan projected power only in selected parts of the ramshackle nation; across vast areas, there was no government, war raged, and "the state lost its meaning."19 Then Russia exerted itself in its former colony, claiming that its own security remained at risk because of lawlessness there. From 1999, Russia reinforced its major base in Tajikistan, and more and more became a force for stability against internal dissidence, as well as a buffer for the Tajik government against Taliban- or Uzbek-inspired adventurism. In this new century, despite its colonial heritage, Russia has become the guarantor of Tajikistan's integrity.

A number of other nation-states belong in the category of weak states that show a high potential to fail.20 Nepal is a clear case since its Maoist insurgency began again roiling the mountains and plains of the monarchist country in 2002. Already hindered by geography and poverty, Nepal has never been a robust provider of political goods to its inhabitants. The palace massacre of 2001 undermined the legitimacy of the monarchy, and thus of the ruling government. With the flare-up of a determined rural rebellion in 2002, and Nepal's demonstrated inability to cope effectively, security of person and of regions became harder and harder to achieve, absent military assistance from India. Under these circumstances, Nepal can hardly project power or credibility. Failure becomes a distinct possibility in 2003 and 2004, despite a temporary cease-fire in 2003.

Likewise, the potential for open failure exists in those highly regimented states, such as Iran, North Korea, and Turkmenistan, which could implode as soon as a dictator or a dictatorial regime is toppled. Because such states are held together entirely by repression, and not by performance, an end to or an easing of repression could create destabilizing battles for succession, resulting anarchy, and the rapid rise of non-state actors. In nation-states made secure by punishment and secret intelligence networks, legitimacy is likely to vanish whenever the curtain of control lifts.

The Central African Republic (with a military coup in 2003), Kyrgyzstan, Kenya, and Nigeria all fit near Nepal on the continuum of first-variety weakness tending toward failure. Kyrgyzstan, with limited resources and arbitrary rule, has contended with a sharply contracted economy, poverty, and two forms of armed insurgency. Militant rivals for power remain, respect for human rights and democratic processes has slipped, and Kyrgyzstan's ability to emerge from inherited weakness is questionable, even with the building of a U.S. airbase and the arrival of free-spending Americans in 2002.

Kenya came in late 2002 to the end of twenty-five years of single-man rule. Although Kenya is intrinsically wealthy, its fortunes have been badly managed, corruption is rampant, and for 24 years a gang of ethnically specific thugs distorted the rule of law, limited the supply of political goods, battered civil society and human rights, and privileged a congeries of related ethnic minorities against larger and more central, but now marginalized, ethnicities. Battles royal for spoils in the post-Moi era could still lead to clashes between ethnic groups. A righting of scores could readily plunge Kenya into failure in 2003 or 2004.

Nigeria is a democracy under President Olusegun Obasanjo, but the historic rivalries between east and west, south and north, oil-states and non-oil provinces, Christian and Muslim communities, democrats and autocrats, and soldiers and citizens that have bedeviled Africa's most populous nation-state since independence in 1960 (and before) are still there, seething below a surface initially calmed or smoothed by the presence of Obasanjo.21 Military dictators could reemerge, outright intercommunal conflict could readily reoccur, and the north-south divide could once again become an obstacle to strengthening a state already softened by economic confusion, continued corruption, and mismanagement. Nigeria also performs poorly as a giant state, and it provides political goods adequately at best across the vast mélange of poor and rich states that comprise its little-unified and very unglued whole. Intense competition in 2003 or 2004 could readily loosen the already tattered ties that keep Nigeria together.

Other weak states that contain the incubus of failure because of serious intercommunal antagonisms (the second variety), but have managed effectively, albeit possibly only for the moment, to come to terms with or to bridge their divisions, include Fiji, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Philippines, Lebanon, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Guyana, and Paraguay. Madagascar was also in that camp, but its highland-coast, light skin-dark skin, and Afromalagasy-Asiomalagasy compromises and accommodations came seriously unstuck in 2002, following a disputed presidential election. A strong state became a weak and sundered state almost over-night, as previously underclass highland Asiomalagasies saw an unprecedented opportunity to emphasize their own interests and oust an elected former dictator, and his dark-skinned Afromalagache associates, from power. Hostilities followed, and Madagascar quickly joined the ranks of developing world states in danger of failing.

Lebanon had disintegrated almost entirely before Syria's intervention enabled the geographical expression that Lebanon had always represented to become a state once again, and to begin to function internally and internationally. Syria gave a sense of governmental legitimacy to what had been a bombed-out shell of a polity. Lebanon today qualifies as weak, rather than failed, because its state has become credible, civil war is absent, and political goods are being provided in significant quantities and quality. Syria provides the security blanket, denies fractious warlords the freedom to aggrandize, and mandates that the usually antagonistic Muslim and Christian communities, and the battling groups within the Muslim community, cooperate. The fear of being attacked preemptively by rivals, or losing control of critical resources, is alleviated by Syria's imposed hegemony. In other words, Syria has reduced the salience of the traditional security dilemma, just as numerous UN blue helmets have done in Sierra Leone. Within that framework of supplied security, the Lebanese people's own traditional entrepreneurial spirit has transformed a failed state into a much stronger one.

A third variety of weak state includes the enduringly frail. Haiti, for example, has always been on the edge of failure, particularly during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But its entrenched weaknesses include no ethnic, religious, or other communal cleavages. There are no insurgent movements. Nor has Haiti experienced radical or rapid deflation in standards of living and national expectations, like Argentina in 2002 and Russia in the 1990s. Haiti has always been the poorest polity in the Western hemisphere.

Haiti's national capacity to provide political goods has steadily been compromised by autocratic and corrupt leadership, weak institutions, an intimidated civil society, high levels of crime, low GDP levels per capita--a per capita GNI of $510 in 2000, high rates of infant mortality, suspicion from or outright hostility by its neighbors, and many other deficiencies. Narcotics trafficking has been a serious problem since the 1980s. The Haitian government has been unable or unwilling to interdict smugglers in general and drugs transshippers in particular. Haiti, even under President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1990-91, 1994-96, 2001-), has been gripped in a vise of weakness.22 Yet, given very limited organized internal dissidence and almost no internal ethnic, religious, or linguistic cleavages within Haitian society--except a deep distrust by the majority of the upper classes, and of mulattos because of their historic class affiliations--the ingredients of major civil strife are absent. Failure demands communal differences capable of being transformed into consuming cross-group violence. Haiti thus seems condemned to remain weak, but without failing.

