Is America Turning Into A Failed State?

Is America Turning Into A Failed State?



David Love

The concept of a failed state is one which is often associated with nonwhite and Third World countries, whether developing or underdeveloped. While the advanced countries, including the United States, will point to these nations as examples of what not to become, some voices are pointing to America itself as an example of a failed state and a failed democracy.

Nation-states fail for a number of reasons, such as internal violence, a loss in legitimacy of the government, and the inability of the state to deliver to its citizens. The concept of state failure is an old one, and history shows that most nation-states have failed rather than endured.

The Fund for Peace publishes an annual report called the Fragile States Index, which examines qualitative and quantitative data on 178 countries, the pressures they experience, and the extent to which those pressures surpass their capacity to manage them. Using criteria such as human rights, the rule of law, state legitimacy and economic decline, nations are given a score ranging from 0 for the most “sustainable” countries, to 120 for nations under the highest state of “alert,” and states in-between ranging from “stable” to “warning” status.

Two prime candidates for failed states are Libya and Syria, which are among the most deteriorated nations of the decade. Libya is the 23rd-most fragile nation in the world, with a score of 96.3 out of 120 on the index. With the NATO-backed 2011 uprising leading to the end of Moammar Gadhafi’s rule, the NATO allies had no robust reconstruction plan to stabilize the country. Oil production collapsed, and with it the economy. Beset by rival warring militias controlling various territories and resources, and even rival governments, Libya’s Porous borders have allowed for the smuggling of people and weapons, the infiltration of ISIS, and a migrant crisis in which 150,000 passed through the North African nation to Europe in each of the past three years, with more than 11,200 people drowning in the Mediterranean.

Some 300,000 Libyans have been displaced and 1.3 million require humanitarian assistance. Claims of human rights abuses are rampant — including slave labor, sexual slavery and the detention and beating of sub-Saharan African migrants. A UN-backed government has failed to solve issues of security, stability and energy shortages in Africa’s most oil-rich nation, and the resulting power vacuum has allowed extremist groups to gain a foothold. Once ruled by a highly centralized government during the Ottoman Empire and up to the autocratic Qaddafi regime but now lacking a cohesive political structure, the nation is on the brink of chaos.

Syria is the fifth-most fragile nation in the Fragile States Index, with a score of 110.6 out of 120. Bashar al-Assad, who has ruled Syria since 2000, cracked down on peaceful pro-democracy protesters in 2011, leading to unrest and a civil war. An estimated 400,000 people have been killed since 2011, 6.5 million have been internally displaced — 2.8 million of them children — and an additional 5 million have left Syria. Syria has emerged as a stage for non-state actors such as ISIS.

Ranked 158 out of 178 nations on the Fragile States Index, the United States is not in as dire a situation as Libya or Syria in terms of instability, by any stretch of the imagination. However, America is not among the most sustainable countries, and has emerged as a country on the decline in 2017 due to dramatic spikes in three criteria: Security Apparatus (security threats facing a nation, crime, arms proliferation and police and military monopolies on the use of force), Group Grievance (social and political divisions in society, such as inequality, group hatred and oppression and communal violence), and Factionalized Elites (nationalism and xenophobia by ruling elites, extremist rhetoric ).

These upticks were attributed to the divisive and vitriolic 2016 presidential campaign, with its wedge issues and racial undertones, and polarizing xenophobic and Islamophobic messaging. Further, high-profile police shootings of unarmed Black people sparked protests throughout the country, reflecting America’s heightened racial tension.