How to deal with Failed States
April 25, 2010 3:56 AM   Subscribe

America & Nation Building: John Clint Williamson, a career federal prosecutor, now serving as the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, gives a TEDx talk on how to rebuild failed states, from the Balkans to Iraq. Sounds similar to Thomas P.M. Barnett's call for a U.S.-run International "SysAdmin". Williamson's speech at Seton Hall: SLYT
posted by joetrip (5 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In summary: "If you invade somewhere, you should be willing and able to clean up after". Which is fine as far as it goes, but doesn't really deal with the broader issue of how we select our "failed states" for "help", or how we persuade people that the US has the right and the required probity to interfere with their politics.

The results of US military meddling in South America, south-east Asia and the Middle-East, to give the most obvious examples, surely indicate that, while it is sensible to be prepared for the consequences of military conflict, this brand of interventionism, no matter how well intentioned, is overall more trouble than it is worth.

There is also something perverse going on in Williamson's talk. Basically his argument runs:

1) After intervening in failed states, we have a duty to restore them to stability
2) ∴ We have a duty to restore failed states to stability
3) ∴ We have a duty to intervene in failed states.

2 should be the premise he establishes in order to demonstrate 3, but instead he uses all his time demonstrating 1, which could only ever follow from 2 & 3.

As for Barnett and "SysAdmin", I simply refuse to take seriously the arguments of anyone who refers to the US military forces as "The Leviathon" and says this of it:

"The force America created to defend the West against the Soviet threat, now transformed from its industrial-era roots to its information-age capacity for high-speed, high-lethality, and high-precision major combat operations. The Leviathan force is without peer in the world today..."

or in summary: "I'm wanking as I type"
posted by howfar at 5:07 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

SysAdmin? More like BOFH, I'd say.
posted by Asparagirl at 7:56 AM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Thomas Barnett previously.
Not much seems to have been learnt over the last 5 years (Barnett’s talk was 2005)
Ambassador Williamson suggest that the UN is needed to help put the rebuilding together. Which is fucking hilarious since the US hasn’t bothered to pay their dues since 1985 thus helping cripple the organization it helped set up.
Of course Bush, Cheney, Bolton et al. didn’t help.
If you have time listen to Barnett again.
You might need a glossary.
If you break it you mend it. The US is good at the breaking bit not so much the mending.
posted by adamvasco at 8:18 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Reallly surprised at the lack of input on this subject. I admire Barnett for his ideas. He doesn't exactly fall in line with everyones ideals, but he tells the military to its face that they are Fucking Up. He acknowledges The Way Things Are and tells them The Way Things Could Be. Of course we all wish for The Way Things Should Be, but I'll settle for this.
posted by d1rge at 8:39 PM on April 25, 2010

The subject is difficult to discuss because the words have lost their meaning. Just as the word "terrorism" can be used only to describe the terror inflicted upon us by them, only they can be "failed states", even though the U.S. qualifies for that term in many ways:
An inability to protect its citizens. The belief that it is above the law. A lack of democracy. Three defining characteristics of the 'failed state'. And that, says Noam Chomsky, is exactly what the US is becoming. In an exclusive extract from his devastating new book,"Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy," America's leading thinker explains how his country lost its way.
posted by anarch at 10:31 PM on April 25, 2010

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