Look, who’s calling us a Failed State
As far as USA and Western Powers are concerned the concept of ‘Failed
State’ can mean whatever they want it to mean. It has become a term they
use when a country does not meet their particular benchmarks or criteria
or perceptions of how things should work. It is often used to justify
their intention to intervene in, or interfere with, the management and
governmental processes of that country.
Many Sri Lankans received with great shock when they came to know
recently that a USA organization has slotted their country in the 20th
place among the most Failed States in the world.
George W. Bush
However, it was surprising for them to note that far worst countries
like Sierra Leone, Burundi and Rwanda were given much better status.
In the past few days, I have read with great admiration the articles
written by others explaining why, even with our economic woes, we cannot
be classified as a Failed State.
Since a lot of energy has already gone into explaining why Sri Lanka
is not a Failed State; my piece is an attempt is to analyse why in the
contemporary world, the US itself is becoming a Failing State and
heading towards collapse state.
As always, let’s start at the beginning. First of all, what is a
In the simplest of definitions, a ‘Failed State’ is one that has a
“shattered social and political structure.” Foreign Policy magazine
published in USA interprets it as follows; “A State that is failing has
One of the most common is the loss of physical control of its
territory or a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Other attributes
of state failure include the erosion of legitimate authority to make
collective decisions, an inability to provide reasonable public
services, and the inability to interact with other states as a full
member of the international community.”
It is beyond the comprehension of any intelligent Sri Lankan citizen
how his country could be labelled as a Failing State, if this was the
basic criterion adapted to work out the rankings.
Since 2005, the United States think-tank, a NGO called ‘Fund for
Peace’ and the magazine Foreign Policy, publishes an annual index called
the Failed States Index. Analysts say it reflects the thinking of the
USA Government. Ranking is based on the total scores of the 12
For each indicator, the ratings are placed on a scale of 0 to 10,
with 0 being the lowest intensity (most stable) and 10 being the highest
intensity (least stable).
The total score is the sum of the 12 indicators and is on a scale of
0-120. Sri Lanka carries 95.6 as the total score.
The Fund for Peace is said to be a Washington based research and
educational organization founded in 1957. Some analysts believe that, in
addition to US Government, people with vested interests have taken
control of the organisation.
Foreign Policy is a bimonthly American magazine founded in 1970 by
Samuel P. Huntington and Warren Demian Manshel. Mr. Huntington started
this magazine to explain the West’s responsibility in crimes against the
rest of the world.
In his essay, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World
Order, he says, the West had better shed the arrogant notion that its
civilization is destined to spread its values across the globe.
The West is ‘unique’ - but its values are not universal.
Universalism, Mr. Huntington maintains, is just a leftover from
imperialism. Western aid workers have no business telling the Afghan
Taliban to allow their women to go to school.
Washington has no business tying human rights conditions to its trade
with China. He says, “Western intervention in the affairs of other
civilizations is probably the single most dangerous source of
instability and potential global conflict in a multi-civilization
The argument presented 38 years ago by Mr. Huntington is no more
valid today in the selection of Failing States. It has gone through a
360 degrees turnaround.
If you want to find out how the U.S. lost the once ample reserves of
political goodwill it held once upon a time, Clyde Prestowitz’
well-documented Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of
Good Intentions is the book for you.
In October, 1999, candidate George W. Bush told a campaign audience:
“If we are a humble nation, other nations will see that and respect us.”
Alas, if only Bush and other successive Presidents had stuck to that
idea! Instead, in case after case, the US Administrations seemed to
thumb their noses needlessly at the rest of the world.
They walked away from a welter of international agreements, such as
one setting up an International Criminal Court, land mines, biological
weapons, the Kyoto Treaty on climate change, and the Anti-Ballistic
Missile Treaty with Russia. Indeed, Washington looked to be ditching the
very concept of multilateralism, an underpinning of the global system
since the end of World War II.
In September, 2002, the Administration published the National
Security Strategy of the United States of America, enshrining the
doctrines of pre-emptive war and overwhelming U.S. military superiority.
That document — and the Iraq war that followed — confirmed for many
foreigners that the U.S. had become the bully of the block.
USA high-handedness has aggravated tensions in hot spots from the
West Bank to the Korean peninsula. USA preaches free trade while
protecting its steel, textiles and agriculture from foreign competition.
While it rejects treaties, USA runs a wasteful, SUV-centred economy.
It’s self-proclaimed role as champion of democracy flies in the face
of its history of installing and supporting dictators in countries from
Indonesia to Iraq. Most of all, the world fears America’s overwhelming
military might, now ominously paired with a doctrine of ‘pre-empting’
the emergence of rival powers. Prestowitz, who by no means
anti-American, calls the United States an imperial power.
Admittedly, the USA’s unilateralist, thuggish and capricious foreign
policy represents a constant threat to world peace and stability. But
labelling the USA a ‘Rogue state’ may be overdoing it. It better fits
the profile of a ‘Progressively Failing State.’
A Progressively Failing State is a country whose government maintains
all the trappings and appearances of power, legitimacy, and control.
Its army and police are integral and operative. Its institutions
function. Its Government and Parliament promulgate laws and its courts
enforce them. It is not challenged by any competing military structures
within its recognized borders.
Yet, the State - while going through the motions - is dead on its
feet. It is a political and societal zombie.
It functions due mainly to inertia and lack of better or clear
alternatives. Its population is disgruntled, hostile, and suspicious.
Other countries regard it with derision, fear, and abhorrence. It is
rotting from the inside and doomed to implode.
To deflect criticism and in a vain attempt to reunite its fracturing
populace, the Progressively Failing state often embarks on military
adventures (cloaked as ‘self-defence’ or ‘geopolitical necessity’).
Empire-building is an indicator of looming and imminent
disintegration. Foreign aggression replaces reconstruction and rational
policy-making at home. The USA today is one classic example.
One more defining features of a Progressively Failing Country is the
gross display of arrogance by its leaders on the international scene; as
well as conscious disrespect for all international establishments’
institutions and laws. The US has shamelessly persisted pushing aside
the collective will of the world and carrying on with what it deems fit.
The US evaded Iraq when world public opinion showed that more than 85
percent of the world’s population were against the war yet it prides
itself as the best democracy in the world.
How could you describe a nation as democratic if it acts against the
will of the people? Abraham Lincoln would have turned in his grave when
the Bush administration decided to gloss over the will of not only
Americans, but also the world. The very international institutions the
US helped established to promote world peace have been sacrifice for
The US has not engaged in harassing the UN, it has persistently
undermined the UN and displayed its contempt for it just before the
invasions in Iraq. This time Woodrow Wilson would have turned in his
In conclusion, we must place on record that Sri Lankans are not
prepared to accept a biased rating given by a US Administration
sponsored organization. We believe the rating was given because we did
not agree with the US thinking.
We have never ever been a Failed State and would never be. We are a
nation of civilized people, known for braving the odds to achieve our
goals and giving others helping hand when the need arises.
As a post-script, it may be appropriate for us to quote a passage
from the Bible for our American friends. Being devoted Christians, we
believe they would seriously heed to the advice given by Jesus Christ.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and
pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your
brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time
there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank
out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck
from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5).