Saturday, February 28, 2009

Afghanistan and Failed States

Steve DeAngelis of Enterra Solutions has a couple of timely posts that call attention to the broken parts of our world. The first addresses the need for the core states of the world to act in concert to address the failing and failed states of the world.

Steve begins:

The Economist, in a recent International section article, asserted that "in almost any discussion of world affairs, there is one thing on which doves and hawks invariably agree: much more needs to be done to shore up states that are failing, in a state of collapse, or so poor that they are heading in that direction" ["Fixing a Broken World," 31 January 2009 print edition]. Since Development-in-a-Box™ is one of Enterra Solutions' core offerings, development is a topic I frequently address in this blog [see, for example, my posts entitled Dealing with Failed States, More on Dealing with Failed States, and Fixing Fragile States]. As an opening to its article, The Economist claims that "the planet's most wretched places are not always the most dangerous." That shouldn't come as too great a surprise since the residents of some of those countries are so poor that they spend nearly every waking moment just trying to stay alive.

Drawing this quote from the article, Steve shows the correlation to observations made by his associate Tom Barnett.

A rather precise taxonomy is offered by Robert Cooper, a British diplomat and Eurocrat, in his book, 'The Breaking of Nations'. He splits the world into three zones: Hobbesian or 'pre-modern' regions of chaos; areas ruled effectively by modern nation-states; and zones of 'postmodern' co-operation where national sovereignty is being voluntarily dissolved, as in the European Union. In his view, chaos in critical parts of the world must be watched carefully. 'It was not the well-organised Persian Empire that brought about the fall of Rome, but the barbarians,' he writes."

You might recognize some similarities between Cooper's taxonomy and Tom Barnett's, my colleague at Enterra Solutions. Tom's Core States comprise Cooper's modern and post-modern states and his Gap States comprise Cooper's pre-modern or Hobbesian states. Between the two, Tom places Seam States, which are often the places exploited by criminal and terrorist organizations as gateways into the developed world. Tom believes that diplomacy is the only security tool necessary for working with the Core, but in the Gap, a capable military force (a Leviathan force) is also a necessary part of the kit. Between the extremes of diplomacy and conflict, Tom recommends using a nation-building force (a System Admin Force) to help Gap countries along the path to prosperity. He was preaching his gospel of "shrinking the Gap" long before it was adopted by the U.S. or the EU. The Economist's article provides a brief history of why thinking changed.

This post is well worth the time taken to read and understand that ignoring these problems will eventually grow like a pandemic to engulf the functioning states of the world.

Read more:

Steve turns to the dean of American diplomats, Henry Kissinger who as DeAngelis notes is still making grand strategic observations at the ripe age of 86. In this post, Kissinger offers sage advice for President Obama and America on the treacherous course in Afghanistan.

Henry Kissinger, who has labored in academia's ivory towers as well as Foggy Bottom's government offices, remains, at age 86, keenly interested in world events and U.S. responses to them. Never shy to express his opinions, Dr. Kissinger offers up his views on the war in Afghanistan for consideration by the Obama administration ["A Strategy for Afghanistan," Washington Post, 26 February 2009]. As one might expect, Dr. Kissinger is not happy with the direction the war is heading; otherwise, he would have likely have remained silent. He writes:
"The Obama administration faces dilemmas familiar to several of its predecessors. America cannot withdraw from Afghanistan now, but neither can it sustain the strategy that brought us to this point. The stakes are high. Victory for the Taliban in Afghanistan would give a tremendous shot in the arm to jihadism globally -- threatening Pakistan with jihadist takeover and possibly intensifying terrorism in India, which has the world's third-largest Muslim population. Russia, China and Indonesia, which have all been targets of jihadist Islam, could also be at risk."

The post ends with these cautious words aimed at both the President, but the oposition party.

Dr. Kissinger suggests that the Obama administration should not count on much help from outside the region (especially from America's NATO allies). Conflict in the Middle East remains unpopular in Europe and Kissinger doesn't believe that President Obama's popularity will change that sentiment. He is more sanguine that Europe would be willing to help rebuild Afghanistan should the security situation there be stabilized. Kissinger concludes his op-ed piece with these words: "Whatever strategy [President Obama's] team selects needs to be pursued with determination. It is not possible to hedge against failure by half-hearted execution." I hope that members of Kissinger's own party heed his words as well as the administration.


Anonymous said...

Hi Tom,

Nice to see you bring this up. I plan to also comment a bit later at my site.

Hope all is well!

HISTORYGUY99 said...

Thanks Shawn,

All is well!

I am looking forward to what you have to say. BTW, you posts are very good and are really helping to spread the message of Great Powers to those readers who represent the vital supply chains.

Anonymous said...

I started work today on an article for and took a moment to search on some keywords relevant to a matrix of predictions about the nation-state, and how it will respond to pressures of globalization.

Reading your summary and connect between Robert Coopers writing and that of Thomas Barnett was like looking into a(n intellectual) mirror, or rather, reading some of my own analysis from my book Fallen Walls and Fallen Towers It sounds to me like we have a great number of interests in common in our inquiries. Drop me a line at