The July/August issue of Foreign Policy features the “Failed States Index” for 2010 — an index it has been publishing every year since 2005 in collaboration with the U.S.-based Fund for Peace.
The Top 10 failed states in the index have been rotating in the rankings for the past six years, and they are Somalia, Chad, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Central African Republic, Guinea and Pakistan.
The index is a good measure of what is wrong with these states — whose misery is primarily self-inflicted — and given their histories there is little promise of any improvement in their situation.
It is no good to blame the problems of these states on colonialism-imperialism of the West that ended more than two generations ago. And if the West is to be held responsible for the continued misery of the states on the index, then honesty requires acknowledging these states would be likely much worse today except for what the West left behind as part of the colonial legacy.
Let us take the case of Pakistan, a country on the index that I am most familiar with. The Afghan-Pakistan border, or the Durand Line drawn by the British towards the end of the 19th century, tells quite a story of colonialism that few are willing to explore.
East of the Durand Line inside Pakistan, anything that barely works — from the poorly administered government to the crumbling infrastructures for health, education, agriculture, railways, road system, etc. — has to do with the colonial legacy. How valid this view is can be assessed by observing the state of affairs west of the Durand Line inside Afghanistan.
Hence, blaming western colonialism will not do. On the contrary, it can be said India’s relative success in the contemporary world in contrast to the Middle East has much to do with the duration of Britain’s presence in the subcontinent.
Nor can the West be blamed for not being supportive of countries that were once under its stewardship. In the past half-century, more than $2 trillion of western aid has been given to the third-world countries as developmental assistance.
Pakistan has been a major recipient of western aid. But Pakistan’s record in every category of the human development index is dismal. The country is a nuclear weapon state that cannot feed, educate, clothe or house its bulging population of nearly 170 million people.
But worse, Pakistan is a terrorist state and the corrupt military-civil elite that has ruled the country since independence is hugely responsible for pushing it to near economic and political bankruptcy.
And, as the crisis deepens, those responsible make safe exit for the West. They wash their hands of the mess they made and reside in Toronto or New York, while displaying little shame or gratitude and endlessly speaking ill of the West.
Failed states, such as Pakistan, are the products of dysfunctional cultures and corrupt elites who will beggar the population and ruin their countries without qualms to steal for themselves and their tribes.
The malady of failed states will not be contained, and the West needs to be honest about the matter instead of throwing money at the problem.