Measuring Failure

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soldier_Pakistani_Army_Pakistan_29062008_news_002.jpgThis post also appears at The American Strategist.
This year’s Failed States Index from Foreign Policy magazine is interesting not only for the questions the Index raises about failing states, but also for the questions it poses about the very act of measuring state stability (you can read about FP’s methodology here).
One article released as part of the Index, written by Robert Rotberg of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, raises questions about the Index itself. Rotberg discusses some of the “puzzling” results, commenting that:

Zimbabwe is the second-most failed state, just ahead of Sudan, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Yet Zimbabwe has no discernible civil warfare. Its government does prey harshly on any opposition, but the Zimbabwean state has not lost its monopoly control of violence and should therefore not be considered failed. And though there are simmering pockets of conflict in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, these states have failed only if their provision of political goods to the entire population has conclusively fallen to the lowest ranking among regional peers…
…Finer and more accurate distinctions among states are always preferable, especially with the world’s least effective–and most complicated–countries. A more objective system of rankings would better help policymakers analyze the options available and choose the prescriptions that best fit the country in peril.

Indeed, the Index’s rankings grow murkier towards the middle of the list, especially with states “in danger” of failure. It is difficult to objectively say, for instance, that China, despite enormous wealth disparities and violent ethnic tensions with its Muslim Uighur population, is more of a failed state than Algeria, a country still grappling with the legacy of its vicious civil war and with significantly lower prospects for economic growth.
It is equally difficult to say that Pakistan deserves its spot at number ten on the list, only three spots behind its neighbor Afghanistan, and somehow two spots ahead of Haiti. Undoubtedly, Pakistan’s low ranking comes in large part from the violent Taliban insurgency that has reached uncomfortably close to the capital of Islamabad, and has engulfed the major city of Peshawar.
Moreover, the recent combat operations in the Swat Valley created over two million refugees, one of the categories that the Index tracks. And the prospect of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists who hold sway in much of Pakistan’s troubled tribal areas is, needless to say, terrifying.
But as Peter Bergen, the Co-Director of the New America Foundation’s Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative, pointed out in April, it is a mistake to say that Pakistan is failing. As Bergen notes, despite Pakistan’s economic and security problems, it is not on the verge of collapse. Pakistan’s strong civil society, independent judiciary (recall the “lawyer’s movement” largely responsible for the peaceful ouster of Pervez Musharraf), and new-found will to fight the Taliban are all encouraging signs.
Pakistan and many other states are hardly secure, and far from perfect. But it is important to remember that in measuring the stability of countries, statistics only tell part of the story.
– Andrew Lebovich

Comments

10 comments on “Measuring Failure

  1. Mr.Murder says:

    The “mass Taliban prisoner graves” story is out there and looming.
    Suddenly NPR decides to escape the success narrative on the war front. The lack of a Republican President tends to bring that out in them ever since the network went uber corporate.
    Will the right condemn the pipeline trail’s leadership for mass graves like they did Saddam?
    Our mass graves are good, their mass graves are bad?
    Divine right, as the law of rule by warlord, continues.

    Reply

  2. Jeffrey says:

    Your assessment is much appreciated. I was wondering the same things when reading the “Failed” state index.

    Reply

  3. Outraged American says:

    Easy E, I’m asking Steve to send you my email address. It would be
    fun to communicate with someone in AZ who actually knows
    something about US foreign policy, and we can also express our
    frustrations on local policy.
    Hey, you just have McCain and that slimeball Kyl to worry about, I
    have SHADEGG too. What a tool.

    Reply

  4. WigWag says:

    easy e says,
    “Let’s not forget INDIA which actually has more Muslims than Pakistan (over 144 million).”
    India is not a majority Muslim nation; it is a majority Hindu nation.

    Reply

  5. easy e says:

    Posted by easy e, Jul 21 2009, 10:57PM – Link
    What’s largely wrong with today’s Third World/Muslim countries can be largely attributed to the policies/partitioning of western (i.e. European) colonialism.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    …..can be largely attributed to the policies/partitioning BY western (i.e. European) colonialism.

    Reply

  6. easy e says:

    Posted by WigWag, Jul 21 2009, 8:21PM – Link
    The ten largest Muslim nations in the world are: Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Sudan, Algeria and Afghanistan. Seven of the ten are on the list of failed or failing states (Indonesia, Turkey and surprisingly Algeria escape the list).
    The next ten largest Muslim nations are: Morocco, Iraq, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Syria, Kazakhstan, Niger, and Burkina-Faso. Of this group, six of the ten are failed or failing states (Morocco, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan are successful states).
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Let’s not forget INDIA which actually has more Muslims than Pakistan (over 144 million)
    http://www.factbook.net/muslim_pop.php
    What’s largely wrong with today’s Third World/Muslim countries can be largely attributed to the policies/partitioning of western (i.e. European) colonialism.

