Thursday, June 01, 2006


Failed States: A Viewpoint

We in the West do not have the guts

There are perhaps 200 nations now in this world, give or take a few. From the discussion in Foreign Review, and other sources, it would seem that about a third of these nations are in failure modes of major significance to the US.

Their significance boils down to a few important considerations: 1) the human conditions that prevail, which brings out the humanitarian spirit of the West (think Darfur); 2) the national resources these failing states possess that are of great use to the world (think Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia); 3) the threat these people pose to the world by way of terror and desire for subjugation of the West (think Islam, the Caliphate and Jihads); and 4) the seeming inability and the distaste of the highly industrialized and cosmopolitan West to apply adequate power and bloodletting to stamp out the fires caused by these barbaric people all around the globe.

The US has been struggling militarily with several of these failed states, most notably Iraq, and Afghanistan for years. It remains to be seen whether we will have an outcome we can live with or not from these engagements. Both Iran and North Korea are in focus because of their drive to produce nuclear weapons, and because of their support for Jihads and nuclear arming of the Islamic nations. Cuba and Venezuela are looming up as well, to join our list of nations we must pay attention to that has long included Russia and China., both of whom are nuclear powers and possessors of large manpower resources, if not also large standing armies.

It has become very difficult to keep one’s eye on the ball in these days of multiple threats to our existence. We appear to have relegated Russia to a back seat in the threat assessments, China to a smiling Buddha position, and NATO deservedly relegated to a backwater, unreliable relic of the Cold War. The US alliances of the past are not available to assist in putting things right, it seems, either, even if we knew what “right” means in all of these conflicts, which we don’t. The UN is a hopeless tangle of powerful states laced with failed states in positions they do not deserve, and with corruption at every level. It should be marginalized.

The tendency now is to think unilaterally—a US solution—to be imposed on each situation in turn, after all diplomacy has been exhausted, all presumed allies have slithered out from under any real collective efforts, and the conflicts have increased in intensity to the point where something must be done. In point of fact the US is probably the only nation capable of applying effective power anywhere in the world. In fact, we could create a Pax Americana simply to save the failed states from themselves, or at least to install a viable government and infrastructure in the states for the benefit of the people.

Even the US, however, is not able to take on 66 large and small problem nations at the same time, while continuing its usual military activities at home and abroad, especially to continue keeping a watchful eye on our Russian and Chinese friends, and settling down Iraq and Afghanistan. This becomes even more clear when the commitment to set things right involves occupation, security, reconstruction, training and governance for a matter of a score of years in each instance. There is also the nagging question of why we should spend our manpower and treasure to attempt such a stupendous multiple-nation-saving program? The answer is, because we could just about free the world from war and insurrection, starvation and disease, and the hopeless life of the poor, given the time and resources to do the job. Many men would respond to this goal; perhaps nations would also.

We have already bowed to the accusation of the “it’s all about oil” meme in Iraq by giving control of oil back to the Iraqis, with few strings. No thought remains of paying the US back for its expenditures from their oil revenue, it seems. This is a key factor, however, that should be rethought. Why should we not be paid back over time out of the resources we “liberate” from despotic control? We make a huge investment to accomplish these liberation acts, so it is fair that we be recompensed for our efforts on a reasonable, long-term installment plan. Since we are the consumer of every sort of mineral resource in the world, there is some possibility of repayment virtually everywhere there is a failed state that we must rescue. Oil states should be first, of course. Enlightened self-interest, it is called.

To engage the failed states would require, eventually, a large army, one that would be too expensive for one nation to afford. Thus we would need to levy the Western nations for their share of the costs, and supplement that levy with reparations from the “client” nations as repayments become available. If the European states refuse to participate, we would have to go slower and more carefully. A strategic selection of the sequence of “clients” should ensure that some native resources would be available quickly. The armed forces of the clients would, of course, be disbanded and replaced by forces under US control, thus the client would be relieved of the need to budget for military expenditures, at least for a while.

