Edited by Christopher J. Coyne and Rachel L. Mathers
Justin Logan and Christopher Preble 19.1 INTRODUCTION: THE PRETENSE OF KNOWLEDGE1 Few foreign-policy arguments are more widely accepted than the related claims that “failed states” present a global security threat and that, accordingly, powerful countries should “fix” the failed states (Helman and Ratner 1992–93; Rotberg 2003; Fukuyama 2004a; Fearon and Laitin 2004; Krasner and Pascual 2005; Scowcroft and Berger 2005; Ghani and Lockhart 2008). Despite their widespread currency, these ideas are based on a sea of confusion, poor reasoning and category errors. In an earlier work, we criticized the idea that state failure poses a threat on two main grounds. First, we examined existing lists of failed states and scrutinized the common claims about the relationship between “failedness” and threat. A cursory look at the Failed States Index or any other list of failed states makes eminently clear that failedness is not so much as correlated with, let alone the cause of, threats to faraway countries. (Logan and Preble 2006; Economist 2009) States that regularly rank highly on failedness indicators included Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Haiti, which belonged clearly in the “non-threat” category. (Patrick 2007) Second, we argued that even in the anecdotal case where a failed state did pose an important threat, Afghanistan, the failure itself did not produce the threat and moreover, attempting to repair the state would not have eliminated the threat. Indeed, Afghanistan was both less failed and more threatening once the Taliban took power. As we wrote at...
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