A few days ago I wrote about the Middle East's good luck in scoring three of the world's 28 greatest natural wonders, at least in a worldwide vote.
So much for the happy talk. Foreign Policy, the journal, just released its annual Failed States index. The Middle East again is a chart-topper. But that's not good in this case. Five of the world's top 10 failed states are in the Middle East: Somalia (at No. 1), Sudan (3), Iraq (6), Afghanistan (7) and Pakistan (10). Interspersed among those countries are Africa's sorrows: Zimbabwe, Chad, the Congo, the Central African Republic and Guinea.
How does Foreign Policy judge failure? "One of the most common is the loss of physical control of its territory or a monopoly on the legitimate use of force," the journal writes. "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."
Unlike the world's natural wonders, millions of people don;t get to vote on the world's most-failed countries. The ranking is derived from a narrower set of statistical gauges. Foreign Policy looks at 12 indicators, including what it calls "demographic pressures," refugees, human rights, economic decline, security and what FP calls "delegitimization of the state"--a reality common in Afghanistan, Pakistan's Northwest Frontiers and Waziristan, parts of Iraq, most of Somalia and large swaths of Sudan. (See Foreign Policy's full index.) All five Mideastern countries were in the top 10 of the 2008 index, although Pakistan has been making its way up there (it was ranked 12 in 2007).
Somalia topped the chart the last two years, but was third (behind Iraq and Sudan) in 2007 and 7th in 2006. Failure has been chronic there, however. Ask the latest victims of Somali piracy.
It says something about the utter decomposition of Somalia that even Osama bin laden and al-Qaeda despaired at making a go of terrorism there, when they tried in the 1990s. "A recent report by West Point's Combating Terrorism Center, drawing on captured al Qaeda documents," writes FP, "revealed that Osama bin Laden's outfit had an awful experience trying to operate out of Somalia, for all the same reasons that international peacekeepers found Somalia unmanageable in the 1990s: terrible infrastructure, excessive violence and criminality, and few basic services, among other factors. In short, Somalia was too failed even for al Qaeda."
Sounds like the perfect Robert Kaplan getaway.
- Obama's Pakistan Challenge
- The Taliban Resurgent in Afghanistan and Pakistan
- Pakistan's Doubtful Future
- War-Crimes Indictments for Sudan's al-Bashir