CFR’s Stewart Patrick, director of the International Institutions and Global Governance program, spoke to DCFR Monday about fragile states, global threats, and international security. He said that failed states are considered by many to be the source of major security threats, but study really shows that they create misery mainly for their own people. A deep study of failed states shows that most transnational problems have their origin in wealthier states (like Russia and Venezuela). Patrick sought to go beyond common misconceptions about “failed or failing states” in his new book. (Though Patrick prefers the term “fragile state” over “failed,” a nuance highly appreciated by DCFR members. ‘Failed’ carries many negative connotations and creates its own political baggage and discord for those who might lend a helping hand.)
One member had this takeaway from his talk: ‘Many states that would not be considered failed states, like Pakistan and Mexico, have geographic areas within them that are essentially autonomous, ungoverned, and perhaps ungovernable.’ Also suggested was that perhaps, the post-cold-war era can be called the “era of the failed state” since old models of state sovereignty are increasingly being found wanting. While the external trappings of state sovereignty, like borders, flags, pomp and circumstance, are relatively easy to create, the inner structures that make states real — like central banks, a strong civil service, a strong sense of cultural/national identity—can take decades or centuries to evolve.
For more about Patrick’s new book, “Weak Links: Fragile States, Global Threats, and International Security,” please go here. Gareth Evans, former foreign minister of Australia says, “Stewart Patrick’s brilliantly researched book is an overdue corrective to some of the overwrought claims about the problems posed by failing, failed, and phantom states. He shows that every state situation is different, demanding its own analysis and its own policy solution. Meticulously and impressively argued.”