    Reply

  7. samuelburke says:

    the Center for a New American Security, the heart of the COIN establishment.
    http://original.antiwar.com/vlahos/2009/07/20/coin-meets-reality/
    “I’m increasingly pessimistic about Afghanistan, and the inability of the ANA to rally (despite previous assertions that they’re supposed to be fairly competent) is a big reason why. The situation reminds of a comment made by an officer I interviewed about Iraq in early 2007: ‘How do you convince someone to fight for their country?’ In that light, it’s somewhat troubling that the U.S. focus is on expanding the Afghan forces when we can’t seem to get many of the existing ones into the fight. Or do the Afghans have a different strategy than the Americans do?”
    This comes from this month’s guest blogger at Abu Muqawama, which roosts at the Center for a New American Security, the heart of the COIN establishment. The blog was founded by Andrew Exum, a former Army captain, now a fellow at CNAS, who wrote in a June report [.pdf] that “protecting the population in Afghanistan is the single most important task facing the United States and its allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the near term.”

    Reply

  8. WigWag says:

    It’s interesting to parse the list. There are 48 majority Muslim nations in the world today. Of these, over half (25 to be precise) are on the list of failed or failing nations. And while Bahrain, Kuwait, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Qatar don’t make the list of failed or failing states, does anyone doubt that but for their oil wealth, they would?
    The ten largest Muslim nations in the world are: Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Sudan, Algeria and Afghanistan. Seven of the ten are on the list of failed or failing states (Indonesia, Turkey and surprisingly Algeria escape the list).
    The next ten largest Muslim nations are: Morocco, Iraq, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Syria, Kazakhstan, Niger, and Burkina-Faso. Of this group, six of the ten are failed or failing states (Morocco, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan are successful states).
    Until the Islamic world itself as well as the rest of the world confronts the fact that something especially wrong is happening in the Islamic nations it will be hard to confront many of the problems facing the international community including the civil war between secular and fundamentalist Muslims; the Shia-Sunni divide; the problem of autocracy in the Muslim world; terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

    Reply

  9. Outraged American says:

    Bergen needs to talk to Pakistani journalist Abid Ullah Jan, who
    interviewed Bin Laden just before September 11, 2001. Jan’s
    website: dictatorshipwatch.com
    Bergen IIRC has claimed in the past that he was the last
    journalist to interview Bin Laden before 9/11, but if Jan’s claims
    are true, and he talks in detail about his interview w/ Bin Laden,
    Jan was probably the last journalist to interview Bin Laden before
    9/11.
    IIRC Bergen seemed to be extremely disingenous (and I can’t be
    bothered to run a spell check) in the run-up to Iraq invasion #2.
    Maybe because Bergen had a book to sell.
    My call would be that Bergen has blood on his hands. And I
    have interviewed Abid Jan and found him to be sincere, informed
    and credible.

    Reply

  10. WigWag says:

    “But as Peter Bergen, the Co-Director of the New America Foundation’s Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative, pointed out in April, it is a mistake to say that Pakistan is failing. As Bergen notes, despite Pakistan’s economic and security problems, it is not on the verge of collapse. Pakistan’s strong civil society, independent judiciary (recall the “lawyer’s movement” largely responsible for the peaceful ouster of Pervez Musharraf), and new-found will to fight the Taliban are all encouraging signs.”
    Pakistan isn’t failing? Really?
    Someone should tell Bergen to read some of his bosses’, Steve Coll’s reporting. Even better, Bergen should read NAF fellow, Nicholas Schmidle’s new book “To Live or to Perish Forever.” Schmidle describes a secessionist movement in Baluchistan, radicalization and revolution in the Northwest Frontier Provinces, civil war in Kashmir, “Talibinization in Islamabad” (see the Red Mosque chapter), an army and ISI ripe with infiltration by the most fundamentalist Islamists. Furthermore, if Schmidle is to be believed, there’s a virtual civil war between secularists, (the Bhutto/Zardari faction) the “moderate” Islamists (the Nawaz Sharif faction) and the radical Islamists who come in every flavor from those willing to contemplate a role for women (e.g. the late Ghazi brothers) to those who think it’s sacrilegious for girls to learn to read (the Mullah Omar faction).
    Bergen doesn’t think Pakistan is a failing state? Would he like to live there? His colleague Nicholas Schmidle tried to; but he was kicked out twice.

    Reply

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