Examples of other nation-states that, given their geographical and physical legacy (and future peril in several cases because of globalwarming and cataclysmic climatic change), can be considered inherently weak include Burkina Faso, Chad, Ghana, Guinea, and Niger, in Africa; Georgia and Moldova in the former Soviet Union; and Cambodia, East Timor, and Laos in Asia.23 Each has its own distinguishing features, and Georgia and Moldova battle their own so far successful separatist movements. Chad at one time harbored a vicious civil war, and Burkina Faso, Niger, Cambodia, and Laos are all ruled by autocrats unfriendly to civil society and to participatory governance. East Timor is a very new state, having been rescued and resuscitated by the United Nations after two bitter and unrewarding colonial interludes and a brutal final Indonesian spree of destruction and death. East Timor, even with UN help, has entered its full majority without a cadre of experienced professionals and bureaucrats, and without much in the way of physical resources. The willingness of these weak states to provide political goods in quantity and quality is severely limited at the best of times. Almost any external shock or internal emergency could push them over the brink.

Indicators of Failure

As the earlier parts of this chapter have suggested, the road to nation-state failure is littered with serious mistakes of omission and commission. Even in the modern states with inherited weaknesses, failure is not preordained. Impoverished, arbitrary, absent-minded creations predisposed to failure need not fail. Indeed, Botswana, dirt poor at independence, and a forlorn excuse for a state, created under determined and visionary leadership a nation-state strong enough to take full advantage of a subsequent, and much unexpected, resource bonanza. So did a sugar monoculture like Mauritius become transformed by determined visionary leadership into a thriving plural society based on manufacturing for export. In contrast, Malawi and Mali (two examples among many) remain weak and very poor (GNI per capita, $170 and $240, respectively, in 2000), albeit democratic, having both been unable in their different circumstances to overcome the arbitrary configuration of their borders, a mutual absence of easily exploitable resources, geographical hindrances, and decades of despotism. Climatic change could hit both Malawi and Mali particularly hard, too.

Nation-states are blessed or cursed by the discovery or absence of natural resources, like oil or diamonds, within received borders. But it is not the accidental quality of their borders that is the original flaw; it is what has been made of the challenges and opportunities of a given configuration that determines whether a state remains weak, strengthens, or slides toward failure and collapse. The colonial errors were many, especially the freeing of Africa south of the Sahara as forty-eight administrative territories instead of six or seven larger ones, and the abysmal failure to transfer the reins of authority much earlier and much more thoroughly to an indigénat. But it is not possible to predict this century's candidates for failure solely or even largely on the basis of colonial mistreatment. Van de Walle's chapter places much more causal weight on a series of poor economic choices, many of which were made by postcolonial leaders in their own personal interest.

Nor is it possible successfully to deploy the results of massive surveys of conflict and state collapse to predict failure. Esty et al. analyzed ethnic war leading to collapse, including twelve full collapses in forty years and 243 "partial" state failures, conflicts, and crises between 1955 and 1994, but only in states larger than .5 million.24 They called state failure and collapse "new labels for a type of severe political crisis exemplified by events of the early 1990s in Somalia, Bosnia, Liberia, and Afghanistan. In these instances the institutions of the central state were so weakened that they could no longer maintain authority or political order beyond the capital city."25

Three strong indicators emerged from Esty et al.'s work (of seventy-five highly relevant variables): failure was likely when a nation-state favored a closed economic system--when openness to international trade was low or nonexistent; when infant mortality (a proxy measure for a society's quality of life) rates were high, that is, when the ratio of infant deaths per 1000 live births rose above the international median; and when a nation-state was undemocratic, for lack of democracy feeds on itself.26 Esty et al. also concluded that decreasing and low GDP per capita levels were almost as strong an indicator of failure as infant mortality levels.

Unhappily, even though it is not implausible that high infant mortality rates are "associated with risk of state failure," rises in infant mortality, for practical predictive purposes, lag too far behind political and economic changes, which by themselves, are reasonable indicators of a propensity to fail. Likewise, as Esty et al. admit, infant mortality was a better indicator for democracies prone to failure than it was for less democratic cases--which, as this book has shown, are the more pressing category of states likely to fail. Closed economic systems, as in the extreme case of Burma after 1968, also predispose to failure; however, rapid falls in GDP per capita, purchasing power, domestic investment rates, and the like are surer and more readily apparent results and indicators of the possibility of failure. Esty et al. also report that trade openness works better for the less democratic regimes. As for the democracy indicator, Esty et al.'s findings are mostly tautological: A downward spiral of democracy obviously tends toward failure and, as they write, "partial democracies [especially in Africa] are indeed far more vulnerable to state failure-type crises than are either full democracies or autocracies."27 The findings of this book dispute that very last point, but such a difference may arise because the Esty et al. definition of failure is much narrower (being confined to wars, adverse regime transitions, genocides, and politicides) than the one employed in this book. Furthermore, it is precisely because democratic states respond to popular discontent and accommodate dissident political challenges, while also maintaining normative and institutional inhibitions against massive human rights violations, that they fail to fail. Failing and failed states do not respond or accommodate effectively. That is what failure is about.

Three kinds of signals of impending failure--economic, political, and deaths in combat--provide clearer, more timely, and more actionable warnings. On the economic front, Lebanon in 1972-79, Nigeria in 1993-99, Indonesia in 1997-1999, and Zimbabwe in 2001-2002 each provide instances of how a rapid reduction in incomes and living standards indicated the possibility of failure early enough to be noted and for preventive measures to have been attempted. Donald Snodgrass's chapter contains the sorry data, and table 1.1 arrays the statistical depths of failure and collapse.

Once the downward spiral starts in earnest, only a concerted, determined effort can slow its momentum; corrupt autocrats and their equally corrupt associates usually have few incentives to arrest their state's slide since they themselves find clever ways to benefit from impoverishment and misery. As foreign and domestic investment dries up, jobs vanish, and per capita incomes fall, the mass of citizens in an imperiled state see their health, educational, and logistical entitlements melt away. Food and fuel shortages occur. Privation and hunger follow, especially if a climatic catastrophe intervenes. Thanks to foreign exchange scarcities, there is less and less of everything that matters. Meanwhile, in the typical failing state, ruling families and cadres arrogate to themselves increasing portions of the available pie. They systematically skim the state treasury, take advantage of official versus street costs of foreign exchange, partake of smuggling and the rents of smuggling, and gather what little is available into their own sticky palms. If it were possible reliably to calibrate the flow of illicit funds into overseas accounts, nation by nation, robust early warnings would be available. (David Carment's chapter arrays the many indicators that are plausible for early warning.) Absent detailed reports of such theft, the descriptors in this paragraph become very suggestive indicators that can be watched, in real time, and can forecast serious trouble, if not an end state of failure.

