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Archive for February, 2005

Saturday, February 26th, 2005


CITAR’s Executive Director, Regan Walker, asked for my review of the NIC 2020 Project discussion paper ” Nation-State Failure: A Recurring Phenomenon” by Robert Rotberg.

My first point would be that I do not have any fundamental disagreements with the thrust of the paper. It could have been more sharply focused but it was for discussion only and not a fully developed brief.

The taxonomy Rotberg uses of Strong, Weak, Failed and Collapsed for a continuum of State health is a serviceable one. A ” Collapsed” State from Rotberg’s description really involves more of a collapse of the underlying society itself, an unraveling of social mores and implicit Rule-Sets as well as the machinery of government. My primary criticism is that the lines between Weak, Failed and Collapsed remain rather fuzzy and ill-defined, something Rotberg sought to change.

I will give kudos to Rotberg though for calling attention to the phenomena of the seemingly strong, Weak State. A totalitarian dictatorship is a vertical scenario and has the strong yet fragile characteristics of a pillar. It can bear and exert great force up and down it’s chain of command but when attacked from the side it will shatter and fall with dizzying speed. This is an important point I have seldom seen noted elsewhere.

I developed a different frame of reference on the integrity of a system for the Rule-Set Reset around the idea of an axis based upon two continuums. The first represented the ability of a system to Enforce its Rule-set and ran from Strong to Weak. The second intersecting vertical axis represented the degree of clarity that the system Articulated it’s Rule-set and went from Implicit to Explicit. The resulting quadrants ( and ease of converting into a graph) would give the analyst a little more room for nuance in accurately sizing up states or other complex systems.

Rotberg is also correct in looking to leader behavior as one of his indicators. Big Man kleptocracy or Nomenklatura style parasitism are red flag warning signs of impending state failure. The unholy speed with which the ex-Communist Party bureaucrats looted the Russian state in the 1990’s was a good indication of the extent to which their nihilistic greed had previously been held in check only by fear of the KGB. His identification of security as the prime public good provided by a state meshes well with the ideas of Dr. Barnett in PNM ( who I believe worked on the previous NIC project) and his call to ” export security” to the Gap.

Overall, a good starting point for discussion, so Rotberg can be said to have accomplished his aim.

Friday, February 25th, 2005


Dr. Barnett has an important post on fragile, failing and failed Gap states today:

“…The UK government lists 46 countries as “fragile,” with a population of 900m (14% of world total), with Indonesia and Nigeria being the biggies. The World Bank’s more limited definition yields 11 such nations (Afghanistan, Angola, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Haiti, Liberia, Burma, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe—all Gap, naturally), with an additional 16 named as Low-Income Countries Under Stress LICUS), yielding a global total of 165m. ….What Kristof wants is what I want: a system to deal with these sorts of atrocities, and waiting on the Gap to come up with one on its own, or the UN, is simply fanciful. It’ll be a group of Core heavyweights. It’ll look like a Star Chamber and the vengeance will smack of Dirty Harry-like retribution.

And that’ll be a very good thing—not sort of good, not kind of good, but absolutely good. “

This is the sort of debate that makes international law professors and transnationalist progressives squeal. For them, limits of sovereignty is a concept for the Core only. In theory, the authority of international bodies they champion to make binding rulings also applies to dysfunctional Gap tyrannies but in practice you usually find these same people arguing an absolute sovereign rights line when American-led multilateral intervention is in the offing. These activists don’t call it that because they repudiate the concept intellectually, but that is their intended effect in forestalling intervention.

What the hang their hat upon is the Equality of Sovereign States as a cornerstone of the Westphalian system of international law – the very system that they normally are working to supercede and undermine. The United States, they say, does not have the right to interfere in the internal affairs of another sovereign state – though the UN does by the odd logic of a group of states acquiring a right by banding together that none possess individually.