As was done by the Romans, we would need to augment our forces with effective auxiliary units from other nations, under our command, training and close supervision. Mercenaries should be welcome so long as they do not disrupt the morale of the ordinary soldiers, as a result of mercenary pay scales. Thus they would have to be leaders, engineers and technicians worth their pay and drawn from many fields, since we would have the occupation and security to manage rather soon.

Pacification of a nation can take one of two turns: 1) it can go relatively smoothly, without major bloodshed; or 2) it can result in large numbers of the resisting population having to be killed, as was the case in Roman times. Either way, we must be prepared to do what is necessary, and therein lies the rub. The majority of Americans today do not have the guts to execute people wholesale and openly as a matter of policy as the Romans did. Nor do the Europeans.

This is progress of one sort, but it is at the expense of allowing murderers and insurrectionists to continue their lives. What we gain on the one hand for our consciences we lose on the other hand as people nominally under our protection lose their lives. We seem to hardly notice or care that hundreds and thousands of Iraqi civilians are being killed by the terrorists, for example. Perhaps, though, there is a way through this maze if the proper steps are taken from the outset, without the need for complete genocidal steps.

The steps being suggested here are not new or startling. In fact, every step is well-known, proven by results, and easy to understand. We do the following things to a target state-in-failure:

  1. Invasion in force to defeat any standing army and significant bands of insurrectionists. The invasion force should be at least 50% foreigners to the state and non-US citizens. There are many nations that have troops who do not have the blocks to the use of force that we have. Korea is one. Once the objective has been reached, the invasion force can be put in reserve, and the occupation forces can fan out to take charge.
  2. Flood the state with troops in every hamlet, at every crossroads, and on the entire borders of the state. The occupying force should be 75% non-US troops, drawn from many countries, and for the same reason as above: it would be hard for US troops to execute some of the orders we deem necessary. In the end, however, we might have to do the job all by ourselves, which would mean expanding the armed forces substantially. The draft would be started again to man the garrison positions we need while a large portion of the volunteer forces are deployed for combat. A national service corps might be yet another measure to provide the training our men must have prior to combat.
  3. Declare Martial Law, a curfew, and a shoot-on-sight order for any person carrying a weapon without authorization. We are not invading the country to “liberate” it, but to occupy and pacify it, in the first instance. Once pacified, we can talk about allowing gradual steps toward freedom and self-government over a period of time.
  4. Declare all vehicles to be owned by the state, and have them registered by their current owners. Declare that no vehicle can be driven by other than the owner or state authorized drivers. Further, declare that no vehicles can travel beyond a 20 mile radius from its base without authorization, and that any driver that is found outside the limit without authorization will be shot on sight. Travel between cities must be authorized. Those found in a city without authorization should be shot on sight. Declare that vehicles moving at speeds in excess of 30 mph are suspected of being terrorist driven, and will be shot on sight.
  5. Establish a tight, well-manned and armed network of checkpoints throughout the cities and countryside. Any drivers that do not check out with their vehicle registration, driving limit or state authorization should be shot at once.
  6. Establish a tamper-proof Identity Card for every citizen, and start processing citizens as soon as feasible. Perhaps it doesn’t matter if the citizen lies about his name or other data on his card, because, henceforth, that will be his name and biometric information that cannot be falsified, if the card is truly tamper-proof. Void all passports, and reissue them under the imprint of the occupation force.
  7. Begin the search of each and every structure, building and home for weapons. There must be no sanctuaries left unsearched, including holy places. Possession of unauthorized weapons is outlawed on penalty of death if found in one’s possession, on the owner’s property or in the home or vehicle.
  8. Establish a well-armed and substantial guard on all important facilities in the state, including government and private buildings, and permit no one entry without an ID card and a proper reason for entry. Gain full control of all prisons and prison records. Holy places should remain under guard.
  9. Prohibit travel out of state without authorization, a new passport and ID so that no unknown persons can freely travel across the borders. Prohibit travelers from entering the state on penalty of death, unless they are authorized by the state. Thus any bands that roam into the country are to be shot on sight. Track all foreigners allowed in the state and arrest them if they stray from permitted areas.
  10. Take complete control of the financial system in the state, lock it down, and force those who have accounts to be identified and their legitimacy verified. All transactions over the equivalent of 500 US dollars must be reported to the authorities. Release the financial system from lockdown once sufficient control has been acquired, but continue to monitor all significant transactions.
  11. Take complete control of all major government or commercial operations whether internal or external to the state, and monitor all transactions. Set up an effective management team for the major businesses, and an investigative system for smaller businesses. This should include all power generating plants, water processing facilities, natural gas production and distribution systems, and, of course, oil production and distribution systems.
  12. Take complete control of all communications in the state, including radio, TV, Post, telephone, internet, newspapers, cell phones, and so on. All calls in or out of country should be monitored.
  13. The police force must be reconstituted under our supervision, and be gradually reintroduced largely to take the place of our troops on patrol, or at least to reduce our numbers. Police stations should be well-protected and difficult to be approached by an unauthorized vehicle in order to prevent suicide attacks.
  14. The language problem must be solved as quickly as possible. We should be conducting courses in all expected languages on a continuing basis, such that we could expand the instructor cadre rapidly to fill the needs of the forces.
  15. The cultural problem should be addressed in parallel with the language courses. We will need to understand the cultural mindset we are going into: this could save time, effort and lives during the occupation and later.
  16. Set up an occupational government with all functional departments represented.