Politically, the available indicators are equally clear, if somewhat less quantifiably precise. A leader and his associates begin by subverting democratic norms, greatly restricting participatory processes, and coercing a legislature and the bureaucracy into subservience. They end judicial independence, curtail the media, block civil society, and suborn the security forces. Political goods become scarce, or are supplied to the leading class only. The rulers demonstrate more and more contempt for their peoples, surround themselves with family, clan, or ethnic allies, and distance themselves from their subjects. The state becomes equated in the eyes of most citizens with the particular drives and desires of a leader and a smallish coterie. Many of these leaders grandly drive down their boulevards in motorcades, commandeer commercial aircraft for foreign excursions, and put their faces prominently on the local currency, on airports and ships, and on oversize photographs in public places.

Levels of violence provide a third indicator. If they rise precipitously because of skirmishes, hostilities, or outright civil war, the state can be considered crumbling. As national human security rates fall, the probability of failure rises. Not every civil conflict precipitates failure, but each offers a warning sign. Absolute or relative crime rates and civilian combat-death-counts above a certain number cannot prescribe failure. But they show that a society is deteriorating and that the glue that binds a new (or an old) state together is becoming fatally thin.

No single indicator provides certain evidence that a strong state is becoming weak or a weak state is heading pell-mell into failure. But a judicious assessment of the several available indicators discussed in this section, taken together, should provide both quantifiable and qualitative warnings. Then, avoidance maneuvers can occur and efforts at prevention can be mounted.

That said, research on failed states is insufficiently advanced for precise tipping points to be provided. It is not yet correct to suggest that if GDP falls by X amount in a single year, if rulers dismiss judges, torture reporters, or abuse the human rights of their subjects by X, if soldiers occupy the state house, or if civilian death rates rise more than X per year, that the state in question will tip for sure from weak to failing to failed. All we know is that the sum of those actions suggests that all is not well in the depths of Ruritania, that misery is spreading, and that the future of the state is in jeopardy.

The Hand of Man

State failure is largely man made, not accidental. Cultural clues are relevant, but insufficient to explain persistent leadership flaws. Likewise, institutional fragilities and structural flaws contribute to failure, as van de Walle's chapter suggests, but those deficiencies usually hark back to decisions or actions of men (rarely women). So it is that leadership errors across history have destroyed states for personal gain; in the contemporary era, leadership mistakes continue to erode fragile polities in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Oceania that already operate on the cusp of failure. Mobutu's kleptocratic rule extracted the marrow of Zaire and left nothing for the mass of his national dependents. Much of the resource riches of that vast country ended up in his or his cronies' pockets; over four decades, hardly any wealth was devoted to uplifting the Congolese people, improving their welfare, building infrastructures, or even providing more than rudimentary amounts of human security. Mobutu's government performed only for Mobutu, not for Zaire.

Likewise, oil-rich Angola remains failed following three decades of war and, even within the large part of the country long fully controlled by the government of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, it remains failed because he and his associates have consistently refused to deliver more than limited political goods to the bulk of their fellow countrymen. Ample oil wealth has been stolen or squandered, leaving the country with a notional GNI per capita of $240 in 2000.28 President Stevens decapitated the Sierra Leonean state in order to strengthen his own power amid growing chaos. Sierra Leone, with its GNI per capita of $130 in 2000, has not yet recovered from Stevens's depredations. Nor has Liberia (GNI unavailable) been resuscitated in the aftermath of the slashing neglect and unabashed greed of Samuel Doe, Prince Johnson, and Charles Taylor. In Somalia (GNI also unavailable), Siad Barre arrogated more and more power and privilege to himself and his clan. Finally, there was none left for other pretenders to power and the rewards of power. The Somali state had been gutted, willfully, the abilities of the Somali government to provide political goods endlessly compromised, and the fall into failure and then into full collapse followed inexorably.

President Robert Gabriel Mugabe personally led Zimbabwe from strength to the precipice of failure, his high-handed and seriously corrupt rule having bled the resources of the state into his own pockets. He squandered foreign exchange, discouraged domestic and international investment, damaged local commerce, harassed the press, subverted the courts, and drove his country to the very edge of starvation.29 (The GNI per capita of $480 is for 2000; generous estimates for 2002 suggest $200 as the appropriate figure.)

In Sri Lanka, Solomon and Sirimavo Bandaranaike, one after the other, drove the LTTE into reactive combat by abrogating minority rights and vitiating the implicit agreements on which the country had been created as Ceylon.30 (The 2000 GNI per capita figure was $870.) In Afghanistan, Gulbuddin Hakmatyar and Burrhan ul-Din Rabani tried to prevent Afghans other than their own Pushtun and Tajik fellow nationals from sharing the perquisites of governance; their narrowly focused, self-enriching decisions enabled the Taliban to follow them in triumph in the 1990s and Afghanistan to descend into all-out terror.31

Wherever there has been state failure or collapse, human agency has engineered the slide from strength or weakness, and willfully presided over profound and destabilizing resource shifts from the state to the ruling few. As those resource transfers accelerated, and human rights abuses mounted, countervailing violence signified the extent to which states in question had broken fundamental social contracts and become hollow receptacles of personalist privilege, private rule, and national impoverishment. Inhabitants of failed states understand what it means for life to be poor, nasty, brutish, and short.32

The Context and Causes of Failure

There is a school of thought, represented in this volume in chapters by Christopher Clapham at the beginning and Jeffrey Herbst at the end, that suggests that state failure reflects misplaced forms of sovereignty. In certain areas of the world, the existence of states is a pretense, Clapham says, for want of anything else that the international system would recognize and accept. Full Westphalian sovereignty, to echo Krasner, should never have been accorded to fragile postcolonial entities with no history and experience of performing as or organizing a state.33 A case can be made that state failure and collapse has been accelerated by the imposition of levels of state control upon indigenous societies unable to bear state-centered norms and such degrees of authority. At the very least, this viewpoint asserts, nation building before and after postcolonial independence was unworkable in every situation. Some nations were simply too inchoate and were destined to fail. Indeed, the modern state has worked best in the developing world where it inherited a preexisting traditional political culture of stateness. Those societies that best support effective statehood are those with precolonial echoes of state formation, Clapham argues. Places such as Somalia simply lacked the culture of or receptivity to the centrally directed state.

