Rotberg 'Failed Nations' Rotberg 2002  Term Paper

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Although Rotberg states that elections are not first priority but constitutions and elections to encourage democracy are very important. It is more important according to Rotberg that strength is given to nation states prior to failure as it is much easier to attempt revival from this point instead of after failure and collapse. He cites 'outside support' as being 'conditional on monetary and fiscal streamlining' with 'renewed attention to good governance, with reforms of land tenure systems and strict adherence to the rule of law" taking place. Nothing that endures can be accomplished in a short period of time. It is very important that failure of many of these states is prevented but it is also costly. These places ethnic cleansing and famines result in the newly failed states with terrorist groups taking hold.


While Rothberg's appointed facts are certainly factual yet the policies being used to provide assistance to these countries are not supported in research of an empirical nature according to the work of Stewart Patrick in the work entitled: "Weak States and Global Threats: Fact or Fiction?" Also as stated by Patrick: "this new focus on weak and failing states represents an important shift in U.S. threat perceptions." (2002) Patrick states that prior to the attack in New York City on September 11, 2001 the view of policymakers in relation to states that were those with "sovereignty deficits" (Stewart, 2002) were viewed "exclusively through a humanitarian lens...: (Ibid) Al Quaeda's ability to act with impunity from Afghanistan changed this calculus convincing President George W. Bush and his administration that "America is now threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing ones." (National Security Strategy of the United States of America 2002 as cited by Stewart, 2002) Stewart states that this "new strategic orientation has already had policy and institutional consequences, informing recent U.S. defense, intelligence, diplomatic, development, and even trade initiatives." (2002) Presently there is a focus in both the U.S. And the U.K. which is a government wide focus toward the stabilization of fragile countries with Canada and Australia joining in as well. (Stewart, 2002) Even the United Nations is stated to be "similarly engaged; the unifying theme of last years' proposals for UN reform was the need for effective sovereign states to deal with today's global security agenda." (Ibid)

Patrick cites four examples of 'failed' states which are those (1) relatively good performers; (2) states that are weak but willing, states that have the means but not the will; and (4) those with neither the will nor the way to fulfill the basic functions of statehood. " (Patrick, 2002) Patrick states that considered to be the most "comprehensive" as well as the most "well-respected system" for use in evaluation of the performance of a state is the World Bank's "Governance Matters" data set. (Patrick, 2002; paraphrased) Patrick states that the data suggests that the poorest states are not always the weakest states. Secondly, the income of the country is not necessarily that which determines the state of the weakness of a country but that it is in fact those that score lowest on the bank's Country Policy and Institutional Assessment indicators." (Patrick, 2002) The difference is that policy analysts and officials studying the implications of security across the range of countries that are in the weak governance bracket find this view "overly restrictive." For instance Patrick states that the countries of North Korea, Belarus, Cuba, Zimbabwe are "outposts of tyranny." Also existing according to Patrick are the sites of "ongoing U.S. combat and reconstruction efforts" such as the countries of Iraq or Afghanistan and the countries of "potential WMD proliferators" such as North Korea, Iran and Pakistan and thereto are the countries referred to as "past or present safe havens for terrorism" such as Afghanistan and Yemen and those countries who are "anchors of regional stability or instability" such as Nigeria and Pakistan and the "bases for narcotics trafficking and crime" such as Burma, and the "potential sources of uncontrolled migration" such as "Haita, and the "critical energy suppliers" such as Venezuela and Nigeria, and not to forget the "locations of epidemic disease" such as Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC]; and finally the "settings for recent atrocities and humanitarian crises" such as Sudan, Liberia, Brurndi and Sierra Leone." (Patrick, 2002; paraphrased) In fact many of these countries fall into several categories all at one time.

Rotberg is precise is naming the countries of failure and as well he is precise in the general demise of the failing states however the thought of finding only one variable for which these states might be attempts great oversimplification of the matter. Patrick holes that the recent and growing concern applied to the states that are 'weak' and 'failing' is "based on two separate propositions" which are: (1) That traditional concepts of security such as interstate violence should expand to encompass cross-border threats driven by nonstate actors (such as terrorism), activities (crime), or forces (Pandemics); and second that such threats have their origins in large measure in weak governance in the developing world." (2002) p. 7

The traditionalists, according to Patrick, in the area of national security believe that these problems pose "at best an indirect rather than existential threat to U.S. national interests or even human life." (2002) However, Patrick states that 'Proponents of a wider view respond that unconventional threats may contribute to violence by destabilizing states and regions." (2002) p.8


Rotberg might have focused more on what might be done in the pre-failed nation-state to prevent collapse with real decisions that might be made or real actions that might be taken in order to avoid the failure and following collapse. Furthermore more focus might have been practically given to exactly what preceded the assumption of power by the ruling faction or the 'elite' with the government of a country that has been propelled toward intentional failure. Rotberg might have focused more on the variables of capacity and will as measurements. For the will of the government and the capacity of the government certainly must be strong factors in what represents a state that is failing. Patrick points out as well that among these states that are failing is a proliferation of small but deadly weapons. Patrick holds that oftentimes these weak nations are a threat more in will than in actual capacity for creation of WMD weapons.


Certainly there are governments in today's world that would qualify are possibly heading down the path of the failed nation-state. In fact glimpses of these factors or variables if you will are seen throughout the world, and perhaps even in the greatest countries of the world as the forces within them pull and tug, and push at one another attempting to grasp ultimate rule over the political and social events that play out before upon the world's stage.

The factor or variable that Rotberg has missed is the moment of vesting of such authority and when the government of a failing state-nation has been granted authority to pursue such as was pursued by the leaders in the aforementioned countries that are now or have been fallen states? But what is that precise factor? There is much that Rotberg leaves out as he doesn't as does Patrick in his work relate the energy product crisis occurring in the Middle East and the ensuing competition occurring for what is a limited product and in fact limited supplies is that which defines the energy industry presently. Most certainly the failure to include this aspect within the analysis Rotberg has dismissed a great part of what places nations at the risk of failing in today's global economy. The variables are myriad in what may cause a nation to tumble into failing and even further into collapse and it is certainly only with an interdisciplinary view that a real picture emerges and measures can be formulated in scientific assessment of that which constitutes a failing nation.


National Security Strategy of the United States of America (2002) as cited by Stewart Patrick 2002 September p. online available at

Patrick, Stewart (2002) Weak States and Global Threats: Fact or Fiction? Online available at

Rotberg, 2002) The New Nature of a Nation-State Failure Online available at

Critique and Review of Rotberg (2002)…

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