14 December 2008

Death & the Failed State

As a follow-up to my previous post on the effect of inconsistent maritime law on piracy, here is a great article by Max Boot on the matter, as well as what can be done to improve things. He focuses on the impact of "failed states" like Somalia, and how the absence of a legitimate ruling power creates a vacuum that is all too attractive for pirates and their ilk.

Similarly, this post from a New York Times blog looks at how failed states harm their own citizens internally. In this case, it is the failure of the government of Zimbabwe to act decisively against a serious outbreak of cholera. The author poses some good questions, most of which I think are addressed in Boot's prescription:
The essential problem in both Somalia and Pakistan is a failure of governance. The question is: What if anything can outside powers do to bring the rule of law to these troubled lands? In the 19th century, the answer was simple: European imperialists would plant their flag and impose their laws at gunpoint. The territory that now comprises Pakistan was not entirely peaceful when it was under British rule. Nor was Somalia under Italian and British sovereignty. But they were considerably better off than they are today -- not only from the standpoint of Western countries but also from the standpoint of their own citizens.
You might think that such imperialism is simply unacceptable today. But you would be only partially right. There have been a number of instances in recent years of imperialism-in-all-but-name. Bosnia and Kosovo -- still wards of NATO and the European Union -- are prominent examples of how successful such interventions can be in the right circumstances.

Is this a Maslow thing? I think so, in the sense that security and the rule of law are essential if we want the niceties of government, such as disease prevention and democratic regimes. This is something that we will be dealing with for a long time.

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