Addressing Collapse: An International Responsibility?

Article excerpt

In October 1993, US soldiers landed in Mogadishu with a seemingly straightforward mission: they would abduct the lieutenants of Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid, who had gained power after the fall of Mohammed Siad Barre's dictatorial regime. The disastrous operation, which resulted in the deaths of 18 US soldiers and hundreds of Somalis, signaled only the beginning to the country's troubles. Over a decade later, efforts to restore order continue to fail in the war-torn region, demonstrating the difficulties of the international community's relationship with so-called "failed states."

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Intervention in weak or deteriorating states has a mixed record. In the 20th century, the United States and the Soviet Union viewed these states as ideological battlefields, and exerted their influence accordingly. Today, some commentators label Iraq, Afghanistan, and several countries in Africa as failed states, but questions of how to resolve continuing problems in those regions have yet to be answered. To a significant degree, this responsibility to act seems to fall on the Western world. Many academics point to colonialism in Africa, Cold War activity, and current involvement in the Middle East as evidence for the West's obligation to address the weaknesses of failing countries. A more practical argument is that state failure does not exist in a vacuum, implying that instability in any area has effects on the global system. Alongside these justifications, however, lie the practical issues of how exactly a successful intervention could occur. Even when disregarding questions of national sovereignty, actually implementing lasting change in another region of the world is a daunting challenge for any government. …

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