As ex-colonial territories became, faut de mieux, nation-states, so in many cases their weak social bases were compensated for by neopatrimonialism, the buying of clients, and a hierarchy of antidemocratic decisions that were difficult to sustain and ultimately led to state failure and collapse. Corruption, escalating levels of which are one of the indicators of state failure, accompanies neopatrimonialism and helps to bring states to failure. Bad governance is an inescapable corollary, and it has often preceded insurgencies within states. Indeed, Clapham and Herbst both suggest that state failure and collapse emanate not from artificial borders, colonial mistakes, colonial exploitation, or insufficient or misplaced tutelage, but from the automatic and premature assumption by former imperial administrative units of unsustainable state-like responsibilities. Together, but differently, they ask whether the polities that concern this book should ever have been considered states. Weakness may be inescapable in a category of recently minted twentieth- and twenty-first-century territories.

The remainder of this book takes the nation-state, whether appropriately or inappropriately so designated, as a given. Whatever their origins ontologically, states are the constituted repositories of power and authority within borders. They are the performers and suppliers of political goods recognized, strong or weak, by the international system. Some are weaker than others. Some are in danger of failing. Some have failed and collapsed. What separates the strong from the weak and the weak from the failed, and why? Those are the questions that motivate the analyses of the chapters in this book.

For Kasfir, failure equals domestic anarchy--an absence of controlling authority. Groups that once lived side by side and seemed to trust each other because they could depend on the state to protect them from harm or dangerous surprises, become motivated, as in the Côte d'Ivoire, by fear. Suspicion leading to hostility becomes a possibility as new antagonists arm defensively, or is it offensively? Individuals who looked to the state now look for protection to groups led by nonstate actors. This is an early tipping point--an indicator of coming failure. Such perilous situations strengthen the likelihood that the emerging classical security dilemma within the state will escalate into war, throwing several once-peaceful contenders into battles that each neither needed nor originally wanted.

Social grievances do not explain intrastate wars so effectively as does the security dilemma paradigm. But predation, which accompanies the satisfying of security claims, and interacts systematically with the claims of fear and potential preemption, is a parallel cause of the violence that tips a failing state into full failure. Preemptive strikes themselves often lead to predation. That is, when states are failing, the pull of material gain, when added to the push of fear, provide mutually reinforcing motives for attack that are stronger than just the one or the other factor. Once greed has claimed the behavioral goals of actors within failed states, however, peace becomes harder to achieve. Those who fear, and attack preemptively, want peace; those who are primarily predators thrive on war and the anarchic conditions of failed and collapsed states. Such a formulation contributes to an understanding of why Sierra Leone and the DRC both fell so far and so thoroughly.

Van de Walle's chapter puts less emphasis on predation and looting as causes for state failure, especially in Africa. In his analysis, how weak states respond to and handle their underlying economic frailties greatly affect their propensity to fail. Fiscal extraction, for example, is much more difficult and costly in big, empty countries and in inefficient or poorly led countries than it is in countries with sufficient governmental capacity. With low state revenues, government can obviously do less and provide fewer political goods. In failing states like Sierra Leone and Zaire in the 1980s, tax collections amounted to less than 10 percent of GDP. Yet van de Walle indicates that African governments typically employed far fewer workers per capita than European governments. However, those fewer workers nevertheless absorbed higher proportions of official expenditures, thus leaving little budgetary cash for the provision of public goods or the projection of governmental power and authority. Moreover, weak African governments, in contrast to those in Asia, systematically underinvested in the acquisition of human and physical capacity, boosted patronage over merit in their bureaucracies, and further undermined capacity to perform and protections against corruption and rent-seeking by politicians. Effectively marginalized civil services, in Africa more than Asia, also produced politically motivated and economically irrational policies. Economically driven crises, leading in many cases to failure, ineluctably followed.

Irrational economic decision-making limits state capacity. In contrast, weak states that follow sensible macroeconomic and fiscal rules become stronger over time. This virtuous cycle was found in Francophone West Africa, van de Walle reports, until postcolonial French constraints were loosened in the 1990s. In Anglophone and former Belgian and Italian Africa, by contrast, incautious and noncredible monetary and fiscal policies over the same period led to inflation, decreasing currency values, capital flight, declining foreign investment, a catastrophic decline in real civil service salaries, and losses of state legitimacy. As a consequence, rather than being motivated primarily by greed, leaders in those areas focused on expedient actions that could maintain themselves in power despite cascading economic disasters. States were hollowed out, their leaders seeking to swim but never to navigate, and to concentrate on themselves rather than on their responsibilities to the state and its citizens. Regarding motivation, van de Walle takes some issue with Reno, this chapter, and others: he says that state leaders do not willingly allow their states to fail; rather, they try to derive short-term advantage from every circumstance, and those actions lead their states downward into chaos.34

Van de Walle's chapter also examines two charges: that instability in Africa was accentuated by reduced aid-flows and that structural adjustment policies drove states to failure. He finds both charges false. The end of the Cold War resulted in no drop in aid. States, overall, were not forced to shrink and retrench. The scale of discretionary resources available to politicians did not decline. Public payrolls did not fall, with numbers of civil servants increasing over the period. Indeed, if structural adjustment contributed to failure it did so by allowing weak and badly performing regimes to gain (not lose) resources and thus stay in power. Conditionalities were mandated but never enforced, thus perpetuating poor policies and strengthening rent-seeking elites. Reform agendas were mostly honored in the breach, and structural adjustment thus comforted the status quo. As a result, the quality of African governance continued to decline and public infrastructures to fray.

State failure is always associated with intrastate violence, the rise of non-state actors, an increased lethality of the weapons employed in offensive and defensive combat, a shady trade in small arms, and a reciprocal commerce in illegally mined and exported minerals, timber, narcotics, and women and children--indeed, in anything that will pay for the desired guns and ammunition. There is a tipping point, as Kasfir suggests, when nonstate leaders recruit followers and supply them with arms, the arms having been procured from smugglers, on a black market, or by theft or purchase from soldiers or official armories. Until this decisive moment, weak states may appear to be failing. But insurgent attacks, fueled by newly obtained arms or provoked by governmental errors or refusals to act (as in Côte d'Ivoire), plunge a failing state into a crisis from which it may--depending on the official response--never recover. Klare's chapter sets out the global character of the licit and illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and explains how both forms of commerce impinge on state failure. When an internal arms race has begun, time for peace is fast running out and failure is probable.

