This is an old question not only being discussed with utmost seriousness among policy makers and their ‘think tanks’ that are heavily laden with ‘supremely efficient’ and ‘super-talented’ personnel, but also being put into practice from time to time in a number of unhappy lands where, we’re routinely told, states are failing because of not being sincere in following the proposed recommendations. Yet, we are not only failing to get an answer that are convincing at least to some extent, but also puzzled by the outcome that we witness in some of those so-called failed states. So, the obvious conclusion that many of us might draw is that, fixing a failed state is probably a task equally difficult as defining the term itself.
The discussions surrounding failed states are not something being debated for very long. At the hey days of 1950s and 1960s when newly independent states started emerging one after another, there hardly had been any discussion over the potential survival possibilities of the newly emerging nations. Nationhood was perceived at the time as a normal outcome of what those territories had to go through during the long period of their colonial subjugation. As a result, the mood was upbeat and many of the early day’s leaders of emerging nations were confident enough that, despite the lack of human and natural resources, they would be able to overcome all the odds.
The tide, however, started turning against soon after these countries opened their doors for getting advices from far and distant territories on how to run their own affairs. Some did that willingly as leaders were annoyed about power slipping out of hand without the support of a patron strong enough to deter such attempts. Others were cowed down to the line with the threat of direct or indirect intervention. In addition, those who were reluctant or unwilling to follow such advices were left in the wilderness to rot, igniting, thus, the process of the emergence of failed states. Somalia is probably the earliest example. The Cold War rivalry added further impetuous to that unholy game of telling others about how best to run their affairs of state. And later, when the Cold War contest ceased to exist, naked invasion had replaced old practice and states continued to fall into the so-called trap of the failed states.
Afghanistan is the latest addition to the list of countries that have failed in every count. The failure in recent days was followed by years of instability, partly emerging from the wrong policy guidance of the leadership, partly being implemented from outside by big powers with vested interest. And at the end of the process the country had turned out to be a fertile ground of making at least some gains for everyone – the trigger happy Islamic fundamentalists; foreign troops sent to the country for fixing the failed state; mercenaries of all kinds sensing the toxic smell of money from far away places; leaders of civic societies understanding very well not what lies at the root of the problem, but the possibility of channeling fund from overseas, also in the name of fixing the rotten parts of the society; and of course the newly emerged leadership that had been implanted by outsiders from far away places with the sole aim of trying to give an image that whatever happening in Afghanistan had been happening with the active participation of the locals.
This trend of finding locals willing to cooperate with outside masters is also a recently emerging practice in which a roster is probably kept by the masters that includes names and details of those with the experience of being part of the group that is seen by some as “Poverty Lords”. Many of such present-day lords have spent time holding fat-cat salaried positions in the so-called development banks; and by doing so they have developed a mystic perception about their own capabilities of knowing better than their fellow countrymen the knowhow of how to help overcome manifold problems being faced by poor fellows down there. These days it has also become a common practice for masters to take out the roster and send some back at their home countries to take the helm of running the affairs of the state. And these are the people we can term as the so-called fixers of failed states, rendering their valuable service not for the benefit of the people they have been sent to serve, but for the sole benefit of their masters overseas, on whose mercy their survival depends.
The latest edition to the list is someone called Ashraf Ghani. Does the name sound familiar to you? Yes, the humble servant of the World Bank with years of experience in helping masters to come up with ideas that would help fixing the fortune for themselves and their mentors. With his years of service at the World Bank, he indeed was seen as a much more seasoned fixer of things falling apart than his predecessor, who was hand-picked by no else but Dick Cheney. His credential also includes a Ph D from an ivy league college, a perfect attraction for masters to make their right choice. And on top of all that, he also had authored a book with the juicy title of “Fixing Failed States”, one he co-authored with a fellow poverty lord, Claire Lockhart.
An updated version is obviously due now that, we presume, should include a new chapter with the open-ended title of “What Next...” There, we can guess easily, an essential reminder to all fixers to be included is one very valuable advice that they should not forget to keep in mind even for a moment; which is to keep sacks full of foreign bank notes right under the presidential desk all the time, so that when the moment of judgment arrives, they will be able to run away without delay holding those sacks under their armpits. Welcome to the monkey’s world…
(Tokyo, September 23, 2021)