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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 Failed State?

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 several attributes.

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 indicators.

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 world.”

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.

US influence

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 selfish interest.

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 grave.

Bible quote

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).


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