Unfortunately, small arms and light weapons are widely available and very affordable. Klare estimates that more than 550 million such instruments of death were in circulation in 2002. Existing international and regional efforts to limit the diffusion of weapons are still tentative. Since the ease of arming is one of the accelerators (if not a secondary cause) of state failure, preventing nation-states from failing in large part depends on making illicit arms transfers much more difficult and costly, on depleting surplus stocks, on bringing transparency even to the legal export of arms by governments, and on curbing the demand for arms by rebels. These are not new issues, as the many Afghan wars attest, but the failure and collapse of states and the misery that accompanies failure and collapse tie the small arms issue directly to explanations for failure.35

Revival, Resuscitation, and Reconstruction

Reducing the global incidence of state failure and collapse is essential to the peace of the world, to saving poor inhabitants of troubled territories from havoc and misery, and to combating terror. Prevention is always preferable and less costly than remediation. But worthy preventive efforts sometime fall short, and states stumble and truly fail. When that happens, and especially in the cases of states already failed and collapsed, the UN, international organizations, the major powers, regional hegemons, and coalitions of the willing all have a strategic and moral responsibility to intervene on behalf of beleaguered citizens and to reduce losses of life. Herbst goes farther and suggests a stage when the UN would "decertify" failing states, thus leading to a period of tutelage or, as Jens Meierhenrich's chapter suggests, "conservatorship." In such postconflict situations, there is a great need for conscientious, well-crafted nation building--for a systematic refurbishing of the political, economic, and social fabric of countries that have crumbled, that are failing to perform and provide political goods, and that have become threats to themselves and others. An atmosphere of security, a hint of good governance, and an inkling of prosperity all need to be provided, usually through outside assistance and outside support that reinforce positive initiatives on the ground.

The examples of Tajikistan and Lebanon suggest that failed states can be helped to recover. Even the seemingly hopeless cases, such as Somalia, are never beyond redemption. Likewise, the accomplishments of the UN transitional administrations in Cambodia and East Timor, as well as the NATO / UN interim administration in Kosovo, indicate that effective nation building is possible if there is sufficient political will and targeted and well-funded external aid.

In the last three cases an interim administration provided security, the key political good, and developed a rudimentary local police force, patiently trained local officials across bureaucratic departments, reintroduced legal codes and methods, and helped to rejuvenate and regularize the local economies. Eventually, the transitional governments registered voters and sponsored internationally supervised expressions of choice through the ballot box, thus permitting all three countries to emerge from their periods of tutelage. Home rule in Kosovo, and independence in Cambodia and East Timor, followed.

But in each of those instances, and in so many analogous situations, interim administrations have been anxious--very anxious--to "complete" their ostensible missions and leave. They preferred short-term fixes and quick reconstruction efforts to sustainable efforts of nation building requiring long-term commitments. Effective, enduring, resuscitation demands creating or restoring capacities for security, for governance, and for institution building. That sometimes takes a generation, or more. The uncomfortable but necessary lesson of the partially successful efforts to date is that the revival of failed and collapsed states will prove more lasting if the regional or international organization in command only very gradually, over a span of years, relinquishes authority to a new indigenous replacement. The rush to be off undercuts sustainability and often results in capacity building that is insufficient to shore up, much less repair, states that have lost their way.

The hierarchy of postconflict initiatives is explicitly or implicitly addressed in each of the chapters that follow. Their findings, and the logic of the failed state paradigm--where civil war and violence prevail--demonstrate that reconstructive endeavors depend entirely upon outbreaks of peace.

A lasting cease-fire must be achieved first, before any other improvements can be introduced. An interposing force or some other buffering method must be found to sustain the cease-fire, avoid skirmishes, and remove fears of opponents. Then it becomes imperative to disarm and demobilize combatants--a key procedure that was unfortunately omitted in Somalia in 1993.36 In Mozambique, however, postconflict stability was greatly enhanced, and a smooth transition to the establishment of an effective government assured, by comprehensive demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration. Doing so included collecting and destroying weapons, even buried caches, offering former soldiers and their commanders the kinds of incentives that would induce them to comply and cooperate, and ensuring an atmosphere of fairness by the presence of international guarantors. Ex-fighters would and could go back to the land if conditions appeared conducive, materials and cash were provided, and the process of discovering and disposing of land mines became a national priority. Removing the land mines that were strewn across the landscapes of Afghanistan, Angola, East Timor, Mozambique, and Sierra Leone, and confiscating small arms, are continuing objectives of those who would strengthen the capacity for peace in these and other war-ravaged countries.

Before a peace process and accompanying demobilization can truly become a rebuilding endeavor, the transitional governing body must be able to deliver security throughout its domain. Roads must be made safe for travelers and commerce, if necessary by external peacekeepers. In Sierra Leone, only the arrival of British paratroopers and large numbers of UN blue helmets finally restored that failed state's sense of internal security in 2002. Only the intervention of the Syrian army in 1979 enabled Lebanon to begin to uncollapse itself. Only Australian and UN peacekeepers ended Indonesian atrocities in East Timor and created a foundation for efforts at nation building. Likewise in Afghanistan, a failed state with a terrible history of insecurity and low levels of law and order, a small contingent of international peacekeepers established a zone of human security in Kabul. But the countryside was left to the warlords, thus frustrating the interim government's ability to project power and restore good governance to the entire country. The U.S. reconstruction of Iraq depends upon strong security.

Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, the DRC, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and the Sudan remain the international community's greatest challenges. Without peace, nothing can be achieved. Without fundamental law and order, resuscitation and nation building are chimera. But once stability and confidence have been at least partially returned to these failed and collapsed states, transitional administrations and international agencies can together focus on three primary and parallel goals: jump-starting battered economies, re-introducing the rule of law, and rejuvenating civil society. The imperative economic initiatives (as Snodgrass indicates) include establishing fiscal and macroeconomic stability, controlling the money supply, paying civil servants and police officers, and putting people to work in new jobs.

