Saturday, July 19, 2008

Decline of the State

I just finished reading this article:

From the New Middle Ages to a New Dark Age: The Decline of the State
and U.S. Strategy:

I will summarize the author's points, and then give my comments:


The nation-state is in decline, and that many other organizations are
asserting their power. States have failed to provide for their
citizens, and security for the average citizen has little to do with
the armies and diplomacy of their state. People are turning to
non-state groups for their security. The rise of terrorists, criminal
gangs, and tribal loyalties is not a temporary problem, but the start
of a new system of world affairs. The U.S. must recognize this, and
learn how to deal with situations where the central government of a
state has no real power.


I noticed that the work was internally inconsistent with regard to
actions in Iraq. The author wants to escape 'statocentric' thinking,
but then he seems to criticize the Anbar awakening on the grounds that
it will make it harder to form a stable central government. If states
are doomed to failure, as he claims, then the only responsible course
of action is to work outside that government and help the tribes
create a stable environment.

I also found it telling that the author repeatedly claims that states
are failing to meet the needs of their citizens. Governments of all
kinds are spending more on social and domestic programs than at any
time in the past, and yet states are in more danger of falling apart.
This tells me that states are failing to fulfill their primary

I believe that the purpose of a state is to maintain law and order, to
protect the lives, rights, and property of its citizens with competent
and non-corrupt police, courts, and military forces. Any state that
fails to do this has failed in its primary mission and lost its reason
for existence. As the author points out, a great many states are
failing either because they never did this, or because the are losing
these capabilities.

I do not believe that states are doomed to failure. A state that
fulfills its primary function well, without becoming disracted by
other matters, will show its value and be supported by its citizens.
But I do agree any state that fails to do its job will soon be
revealed as an empty shell. We must either show states how to to
their job right, and quickly, or deal with the world foretold in this

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