The failed states debate. Iraq as an example

Elaboration, 2005

9 Pages, Grade: 2



1. Introduction

A. Meaning and theories explaining failed states

2. Failed states and international security.

3. Iraq as an example

4. Conclusion

6. Bibliography

1. Introduction

Before the terrorists attack on Washington and New York, experts in International Relations were discussing and analyzing the clash of civilization by Huttington, an American political scientist. According to Huttington, the next conflict that will confront mankind in the 21st century would be a class of civilization. He identified some major civilizations which include the western civilization, the Islamic civilization, the Hindu civilization, the Hispanic civilization, the Japanese civilization, the Jewish civilization and may be an African civilization.

When the incident of September 11 occurred, many people thought that is a confirmation of Huttington’s theory, but Huttington himself refused to regard the attacks as a clash between the western and Islamic civilizations. This very question was put to Gerhard Schroeder and other western leaders and they all refused to consider this event as a clash of cultures. But what I find contradictory is that these same leaders claim that September 11 was not only an attack on America but an attack on the western civilization or the civilized world.

Due to Bush’s new war on terrorism, most authorities on International Relations are focusing now on failed states. According to them, failed states are the greatest threat to the world and have no right to exist. Failed states are states that are unable to provide essential services to their people like security, which they consider the most important factor, social services like hospitals, schools, and even employment. Researchers claim that failed states are the breeding ground of terrorists, and classical examples according to them are Afghanistan, Somalia, DRC, Columbia, Rwanda, Iraq just to name but these. The debate on failed states like that of terrorism is a complex one.

If we want to analyse the debate on failed states critically, we have to look at the source of the recent debate, colonialism, the bi-polar world, the US hegemonic power and international security.

A. Meaning and theories explaining failed states

According to one online resource1Failed states serve as a catalyst to non-state terrorist networks. They provide locations for critical face-to-face meetings or training that create the lifelong bonds of trust necessary for the smooth operation of covert networks. They are also excellent hosts for trans-national crime (drug and human trafficking primarily) that finance ongoing operations. However, an exact definition of what a failed state is and how they become failed states is difficult to explain in few words.

If we consider failed states as states that are unable to provide their citizens with basic necessities, then I think all the countries in the so called Third World would be failed states based the above definition .However, I am totally against this theory of failed states by American scholars, who claim that since failed states are a danger or threat to the world’s security, any country which suspects that her security is in danger because of a failed state, should have the right to attack the failed state to protect her security. This theory is called “anticipatory self defence”. America used this policy to attack Libya in 1986, Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. If will allow this system to continue, the world would become an anarchy. Stronger states would attack weaker states in pretext of security reason as proposed by scholars sponsoring these ideas. I am convinced that the United Nations is the genuine body to deal with problems relating to failed states and world security. Though the UN is undemocratic (member states have unequal rights, the so called veto power), at least ithas the legitimate authority to deal with such problems.

Should we consider states who failed to abide or respect international agreements as failed states? Or the failed states debate is limited only to economic factor. If we have to consider the former colonies as failed states, then they were not only failed in the 80s and 90s but were failed from the beginning, i.e. they got independence as failed states because they had not bourgeoisie economies in the Marxist sense. They all depended on their former colonial masters for economic and military support.

Jackson argues that failed states are caused not only because of corrupt and despotic leaders in Africa and other parts of the world, but also from negative influences from the west.

This article will argue that the weak states are not a problem which suddenly occurs due to bad leaders in Africa (though they share a considerable part of the responsibility). Weak states are a consequence of the way the international system has developed.

(Jackson, 1990:10-19)

While acknowledging the fact that the fate of weak states lie in the hands of their leaders and citizens, one must not forget the role played by the west in fascinating this sad process. The world is so interconnected that events in one part may affect other parts either directly or indirectly.

2. Failed states and international security.

During the cold war, most of the so called failed states were divided between the super powers for allegiance, but what is interesting is that at that time, they were not brandish as failed states. I hold the view that the international system is responsible for state failure in the developing world.

According to Jean Monnet,2the modern international system is based upon a state logic. With the end of colonization, a group of states (kvasi states) were formed based on the juridical sovereignty. The Cold War conditions ensured that these states were able to continue to exist regardless of their lack of legitimacy, rule of law or social basis for the state. During the Cold War, these states were maintained because of economic, military and political support from either one or the other side of the Cold War. The end of the Cold War meant that the super powers lost interest in providing political and military support to the weak states. At the same time, the economic support to these countries was reduced. Herbst sees this as a fundamental change of the policy of the strong states. Consequently, it is no surprise, according to Herbst, that the end of bipolarity started a series of state failures. Some of these states like Somalia, Liberia, Ethiopia, and DRC are visible examples.

3. Iraq as an example

America’s attack on Iraq was the execution of the so called “anticipatory self defence” policy. However, one should not forget the fact that Iraq is of great significance to the US's economic and strategic importance in the Middle East. I will analyse some arguments that were put forward to support the view that Iraq is a failed state, while questioning the logic behind them.

Due to the fact that Iraq leadership was incompetence in starting two disastrous wars, the effect of international sanctions, her inability to provide essential services like security, hospitals, schools, employment, infrastructure to her citizens, the total breakdown of law and order in the country, galloping corruption, her air space was controlled by hostile aircrafts (from the US and UK) and her inability to put the Kurdish north under control, Iraq according to them is an example of a failed state.

I will not want to go to the history of Iraq, but if we consider the sanctions on Iraq by the United Nations, and the oil for food program, it baffles me that the international community will call Iraq a failed state when they help her to fail. How can a state be functional when her sovereignty has been ceased? How can Iraq provide security and basic needs to her citizens when her economy was destroyed both by the sanctions and destruction caused by the activities in the no fly zones by western powers? How can we talk about security in Iraq when the aftermath of the overthrow of Sadam Hussein is instability perpetrated by groups opposing



2He is professor of the Danish School of Journalism and presented a paper on“ The Responsibility That Will Not Go Away. Weak States in the International System“

Excerpt out of 9 pages


The failed states debate. Iraq as an example
University of Kassel
Failed states
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Failed states, foreign intervention, Machiavelli, Iraq, Africa, anticipated retaliation
Quote paper
Stephen Ekokobe Awung (Author), 2005, The failed states debate. Iraq as an example, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: The failed states debate. Iraq as an example

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free