Without those accomplishments, a new probity, and a coming sense of prosperity, the local economy will languish and continue to rely on dubious exports (opium, blood diamonds, and women and children). Absent a sense of positive change (Meierhenrich discusses how the state should be reformed in the minds of postconflict leaders and inhabitants), crucial foreign investment and trade, as well as aid from developed-world donors, will hardly flow in the required amounts.

An early necessity is an enforceable code of laws. The reintroduction of the rule of law can be done in stages, as human and physical capacity is rebuilt, but war-ravaged citizens will tentatively support reconstruction efforts only once they are certain that legal safeguards and legal redress will be available. A functioning court system should be among the first political institutions to be reborn. A renewed police force and corrections facilities are critical. Roads and telephone networks must be restored and refurbished. The central bank should be recreated. Teachers and health workers must be hired and their physical surroundings gradually rebuilt. Together, these and many other essential initiatives will reestablish a sense that a new government exists and has begun to work for, rather than against, the people.

Police personnel, judges, bureaucrats, and parliamentarians will have to be trained or retrained. Defense forces have to be reconfigured and their chiefs reoriented. Strong local leadership cannot be assumed but must be nurtured and strengthened. Once these advances start to succeed, it will then become important to convene a constituent assembly to write a new constitution and to anoint an indigenous government through well-prepared and well-supervised elections. Rushing forward into such a national contest is inadvisable before peace, law and order, and a capable administration are in place. Restoring the people's trust in the state provides an essential platform for the reconstruction of failed and collapsed states.

When states fail and collapse, the process of disintegration mutilates institutions and destroys the underlying understandings between the government and the governed. That is precisely why sustained state building requires time, massive capacity building, large sums from outside, debt relief, and appropriate measures of tutelage. Rich nations must promise not to abandon state rebuilding efforts before the tough work is finished--before a failed or collapsed state has functioned well for several years and has had its political, economic, and social health restored. The worst enemy of reconstruction is a premature exit by international organizations and donors, as in Haiti and Somalia.

The chapters that follow develop these themes at greater length. Nat Colletta et al. demonstrate that unless demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration occur at the end of hostilities, fighting will begin afresh, and a successful effort of reconstruction will prove impossible. In Sierra Leone, until 2001 the settlement of such questions was pursued imperfectly, and earlier ceasefires were never capable of being transformed into enduring platforms for peace. Moreover, when weapons were collected, they were neither stored securely nor destroyed. Unsurprisingly, those same guns were retrieved and used when the war resumed. In Somalia, the U.S. and UN relief force failed to attend fully to disarmament and demobilization, so reintegration was impossible, and what was left of the Somali state degenerated into warlordism and societal misery. Yet, in a number of other postconflict situations UN-administered disarmament and demobilization experiments proved successful: ex-combatants registered, surrendered weapons (sometimes for cash payments), saw that their weapons were made inoperative, received reintegration incentive packages, and trusted the procedures and the results. Further, where demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration were thorough, ex-combatants were quickly recruited into nascent police forces and retrained. Without strengthened police units, law and order in postconflict societies are almost impossible to sustain.

Colletta et al. advocate releasing ex-combatants from cantonment sites sooner rather than later so that they avoid becoming serious threats to security. In Uganda, the process was well managed. In particular, ex-combatants were sent on their way with monetized reinsertion packages--small cash grants, replenished regularly over a period of months. Doing so benefited the Ugandan rural economy and stimulated local economic responses--the classical multiplier effect.

The importance of restoring or creating social capital in postconflict societies is discussed in chapters by Daniel Posner and Jennifer Widner. But Colletta et al. also remind us that creating social cohesion around and through the ex-combatants is particularly critical, especially forging strong social relationships and trust across postwar fault lines. New governments do well to foster informal networks and voluntary associations of former soldiers. Existing community organizations can help to reintegrate former fighters and build social capital. In Cambodia, Buddhist village associations played such a role. In Guatemala, Mozambique, and Uganda, veterans' associations performed that function. Ultimately, Colletta et al. say that all of the components of the full disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration package are critical to the security and performance of states recovering from extreme combat. It is the interplay of a community's physical and social capital and an ex-combatant's financial and human capital that determines the ease and success of posttraumatic social and economic reintegration.

Widner suggests that working with local officials to revive optimism and to ensure human security, enhance leadership capacity, and improve the delivery of basic services, are each fundamental components of effective postconflict reconstruction. Together, betterments in these areas produce trust between citizens and new governments. Because fostering attitudes conducive to investment, exchange, and compromise energize formerly war-torn countries, local and national efforts that bring such commitments to the fore are necessary but not sufficient. The role of women needs to be given special attention, too, for without restoring the trust and assisting in the revitalization of women and women's leadership in postconflict and posttraumatic situations (such as Afghanistan, the DRC, or Sierra Leone), less can be accomplished with speed and in a sustainable fashion.

Central to strengthening the commitment of citizens to their government is trust. Widner's survey data indicate that trust grows from reducing crime and strengthening the rule of law. Those actions ought to be priorities. So should strengthening government performance as it directly affects villagers, women, and townspeople--the provision of primary health care, road improvements, and clean water. Reducing income inequalities also seems to boost trust. Bureaucratic evenhandedness is good; the more fair the system, the better people feel. Accountability is essential. That means working to limit corruption, especially by making it easy for private parties to complain against officials. Further, if new governments can find ways at the community level to generate dense associational life--the life blood of social capital--the process of reconstruction will benefit, and leaders will be able to elicit positive degrees of cooperation from their followers.

But state failure almost always will have meant the atrophy or destruction of civil society, so renewing trust and rebuilding social capital will be difficult and slow even after basic public order and security have begun to be realized and disarmament and demobilization have been achieved. Nonstate actors with their predilection for looting the state are presumed to be hostile to associational activity; nevertheless, Posner's chapter indicates that under some circumstances state failure actually can energize associational activity. When a state disappears, as in Somalia, civil society can flower. Outsiders can help by approaching the problem counter-intuitively and supporting not associational groups per se but the communications infrastructure of civil society. In order to rebuild itself and then to assist in reviving a nation, the sinews of civil society need ease and transparency of communication. So donors could best help to resuscitate telephone and internet systems, patronize newspapers and other media, and strengthen road networks--the lifelines and lifeblood of civil society.

