[OPE] The current theoretical debate about failed states

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@telfort.nl>
Date: Sun Nov 22 2009 - 03:56:05 EST

On 13 November I wrote: "If anything, we need a decommodification of
thought, since you cannot buy a better society, no matter how much money you
throw at the problem".

Now Dr Alex de Waal (ex Oxford University Africanist) has an interesting
piece on failed states, in a British neoconservative magazine ("The price of
peace", Prospect no. 165, 17 nov 2009)
http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/2009/11/the-price-of-peace/ where he
argues you can "buy a better state"... if only Western officials would
invest taxpayers' funds more wisely:
"In the past decade the west has launched a huge experiment to build capable
states in the world's most difficult countries. Troops, technical advisers
and aid budgets are the tools of choice. The experiment is said to have
worked in East Timor, Kosovo and Sierra Leone; now Afghanistan, Congo and
Sudan are top of the target list. All are failed or fragile states where
patronage is paramount and where the political arena is a marketplace, not a
debating chamber. The problem is that Nato and the UN are terribly bad at
patronage politics. Their operations are run from green-zone ghettoes and
their representatives are risk averse, obsessed with procedures and rarely
interacting with their hosts. No one in Afghanistan gets promoted for
bending the rules to fit the reality of patron-client relations and the
exchange of favours. How did we get here? According to the conventional
story, countries like Afghanistan are in trouble because they can't sustain
order, manage a budget, or deliver services. So we provide funds to
kick-start development, charities to provide services, experts to run
departments, and troops to enforce the law. A helpful cocoon emerges in
which the state grows stronger. And when this state looks enough like the
Czech Republic, we hand over the keys. In 2005, the UN set up a
peacebuilding commission [ http://www.un.org/peace/peacebuilding/ ] to
promote such technocratic state-building, which is especially fashionable in
western aid departments. The state-builders normally show up after the peace
agreements have been signed, give themselves four to six years to get
results, and hold multi-party elections or a referendum on
self-determination as a graduation ceremony. At the start it looks feasible
and western governments, aware of their treasuries and fickle publics,
rarely admit that the process might be much slower. Yet even in tiny
countries such hopes are fatally optimistic. (...) Today, it would be more
cost-effective to ditch the extra troops and revert to funding patronage.
This would mean different priorities, like taking control of the drugs
market to deny the Taliban its best source of funds. A new patronage system
could eventually be made fairer and more inclusive, perhaps allowing
institutions to grow around it slowly. (...)"

There is an NGO reply here:
http://www.globalpost.com/webblog/ngos/alex-de-waal-wrong-afghanistan (The
Petraeus philosophy is outlined here
http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/news/news.cgi?id=749 ).

As for jetsetting Professor Wallerstein, well he seems to have lost the
political plot altogether in his 1970s-style "race class and sex" bubble
tour. In other to understand the method in the madness anno 2009, we need
something better that a "world system" theory that theorizes a "system"
where there isn't one.


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Received on Sun Nov 22 04:00:21 2009

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