Monday, January 02, 2006

A Conservative/Left-Wing Convergence on State-Building

In an oped piece in the Washington Post Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart reiterates the points from their september LICUS-report: nation-building - i.e. the construction of efficient and legitimate states - must be the central development task concerning the weakest and poorest of states. Nation-building - or, as it should be properly: state-building - thus steps in as an alternative to the choice between project-based development in peaceful states and the purer military logic of interventions. Interestingly, the oped takes it point of departure in a general reflection looking very much like the Fukuyama-End-of-History cum Kaplan-Coming-Anarchy perspective found in Tom Barnett's grand strategic analysis:
In 1945 the future of capitalism as the organizational form of the economy and democracy as the organizational form of the polity was far from certain in the advanced industrialized world. Today there is a remarkable consensus on both the preferred economic and political forms. With globalization of the media, the benefits of membership in the wealthy democratic club are beamed daily to the homes of billions of people who in turn aspire to the economic opportunities and political freedoms that the market economies and democratic societies have delivered to their citizens.

Yet the daily experience of so many people in poor countries is confrontation with the realities of failing or fragile states, criminalized and informal economies, and the denial of basic freedoms. It is not resentment of the West but exclusion from the right to make decisions in their own countries that feeds the resentment of the poor. At the same time, the networks of violence that have declared war on the security and order of ordinary people in the developed world are making use of the territory of failed states to expand their bases of destruction.

The path to security is not just investment in the institutions of security. The price tag for security in a fragile state can quickly run into billions of dollars a year. A sustained analysis by NATO of the best means of achieving security in Afghanistan showed that credible institutions and public finance would contribute more to security than would the deployment of troops. Nor is the answer money alone; in these countries, money cannot be translated to capital, because such things as the rule of law, transparency and predictability are lacking. The state is the most effective, economical way of organizing the security and well-being of a population, just as the company is the most effective approach in a competitive economy.

Thus the need for functioning states has become one of the critical issues of our times.
The argument about the centrality of failed states in a security politics perspective has been stated repeatedly over the last years as in the report by the Commission on Failed States and US National Security - and of course, most importantly, in the National Security Strategy of 2002.

What is interesting about Ghani's, Lockhart's and Carnahan's original background report is both the UN/development origins of the perspective and the fairly hands-on analysis of what is required of a functioning, legitimate state-as-always-unfinished-process:

In the interdependent world of today, states must perform a constellation of interrelated functions that range from provision of citizenship rights to promotion of the enabling environment for the private sector, in marked contrast to the one-dimensional function of ensuring security which they performed in the 19th century. This section outlines ten core functions that we propose a state must perform in the modern world.

These functions are: (1) legitimate monopoly on the means of violence; (2) administrative control; (3) management of public finances; (4) investment in human capital; (5) delineation of citizenship rights and duties; (6) provision of infrastructure services; (7) formation of the market; (8) management of the state’s assets (including the environment, natural resources, and cultural assets); (9) international relations (including entering into international contracts and public borrowing); (10) rule of law. Other functions may be required to be performed at particular moments, such as the repatriation and integration of refugees and those displaced, and transitional justice.

When the state performs these functions in an integrated fashion, a virtuous circle is created in which state decisions in the different domains bolster overall enfranchisement and opportunity for the citizenry. By contrast, failure to perform one or many of these functions leads to the creation and acceleration of a vicious circle.
Thus, the development perspective shows a way out, where the security perspective is better suited at pointing out problems to focus on - because the latter tends to be locked into problems of power balances rather than power management. One thing that has changed since the mid-90s Human Security project started picking up speed within the UN circuit is that this recipe for creating welfare has changed as the underlying problem - the weak and failed states - shifted from being a humanitarian to a security problem in the eyes of the West.

The change is discrete but profound: from proposing that the human condition of others was as vital as security politics without bridging the necessity gap gap between the two - including the problem of self-sustainable economic development and as such be perhaps morally well founded yet more utopian than realistic - it has gone on to incorporate the underpinnings of capitalist democracy.

Another interesting point here, is the alignment between moderate conservatives (as Francis Fukuyama: State-Building) and the left wing: the traditional pro-state and pro-structure paternalism of both camps fits handlily together in the search for better functioning states, to better care for their citizens as a means to stability - and the other way around.

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