Restoring the Rule of Law

The survey data and the logic of the state failure process suggest that peace and security, disarmament and demobilization, and the reestablishment of confidence and trust need to be accompanied by a resumed or refashioned process of law. A postconflict police force cannot operate absent new national rules. Susan Rose-Ackerman's chapter provides a comprehensive examination of how the rule of law might best be restored in a postconflict setting. Unlike so many discussions of "the rule of law," she usefully breaks that broad concept down into its critical components. What becomes effective is the reintroduction of criminal law, property law, contract law, liability law, and constitutional law--that is, how the state's new relations with its postconflict citizens should best be organized and regulated. Further, she considers not just the formal rules, but also the ways in which those rules are embedded in an institutional and organizational nexus that values compliance.

Refashioning the criminal code provides a useful postconflict means of differentiating the old regime from the new as was done in South Africa. Instead of relying on criminal sanctions to punish dissent, a fresh legal code could specifically establish the freedom to assemble and sanction freedom of expression while decriminalizing libel and slander. Citizens in the resuscitated states should be free to criticize their leaders, subject to civil rather than criminal penalties. Similarly, the conduct of public officials could well be made more, rather than less, subject to oversight and criminal charges. Although settling scores with the former government is not a useful idea, per se, Rose-Ackerman favors the vigorous prosecution of corrupt officials from the old regime so as to set an instructive example for the new era. Meierhenrich argues that the recovery of truth by commissions and similar tribunals can assist postconflict states in their efforts at reconstruction.37

Even with a reoriented, modernized criminal code and new enforcement mechanisms (including the reorganization of the police and the corrections system), it will be impossible to jump-start the economy, and thus impossible to give citizens confidence enough to commit to their altered government, until the legal underpinnings of private economic activity are established. The power of the multiplier effect depends on a legal framework protective of commerce. That framework needs to be accessible, in a local (not a foreign) language, and modernized. (East Timor is experiencing a language dissonance.)38 A new foreign investment code, and the enshrining of basic property rights in a constitution, as in Namibia, might grease the wheels of growth. Well-defined private property rights are essential. These should deal with the thorny issue of land tenure, and the conversion of privileges of usufruct into permanent rights to surveyed land, including easy transferability. Providing a healthy basis for democracy may depend, indeed, on reducing traditional forms of dependence by peasants upon big landowners. With regard to these and related questions, Rose-Ackerman argues that as beneficial as predictability and clarity of rules may be, rigidity is not helpful. In other countries, particularly regarding property questions, new regimes should carefully consider whether or not privileging the status quo will or will not prove helpful. In a similar manner, reforming preexisting contract law requires subtlety and an awareness of prevailing business norms. Resolving disputes in a fair but not overly rigid manner is important, and clear statutory rules can help to avoid disputes.

Finding legal mechanisms to hold public officials accountable is a critical aspect of postconflict reconstruction and social engineering. Specific limits on the arbitrary exercise of power by leaders and political institutions are helpful. One kind of innovation concerns rules that govern administrative procedures and that prescribe exactly how, and with what safeguards, rules must be developed and promulgated. Very helpful are truly independent organizations that can both monitor official behavior and sanction miscreants, and not merely report to a president or a parliament (as in Namibia). Anticorruption commissions have proven useful only in jurisdictions where leaders have supported their integrity and acted effectively on their findings.

Transparency is essential, so that even the posting of lists of basic citizen rights in public places and buildings is helpful. Indicating how and to whom citizens may complain is a further major advance. Antifraud hot-lines and nontelephonic mechanisms are useful innovations that have been introduced into states in the developing world. A free media, encouraged to investigate and publicize the activities of the government in power, also assists the goals of accountability and transparency. A free media is greatly assisted, and citizens are empowered by legal codes that compel review and that make corruption and self-dealing harder to hide. In this last regard, especially in poor countries devastated by intrastate warfare, privately owned free-radio stations are usually more accessible to citizens than newspapers or television. They form a part of the chain of improved communication that can assist all facets of ongoing reconstruction efforts, particularly the revival of a civic consciousness at the village and town level. Failing and failed states (Zimbabwe is a recent example) censor television, ban and bomb private radio stations, attack the nongovernmental press, and generally suppress anything that smacks of accountability. Postconflict states build confidence by adopting a reverse strategy, the more strongly the better.

The rule of law need not be overly complex. Because citizens and judges in postconflict societies are unlikely to be well versed in inherited or reintroduced legal systems, there is value in simple laws that can be communicated directly to affected citizens. Procedural rules can be simplified so that magistrates without formal legal training might be able to be fair and inclusive, as well as efficient. Streamlining and simplification also make human resource capacity-building an easier endeavor, if no less urgent and puzzling. Moreover, if transparency and ease of understanding is built into legal systems from the onset of the revival of states, the trade-off between independence and accountability for judges becomes more manageable. Judicial integrity and independence are obviously critical in every state. Mechanisms must be installed to prevent the control of judgments by executives and legislatures. Equally, while still protecting the principle of judicial independence and impartiality, laws should enable citizens to act against judges who take bribes, act capriciously or improperly, or are impermissibly lazy.

Assured recourse to the law, a strong and fair criminal justice system, the ability to enforce contracts and property rights, and the availability of noncorrupt, efficient commercial dispute settlement mechanisms, gird efforts to revive destroyed and damaged economies. Already failing, failed, and collapsed states, especially those beset by intrastate war and those fitting this book's broader sample of weakness, will have experienced the loss of physical capital and human resource skills, and reductions in the utilization of capacity, declining investments in both human and physical capital, sundered infrastructures, and negative net investment. In states at risk of failure, inflation rises. GDP (now GNI) per capita recedes. Everyday life becomes less predictable as citizens more and more engage in opportunistic behavior. Crime rates rise. Thus peace and security and enforceable laws become essential precursors to nation-state restoration.

