Monday, June 18, 2007

Indipendent Study: Iraq now a leading " Failed State "

"No question, 2006 was a lousy year for Iraq.” It was an odd statement to come from a U.S. President George W. Bush, but few would disagree. Today Iraq (and Sudan) topped an independent ranking of the world's leading failed states released on Monday by Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace.

The annual Failed States Index ranked 177 countries according to 12 social, economic,
political and military indicators based on data from thousands of publicly available sources. The world’s weakest states aren’t just a danger to themselves. They can threaten the progress and stability of countries half a world away.

Iraq and Afghanistan, the two main fronts in the global war on terror, both suffered over the past year. Their experiences show that billions of dollars in development and security aid may be futile unless accompanied by a functioning government, trustworthy leaders, and realistic plans to keep the peace and develop the economy. Just as there are many paths to success, there are many paths to failure for states on the edge. (1)

Looking Back: 2003

The Fund for Peace first report on Iraq, covered the first six months of the post-war period from April to September 2003, concluded that the U.S.-led invasion precipitated the collapse of the Iraqi state, which had been deteriorating for years. (During these years the US had set up harsh trade restrictions on Iraq)

The second report concludes that instead of addressing the fundamental requirements of rebuilding the state, post-war policies undertaken by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) focused on completing the process of regime change, with an emphasis on de-Ba'athification, physical infrastructure reconstruction and incremental political transformation.

In the six months reviewed in this report, Iraq descended into what may be described as a failed state syndrome, a condition in which a number of trends reinforced each other to produce spiraling conflict that the country has little or no independent capacity to stop. A year after the invasion, Iraq is as shattered as it was the day that Saddam Hussein was overthrown, the main difference being that organized militias and terrorist groups have gained a foothold they did not have before. (2)

Looking Back 2005

Suzanne Nossel in the Blog Democracy Arsenal ( wrote in 2005 what some of the outcomes of Iraq becoming a failed state. How prophetic she has turned out to be.

Some of the casualties if Iraq becomes a failed state:

1. The fate of the Iraqi people
– The Iraqi people will be left with a state that’s vulnerable to rampant violence, possible civil war and economic ruin. Those that believe that virtually anything is better than life under Saddam may face a Baathist resurgence.

2. Stability in the Middle East – Chaos in Iraq will bleed over to the wider region. Iraq’s neighbors can be expected to react opportunistically to the void, meddling in Iraqi affairs to serve their own interests, and very likely entering into violent conflict with one another.

3. Attitudes toward the U.S. in the Middle East
– The U.S.’s image in the Middle East has gone from bad to worse in much of the Middle East as a result of the Iraq war. If the result of our efforts leaves the Iraqi people worse off, all the resentment over the perceived unilateralism of the Iraq invasion and the distortions of fact over WMD will harden into even deeper bitterness.

4. The fight against terrorism – Everyone from President Bush to al Qaeda #2 Ayman al Zawahri has declared the Iraqi insurgency the primary front of the fight against terrorism. If Iraq winds up a failed state, it will represent a territory terrorists have conquered and can claim. In addition to offering terrorists safe harbor to operate, the resources of the Iraqi state – oil, military, communications infrastructure, and funds – may fuel terrorist purposes.

5. Fight Against WMD, especially in Iran - Iranian influence is already on the rise in a chaotic Iraq; if Iraq fails, the role of the mullahs will only grow. As illustrated by Ahmadinejad's election, the Iraq war has already undercut the support we used to enjoy among moderate Iranians sick of their repressive regime. If Iraq becomes a failed state and U.S. influence in the Middle East correspondingly diminishes, the pressure on Iran to accede to American demands in relation to its nuclear program will further weaken. Chinese and Russian economic ties to Iran will pose increasingly powerful buffers against counter-proliferation efforts. Its hard to imagine Kim Jong Il won't find some way of scoring points off this as well; he's already benefitted from the consensus that a military response to N. Korea's nuclear program is off the table.

6. American credibility - Let's face it: a failed state in Iraq will alter perceptions of American power the world over. Iraq is the most ambitious and important U.S. foreign policy undertaking in a generation. Despite all the rifts, the U.S. has been united in its determination that Iraq not become a failed state. For the U.S. to mount a massive effort to prevent that outcome, only to witness it anyway has to call into question the credibility of American power.

7. Prospects for democracy in the Middle East
– The Bush Administration has often described how the creation of a stable and democratic Iraq would prompt liberalization throughout the Middle East. While this is true in theory, so is the opposite. The failure of Iraq’s democratic experiment will be a mortal blow, weakening moderates in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and elsewhere and reinforcing the notion that democracy cannot succeed in the region.

8. Americans’ willingness to use military forc
e - Iraq as a failed state is likely to herald an era of deep reservations among the U.S. public regarding the use of force - - a kind of post-Vietnam, post-Mogadishu hangover. While this Administration has made the prospect of greater circumspection in the use of force very attractive, a level of public skepticism that makes it impossible to intervene to prevent genocide or stop live conflicts from further spreading could result in more Rwandas and Bosnias.

9. Military morale
- Military morale has already been damaged by a conflict that put our troops at risk without adequate preparation or equipment, that has disrupted families and livelihoods through long extensions in tours of duty. The unexpected difficulties confronted on the battlefield have provoked a crisis of confidence in Pentagon leadership. Despite their frustration, those who have served want to be sure that their sacrifices result in an Iraq that's better off. If, after all this, Iraq devolves into a failed state the blow to the military will be brutal.

10. Today’s definition of a superpower - The combined impact of Iraq's emergence as a failed state on America's image, military, credibility influence in the Middle East, and on our battles against terrorism and WMD will be profound. In both bilateral and multi-lateral relations, most countries' dealings with the U.S. are predicated on the idea that we are capable of accomplishing whatever we set out to do. That notion is so well understood that we rarely have to prove it. The prevalence of this belief has made it immeasurably easier to rally others behind our causes, thwart opposition and work our will. While failure in Iraq won't change that overnight, it will open a question about what superpowerdom means in an era of terrorism and insurgency.

Posted by Paul Grant (follower of Basho)


Foreign Policy magazine is published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think tank. The Fund for Peace is an independent research group devoted to preventing and resolving conflicts.

Lots of information and links about the concept of `failed state' at Wikepedia :




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