The Semi-failed State

The US State Department’s designation of “rogue state” periodically falls in and out of favor. It is used to refer to countries hostile to the United States, with authoritarian, brutal, and venal regimes, and a predilection to ignore international law and conventions, encourage global or local terrorism and the manufacture and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Most rogue states are not failed ones.

A failed state is a country whose government has no control and cannot exercise a monopoly on the legitimate use of force over a substantial part of its territory or citizenry. It is continuously and successfully challenged by private military power: terrorists, warlords, or militias. Its promulgations and laws are futile and inapplicable.

With the exception of the first criterion (hostility towards Pax Americana), some scholars claim that the USA is, itself, a rogue state (q.v., for instance, William Blum’s “Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower” and “Rogue Nation” by Clyde Prestowitz).

Admittedly, the USA’s unilateralist, thuggish and capricious foreign policy represents a constant threat to world peace and stability. But labeling the USA a “rogue state” may be overdoing it. It better fits the profile of a semi-failed state.

A semi-failed state is a country whose government maintains all the trappings and appearances of power, legitimacy, and control. Its army and police are integral and operative. Its institutions function. Its government and parliament promulgate laws and its courts enforce them. It is not challenged by any competing military structures within its recognized borders.

Yet, the semi-failed state – while going through the motions – is dead on its feet. It is a political and societal zombie. It functions due mainly to inertia and lack of better or clear alternatives. Its population is disgruntled, hostile, and suspicious. Other countries regard it with derision, fear, and abhorrence. It is rotting from the inside and doomed to implode.

In a semi-failed state, high crime rates and rampant venality, nepotism, and cronyism affect the government’s ability to enforce laws and implement programs. It reacts by adding layers of intransigent and opaque bureaucracy to an already unwieldy mammoth. The institutions of the semi-failed state are hopelessly politicized and, thus, biased, distrusted, and compromised. Its judiciary is in a state of decrepit decline as unqualified beneficiaries of patronage join the ranks.

The result is social fragmentation as traditional and local leaders, backed by angry and rebellious constituents, take matters into their own hands. Centrifugal politics supplant statehood and the nation is unable to justly and effectively balance the competing claims of the center versus the periphery.

The utter (but insidious) institutional failure that typifies the semi-failed state is usually exposed with the total disarray that follows an emergency (such as a natural disaster or a terrorist attack).

To deflect criticism and in a vain attempt to reunite its fracturing populace, the semi-failed state often embarks on military adventures (cloaked as “self-defense” or “geopolitical necessity”). Empire-building is an indicator of looming and imminent disintegration. Foreign aggression replaces reconstruction and rational policy-making at home. The USA prior to the Civil War, the USSR between 1956 and 1982, federal Yugoslavia after 1989, and Nazi Germany are the most obvious examples.

Is the USA a semi-failed state?

I. Empire-building and foreign aggression

Its neighbors always perceived the United States as an imminent security risk (ask Mexico, half of whose territory was captured by successive and aggressive American administrations). The two world wars transformed the USA into a global threat, able and only too willing to project power to protect its interests and disseminate its brand of missionary liberal-capitalism.

In the last 150 years, the USA has repeatedly militarily attacked, unprovoked, other peaceful or pacified nations, near and far. To further its (often economic) ends, the United States has not refrained from encouraging and using terrorism in various parts of the globe. It has developed and deployed weapons of mass destruction and is still the biggest arms manufacturer and trader in the world. It has repeatedly reneged on its international obligations and breached international laws and conventions.

II. Dysfunctional institutions

Hurricane Katrina (August-September 2005) exposed the frailty and lack of preparedness of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and, to some extent, the National Guard. It brought into sharp relief the cancerous politicization of the crony-infested federal government.

FEMA is only the latest in a long chain of failed institutions. The SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) coped poorly with virulent corruption and malfeasance in Wall Street. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) capitulated in the face of commercial and political pressures and neglected to remove from the market malfunctioning medical devices and drugs with lethal side effects.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has sacrificed America’s nature reserves to business interests. A heavily politicized Supreme Court legitimized manifestly tainted election results and made a president out of the loser of the popular vote. The disenfranchisement of minorities, the poor, and ex-convicts is now in full swing. The legislature – the two houses of Congress – are deadlocked and paralyzed.

The organs of the government of the United States now function only when exposed to acute embarrassment and a revolted public opinion. Private firms and charities sprout to fulfill the gaps.

III. The National Consensus

Americans long mistook the institutional stability of their political system, guaranteed by the Constitution, for a national consensus. They actually believe that the former guarantees the latter – that institutional firmness and durability ARE the national consensus. The reverse, as we know, is true: it takes a national consensus to yield stable institutions. No social structure – no matter how venerable and veteran – can resist the winds of change in public sentiment.