My response is that the sovereignty of many states is simply a pretense – extended to all newly decolonized nation-states by the West through a combination of habit, convenience, guilt, selfish interest and hopeful benefit of the doubt. In reality, a sovereignty that cannot be exercised by a legitimate authority in the sense of maintaining order and accepting responsibility within a territory where the people have at least implicitly consented to be ruled, does not exist. Flags, UN missions, postage stamps and DC lobbying firms to the contrary, notwithstanding.

When a government cannot systemically enforce its rule-sets a majority of the time over at least *some* of its territory it is not a nation-state but a geographic expression. It is legally terra incognita and the Core needs to stop pretending otherwise.

Friday, February 25th, 2005


This nonsense is from one of America’s best known, ” power”, newspapers. Overall, it’s not a bad thing for our Secretary of State since it indicates the opinion-making set is so fascinated by her that even her trivialities make news. Commanding that kind of imagery is a form of power that can be used, it’s a psychological wedge that hasn’t been played well since tales of Henry Kissinger’s sex life was interspersed with stories about detente with Russia. On a certain level, I can commend the journalist for thinking out of the box but that level really doesn’t belong in a serious newspaper, it belongs in Vanity Fair or Vogue. And by placing it instead in a paper known to be read by our nation’s elite we all come off looking like a pack of gibbering morons.

I subscribe to The Economist and read foreign dailies online because the only national newspaper here that’s worth a rusty damn is The Christian Science Monitor.

Zenpundit at warp 5, set phasers to ” Irritable”……

UPDATE: Dan at tdaxp posted on this idiocy as well. As for the decline in The Economist, I must say that a) an absolute decline still leaves it with a relative advantage and b) The Second Law of Thermodynamics sends everything to hell….

Thursday, February 24th, 2005



Let’s show the world what the blogging community can do when it unites.Two of our own are in prison. Bloggers Mojtaba Saminejad and Arash Sigarchi are being detained by the Iranian authorities. (See below for their stories.)Here’s what you can do.First, download the “Free Mojtaba and Arash” banner to your blog and link it back to this post. No one in the blogosphere should be unaware of Mojtaba and Arish.

(Zenpundit is too tired to get the banner up tonight, so click the link)

(Thanks again to our member Alan for this banner.)Second, if you are in the United States, contact either the Representative at the Iranian Interest Section of the Pakistani Embassy or the Ambassador to Iran’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations. (Iran has no embassy in the United States.) Here is the contact information.

Dr. Mohammad Javad ZarifAmbassador and Permanent Representative to the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran622 Third Ave. New York, NY 10017Tel: (212) 687-2020 / Fax: (212) 867-7086E-mail: Email the ambassador Iranian RepresentativeEmbassy of PakistanInterests Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran2209 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.Washington, D.C. 20007Email the Interests SectionIf you are outside the U.S., as many of you will be, you can contact either the Permanent Representative to the United Nations or the Iranian ambassador in your own country.

Because distinct, individual messages are more effective than form letters, we will only provide suggestions.

Be respectful. Bloggers are known for speaking their minds with a minimum of preciousness. But you are writing diplomats, not other bloggers.

Make reference to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Iran is acting in defiance of this global standard.

Write a letter in addition to an email. It will amplify your voice and come on, your printer is like three feet from you. Besides, when was the last time you went outside?

Later, rinse, repeat. Do not just write once and forget about it. Keep on top of Arash and Mojtaba’s stories. Write and email repeatedly. Keep the pressure on.

In addition to your efforts, the Committee will contact both the Iranian Interests Section and the office of the Ambassador to the Permanent Mission. We will report back to you with what we find out.It’s up to us, no one else.

Let’s take responsibility for our own and show the world bloggers are a force.

Thursday, February 24th, 2005


Walid Jumblatt, the canny survivor and leader of the ferocious Druze militia during Lebanon’s civil war, had some kind words for George Bush:

“It’s strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq,” explains Jumblatt. “I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world.” Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. “The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it.”

Recalling Jumblatt’s activities twenty years ago, this is kind of like finding out that Daniel Ortega had emigrated to the States and was last seen as a Republican poll watcher in Dade county.

Hat tip to Marc Shulman !

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