Failed States: Mexico, Iraq and Libya

The recent incident in Mexico, the slaughter of women and children by drug gangs brought to mind my earlier posts about what constitutes a “failed state”.

“The classical definition of a failed state is a state that is unable to perform the two fundamental functions of the sovereign nation-state in the modern world-system: it cannot project authority over its territory and peoples, and it cannot protect its national boundaries. The governing capacity of a failed state is attenuated such that it is unable to fulfill the administrative and organizational tasks required to control people and resources and can provide only minimal public services.

Reference  my post of 11 September 2010 about Mexico, 


An excerpt from that post is this:

“As a consequence of that (loss of physical control of its territory, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force therein), and Obama’s immigration policies the US are going to experience an upsurge in illegal immigration. The prospect of a failed state on the US border could be as dangerous as a Jihadist one. Mexico is inherently and historically an unstable country, and there is every indication the situation will only deteriorate. The US may well have to shift its priorities (and troops) from Afghanistan and place a heavy military  presence on its southern borders.”

So, short of moving troops from Afghanistan, this is pretty much the situation today.  Mexico cannot project authority over its territory and peoples and it cannot protect its national boundaries. Drug lords rule over many territories within Mexico’s national boundaries and the people have no protection from Mexico’s army or civil police authorities. As the Guardian newspaper reported today, “El Chapo’s (the drug lord) own Sinaloa cartel proved itself strong enough to besiege the entire northern city of Culiacán last month, forcing soldiers to back down after they briefly detained one of Guzmán’s sons.” That Mexico cannot or does not protect its national boundaries within or without is evidenced by the massive influx of illegal immigration from Central America and the flow of illegal immigration to the United States. 

From Mexico, we move to  Iraq, and a post I wrote on April 2, 2005.


Once again I proved prescient. At that time I wrote, “The events of the past week in Iraq, the abortive attempts to form a government amongst the fractious parties have brought into sharp relief the deep and inherent differences separating them.” That situation has continued since 2005 and the last week’s events show that if anything the situation has deteriorated. Much like the classical definition of a failed state, Iraq cannot project its authority over its territory or the people. and, like Mexico, it has no control over its national boundaries. ISIS at one time was able to secure vast tracts of Iraq and now there seems to be hardly any secure border between Syria and Iraq with the free movement of Kurdish forces.

Without going into detail there are other failed States and amongst them is Libya, a product of US supported intervention that led to the collapse of the Libyan government and an ongoing civil war with no single legitimate government over the territory.

I see no possibility of a happy ending for any of these failed states. Mexico, as I put it in my post, has been historically unstable and Iraq never existed as a legitimate nation-state having been created artificially following the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 and The Paris Peace Conference agreement of 1920 that implemented it. The only way Libya has been held together historically is by a strong man, first, King Idris then Gaddafi and until and unless a new strongman surfaces, the civil war will continue. Democracy, as with many countries, is not the answer and attempts to impose democracy will only exacerbate the situation.




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