Hurricane Katrina again demonstrated the unbridgeable divides in American society between rich and poor and black and white. But this time, the rift runs deeper.

The Bush administration is the first since the Civil War to dare to change the fundamental rules of the political game (for instance by seeking to abolish the filibuster in the Senate and by a profligacy of recess appointments of judges and officials). Its instincts and reflexes are elitist, undemocratic, and violent. It is delusional and its brand of fanatic religiosity is not well-received even among the majority of Americans who are believers. Additionally, it is openly and unabashedly corrupt and ridden with nepotism and cronyism.

Yet, Bush, unlike Nixon, is not an aberration. He is unlikely to be impeached. He was overwhelmingly re-elected even as his quagmire war in Iraq unraveled and the self-enrichment and paranoia of his close circle became public.

This is the new and true face of at least half of America, to the horror and dismay of the other half, its liberals. If the history of the United States is any judge, these two camps are unlikely to sit back and navel-gaze. Semi-failed states typically disintegrate. A bloodied (perhaps even nuclear) second civil war is in the cards.

Should the United States devolve into its constituent states, the world will breathe a sigh of relief. A European Union (EU)-like economic zone between the parts of the former USA is bound to be far more pacific and to contribute to world stability – something its malignant former incarnation had so signally failed to do.

The Most Dangerous Place in the World ñ Right Here In America

To answer this great scourge of death with the bible is to begin with the premise that everyone believes that the bible has something to say about it and that it is authoritative. For those who have put the bible on the shelf with literature, simple narrative, history or fiction this premise is futile. Others who think the bible is a book of nice little morality stories that may be inspired in spots, are left to hope that that may get enough inspiration to spot the spots.

It is doubtful that a person who has disregarded the book of life will take any further cues from nature or simple humanity. In general animals donít recklessly destroy their offspring. In all but the most backward civilizations of the world most of humanity also frowns on the destruction of their own young. If a people ignore the guides, and warnings available to us all, the bible has little chance of turning on any lights for them.
Yet, that in no way can eliminate the fact that the bible has plenty to say about it.

Both the bible and other annals of history show us that it was considered a blessing to be able to have children. In fact a woman who was barren was usually thought to be nearly under a curse. Times have changed and in America, Roe V. Wade has not just changed the times but has twisted it into a warp. Now it is considered almost a rude interference to be pregnant.

Science has provided us with a ìscientific termî that makes it easy not to see a human life from the moment of conception, that handy little term is what is known as the ìfetusî. Semantic wrangling notwithstanding everyone knows fully that a human life has begun at the point of conception not a scientific anomaly. Neither science nor legislation can erase the ache of conscience; it can only divert it for a while or provide a flimsy excuse for the self indulgent to dote over until a day of reckoning.

Those who donít hide behind scientific words like ìfetusî are prone to adopting the common wisdom of the day to provide them with excuses like, I have no education or I havenít enough money to bring a child into the world. Since education has only peaked in the last one hundred years youíve got to wonder how the worldís civilizations made it up to now without perishing under the weight of pure universal ignorance. Since great warriors, emperors, presidents, statesmen, philosophers, doctors, writers and others have come from great poverty; it would seem that the poverty excuse is also moot.
Without getting all bogged down in ìthou shalt notsî what does the bible have to say about abortion? It says that God knows us before we are born; He knows youíre going to be born, the day of your birth, and the day of your death. He even knows how many hairs youíve got on your head at anytime. Matthew 10:30

The Prophet Isaiah told of a Persian King named Cyrus that would come in time and order the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Isaiah 44:28 No big deal until you discover the fact that Isaiah made this prediction over a hundred years before Cyrus was born. Does God know a human life is in the womb? Yes, and donít worry just like Cyrus he doesnít think your name is Fetus, He knows exactly what your name is and He always did, figuratively speaking even before you were only a twinkle in your fathers eye.

One of the most well known figures in the bible is King David. The historicity of the life and reign of David is without question among bible believers and most all others as well. But did you know that David said that God knew him long before his birth or his reign over Israel? In fact David said that God knew him while he was still in his motherís womb Psalm 139:13. Whew, thank God He didnít mistake David for just a ìfetusî.

Letís go one step further to make the point. That God knows us from the womb is one thing but here is another. The most precious thing God could ever endow someone with is his own presence. He does not put his Holy Spirit on anything that is not holy. He does not put His Spirit on anything that is not human either. Yet the Bible says that He put his Holy Spirit on John the Baptist while he was still in his motherís womb. Luke 1:15 God didnít put his Spirit on a ìfetusî it was a human, good thing God knew that, too bad we donít.

Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is a reward. Psalm 127:3