Be absolutely clear that any bribery, kickbacks, or other shady financial transactions will be cause for imprisonment or death. This includes our occupiers as well.

  1. Take control of all transportation systems and regulate them strictly. This includes rail, truck, small Lorries, taxi cabs, and airlines.
  2. The international press should be told that they are unwelcome and prohibited from entering the state until further notice. They will receive no support from our forces, and will be treated as criminals if they enter anyway. Indeed, if they are found in a city without permission they will be shot just as any other. After a few try and are shot, this might get the message across.
  3. All of these steps should be published for the population to read as soon as possible. There should be no doubt as to our intentions, and in a short time, to back our intentions up with the actions we stated as necessary.
  4. Inform the UN of this plan and tell them to keep their distance. Any hostile action on their part will be all the excuse we need to raze the headquarters, with or without the foreign functionaries inside.

With our forces and occupation cadre in place, the state fairly locked down, and our people in all positions of power, we can then turn to the eradication of dissidents and criminals of the state that haven’t yet run afoul of our regulations and been shot. All non-citizens of the state should be forced to return home, or to stay at the pleasure of the government.

Any terrorist actions must be dealt with in a forceful manner. For each of our troopers hurt or killed, 100 military aged citizens will be selected and shot. For each citizen hurt or killed, 100 other military aged citizens will be selected and shot. The selections will be from those sections of the country suspected or known to be terrorist supporters, and selecting top leaders first. Martyrs will be made here, so we give them all the martyrs one could wish for. It is to be hoped that the terrorism would be halted a long, long time before large totals of executions have been reached. In any event, terrorism will be stopped when there are no more terrorists to shoot.


Criminals will be treated by the existing laws of the land, no matter how barbaric they are to us. Theft will result in the loss of a hand, in some countries, for instance.

Once the state is pacified, we can begin the reconstruction and training phase of the occupation, followed by a business development phase. We will plan for a 20-year period of gradual turnover of government and a growing commerce sector to the native population, if the country is ready. This is our decision to make, of course. We hope it could be far sooner than 20 years of occupation.

Try to pacify a state using a softer approach as we have done in Iraq, and you will have a long, drawn out insurrection to beat down, and lots of casualties to morn over. Success will be ephemeral and elusive. Winning hearts and minds is not going to pay off for us: force and fear will. But, we are a rational, modern, humane and enlightened people, and we will not go the extra distance necessary to win emphatically and completely as the suggested plan requires.


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