Jump-Starting the Economy

If sensible postconflict goals include economic growth and restoring pre-war qualities of life and per capita consumption levels, then all of the disastrous downward shifts mentioned in the previous paragraph must be undone. To be sustained, regrowth needs to be based on investments in physical and human capital and not on resource stripping or foreign assistance. Snodgrass recommends a three-stage process of economic recovery: financial stabilization, rehabilitation and reconstruction, and development. First, the postconflict administration should establish a macroeconomic environment conducive to growth, initially by reducing inflation to single digits, lowering government deficits, and managing monetary policy. External creditors should suspend debt repayments, most of which will anyway reflect borrowings by the discredited outgoing regime. Foreign trade rules should also be liberalized during this first phase. Second, after the ex-combatants are disarmed and demobilized and the security forces are retrained, the new government (and donors) should restore the national infrastructure, revitalize medical and educational service delivery systems, rebuild public institutions, and start training persons to play key roles--project appraisal, financial and economic policy making, and planning for all service areas--in the developmental phase. Third, the postconflict state should create a policy framework within which the private sector can contribute to growth and prosperity. A new legal approach will also be necessary, as Rose-Ackerman and Snodgrass both indicate. But so will a stripping away of regulations and practices that impede rapid growth. Economic diversification will be essential. Will the state continue to be interventionist, or to what extent will it stimulate and support market mechanisms? How will it work with international organizations and bilateral donors? Will it be able to modernize its tax and tariff regimes? Answers to those questions are urgently necessary before the revived state can hope to resuscitate its ruined economy.

Only once a transitional administration or a new government has secured the cities and the countryside and ensured human security, disarmed and demobilized, established legal norms, stabilized and reinvigorated the economy, reconstructed roads, and restored essential services such as schools and clinics, can or should its leaders and their opponents consider elections. That is the prescription. The reality is that elections sometimes must be used as war termination devices (as in Liberia). Or in some situations a quick election is essential if renewed warfare is the likely alternative. Agreeing to hold early (premature) elections, as in Bosnia, may also be essential to the forging of difficult peace agreements but not to the effective development of political institutions. Exit strategies may be predicated on holding timely elections (as in East Timor and Sierra Leone), whether or not the postconflict situations really are ready for or will be assisted by the holding of electoral contests before, say, the economy is strong or the contending parties have become reconciled. As Terrence Lyons's chapter indicates, the electoral record is mixed because each ballot-casting exercise serves multiple, contradictory goals. Elections are always essential to the launching of postconflict democracies, but they can also exacerbate competition, polarize already fractured societies, institutionalize existing imbalances of power, and retard as well as advance the transition from war and failure to resuscitation and good governance.

Voters go to the polls to ensure diverse outcomes--at earlier stages for security, at later stages, arguably, for potential performance and economic reward. Since a return to participatory politics is a key goal of postfailure reconstruction, consideration should be given as to how best to maximize popular participation through the ballot box. Lyons stresses the importance of demilitarizing politics and building strong political institutions before voters go to the polls; after the vote it may be too late. Demilitarization of politics includes the establishment of effective interim indigenous or international administrations, transforming previously contending military forces into political parties, and the formation of credible electoral oversight authorities. Postconflict elections are, after all, referenda on how best to sustain the peace as well as on how best, and under whose leadership, to revive dysfunctional countries.

What happens between a peace agreement and an election is just as, and possibly more, important than the terms of the agreement itself in determining a transition's success or failure. Institution building is critical, and bringing political institutions, norms, and national political debate to a level of functional maturity greatly improves the atmosphere of legitimacy within which elections can be held. Months rather than weeks of debate can boost confidence in the modalities of an election, and in electoral processes generally, or it can sour potential voters and reignite their fears. Timing always needs to be in critical balance. Lyons thoroughly explores the relevant sequencing considerations, and weighs the virtue of different electoral designs against the perceived needs of postfailure political leaders and parties.

He does not call, as Herbst and others might, for an internationally sponsored, neutral, world-wide elections commission to supervise or actually run elections in weak states. That new idea might substitute for outside electoral observers and could end controversy over the quality and probity of the elections held in post- or preconflict fractious states. Such a new institution could have prevented the stealing of the 2002 Zimbabwean presidential election, questions about the 2002 communal voting in Cambodia, the rigging of the 2002 Zambian elections, concerns about Nigeria's 2003 poll, and anxieties about many other events. Creating such a new organization, and staffing it, would prove yet another charge on the resources and manpower of the UN system, but once such a radical innovation became accepted, and became the electoral gold standard, many questions about the technical quality of elections, and their fairness, would recede.

Is the nation-state the only or the best unit for the organization of larger than city / town political units in the twenty-first century? Should the international community be able to withdraw recognition from failing or failed states? Should failing and failed states be capable of being sent temporarily for tutelage--an interim designation that served East Timor well from 1999 to 2002? Somalia still needs international assistance and administration; a period of UN-organized tutelage might help. Otherwise, says Herbst, the asymmetry of interests between predatory rulers and the forces of world order will continue to cause state failure to repeat itself. Indeed, without enforced tutelage or boundary adjustments (now anathema), failed states will continue to fracture into smaller and smaller pieces.

Herbst goes so far as to recommend that states that cease to exercise formal control over parts of their nominal territories should lose their sovereignty, that is, be decertified. They should also lose sovereign status if they fail to project authority or fail to provide basic services outside a capital or a few cities. If they are unable to perform, if they no longer supply political goods--in other words, if they are failing--they should be delisted. Membership in the UN General Assembly should not necessarily be forever. Decertification would be a powerful tool, recognizing a state's mortality or its propensity to fail. It could either be a way station on the road back to resuscitation, or a death warrant. Either way, it would put the residents of the decertified entity, its neighbors, and the international system on notice that something had to be done. A decertification process could also lead to the creation of new states, carved in many cases out of old. Secession would not be regarded as anathema, at least not in those cases where the receding state no longer broadcast power throughout its nominal boundaries. The Somalilands of the world would, under such a new dispensation, be candidates for recognition rather than dismay. Places of disorder, like Aceh in Indonesia, could conceivably qualify if they eventually met stringent criteria for power and performance.

The other contributors to this book generally disagree with Herbst's radical and despairing message. The organizing and central argument of When States Fail: Causes and Consequences is that repair and revival are possible outcomes. Indeed, given the international system's inertia, the predominant African and Asian norm against reconfiguring boundaries and refashioning states, and the major refocusing that would be required to follow Herbst's otherwise logical notions, preventing states from failing and reviving those that do fail remain the governing orders of the day.

In earlier, less interconnected eras, state weakness and failure could be isolated and kept distant from the developed world. Failure once held fewer implications for the peace and security of the world, and for the regions that surround weak and failing states. Now, however, as much as their citizens suffer, the failings of states also pose enormous dangers well beyond their own borders. Minimizing the possibilities of failure by strengthening the capacities of the nation-states of the developing world has thus become one of the critical all-consuming strategic and moral imperatives of our terrorized time. The chapters in this book demonstrate how and why states have failed and will fail, and how they can be revived and reconstructed.

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File created: 8/7/2007

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