27 December 2012

Thought for the day: failed states

What are our political leaders trying to hide when they refer to certain countries as ‘failed states’? In an article for a forthcoming issue of Globalizations, Saskia Sassen makes the following pointed comment about such language:
Such language represents the facts of these states’ decay as set in a historic vacuum, a function of their own weaknesses and corruptions. These states are indeed weak, they are mostly corrupt, and they have cared little about the wellbeing of their citizens. But it is important to remember that it is and was often the vested interests of foreign governments and firms that enabled the corruption and the weakening of these states; and good leaders who resisted Western interests did not always survive, notably the now-recognized murder of Patrice Lumumba by the United States government.
For example, such language was often used of Afghanistan, focusing our attention on its contemporary lawlessness and corruption while carefully obscuring the role that the United Kingdom and Russia and, more recently, the Soviet Union and the United States played in reducing it to a ‘failed state’. In fact, looking at the  worst 20 countries on the failed states list, one is immediately struck by how many of them are the victims of European colonialism and/or US/Soviet neocolonialism.

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