The Guardian August 13, 2003

"Failed states" doctrine (Part 2)

by Peter Symon & Anna Pha

Part 1 of this article published in last week's Guardian (6-8-03) 
looked at the concept of "failed states" which is being used by the 
Australian Government to defend Australia's intervention in the Solomon 
Islands. The second and final part of the article makes the links between 
failed states, terrorism, intervention and endless war as they are being 
used by Western powers and the role of the people in opposition to their 

According to the British theoreticians the post-modern state, that is, the 
developed capitalist countries, have given up their national sovereignty 
for international sovereignty and globalisation. It has good governance, is 
civilised and pursues WTO and IMF policies. It accepts interdependence and 
globalisation with the breakdown of borders and adoption of universal 

The post-modern state must open itself up to foreign investment and the 
"the interference of international organisations and foreign states ...", 
says Robert Cooper, advisor to British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
(Re-ordering the World p.18)

Having painted a picture of "failed" states that pose a threat to the 
orderly, civilised, successful world, the task is for the "civilised" 
states to intervene.

If these failed states become too dangerous, "the organised states may 
eventually have to respond", says Cooper. He gives Afghanistan as one such 

"What form should intervention take?" Cooper asks and answers his own 

"The most logical way to deal with chaos, and the one most often employed 
in the past, is colonisation. But colonisation is unacceptable to post-
modern states", he claims. "It is precisely because of the death of 
imperialism that we are seeing the emergence of the pre-modern world."
(Re-ordering the World, p.17)

Despite Cooper's reservations, re-colonisation is the course now being 
taken by the imperialist powers. They assert that it is the way to 
stability and order.

Terrorist threat Mark Leonard, director of the Foreign Policy Centre, 
speaks in terms of "an exciting political project", a "global community 
project", based on "the values of liberal democracy". He claims that
"11 September [2001] offers new hope in achieving this".

The September 11 attacks and the Bali bombings are being used 
systematically by the leaders of the imperialist countries to argue that 
the world faces the threat of "terrorism".

Tony Blair asserts in justification: "In this globalised world, once chaos 
and strife have got a grip on a region or a country, trouble is soon 
exported. Such regions and countries can become centres for trafficking in 
weapons, drugs and people; havens for criminal organisations; and 
sanctuaries for terrorists." (Re-ordering the World, p. 119)

"Terrorists are strongest where states are weakest", says Straw.
(Re-ordering the World, p.98)

In today's globalised world says Blair, "tackling terrorism in the USA 
means dealing with issues on the ground in the mountains of Afghanistan; 
bringing economic security to just one town in northern England means 
addressing the international machinery of global finance. The international 
has become the domestic and the domestic international."
(Re-ordering the World, p.120)

Old wars and new wars

Having raised the threat of terrorism globally, there is the question of 
how to deal with it. "Endless war", of a "new type" is the response.

Old wars were wars between states, "in which the aim is to inflict maximum 
damage on an enemy, and in which the decisive encounter is battle".
(Mary Caldor, "The Power of Terror", Re-ordering the World, p.21)

Now, we are told that the key question is internal rather than external 
security. Successful states have a responsibility to not only maintain 
their own internal security but to ensure "failed states" are also 
internally secure and stable.

They must take pre-emptive action to prevent states failing, to prevent 
terrorism and impose universal humanitarian values.

Out with the United Nations

This theory raises the question of the relevance of the United Nations and 
international law which govern relations between states, and proscribe 
interference in the internal affairs of other nation states.

The idea that it is the responsibility of the UN Security Council to 
authorise the use of force has been thrown out by the US, Britain and the 
Australian Governments.

"Effective international action often requires leadership  the 
willingness of one country, or group of countries, to take primary 
responsibility for action", says Professor Malcolm Chalmers, whose vision 
is one of shared responsibility with the US, "the ultimate security 
guarantor". (Re-ordering the World p.82)

Mary Kaldor argues for an "alternative cosmopolitan politics", one "based 
on tolerance and inclusiveness." Ironically, her "alternative cosmopolitan 
politics" has to involve "military action in order to protect civilians and 
create secure areas where cosmopolitan politics can develop. But it is 
military action that is more like law enforcement than classic war."
(Re-ordering the World p.24)

New swing to fascism

Western governments are using these arguments to not only justify wars and 
occupations but also to impose fascist-like repressive laws on their own 
civilian populations.

In the USA it is the Patriot Act. In Australia it is the ASIO Bills, which 
give various agencies the right to incarcerate indefinitely almost any 
member of the community. These laws were passed in the name of anti-
terrorism, but their real intention is for use against communists, trade 
unionists, peace activists, and the many others who question and take 
action against the policies of conservative governments and transnational 

These policies not only pose a serious threat to the long held democratic 
rights to free speech and assembly but also threaten the concept of elected 
governments that are open to scrutiny and are accountable to the people.

"The boundaries between states are of decreasing legal and moral 
relevance", writes Professor David Held, from the London School of 
Economics. (Re-ordering the World p.61)

He suggests that the legal power and the powers and functions associated 
with a sovereign state are moving beyond national borders, permitting 
intervention in the internal affairs of other states, a process well 
advanced in the economic sphere by the IMF, WTO and World Bank. Now it is 
being extended to the political and military spheres.

Redrawing the map of the world

As quoted earlier, one of the aims is to redraw the map of the world, to 
re-carve the territories of the world among the imperialist powers.

There are differences between the European Union and the USA over how it 
should be divided and also within their governments, over the strategies 
and tactics to be used. Above all, there is serious concern that the 
objective of one of the imperialist powers, the United States, world 
domination, even overrides the interests of other imperialist powers.

These divisions and emerging tensions may provide opportunities for the 
anti-war and anti-globalisation movements to make gains.

Class struggle hidden from view

Besides the labels used to demonise the states of former colonies  
"failed states", "pre-modern states"  language is also manipulated in 
order to sell intervention and occupation to the people of the aggressor 
nations. Thus we have "security", "national interests", "peace", helping 
the people of "failed" state, etc (the Solomon Islands occupation is titled 
in pigen "Operation Helpem Fren").

The intention is to not only cover up the real purpose of intervention but 
to hide the class nature of the "war on terrorism".

The struggle between labour and capital, between communists and 
capitalists, between imperialism and the people is dressed in new clothing.

There are baddies and goodies, but these are not defined in class terms, 
although in practice the outcomes are very much along class lines.

Hypocrisy abounds. The demand for "regime change" by whatever means (a 
former CIA operative defined "regime change" as assassination) is dependent 
on the government's attitude to US and European investors, on its 
willingness to privatise government services and banks i.e. the provision 
of a stable investment environment for foreign capital.

Likewise the presence of terrorists is not evil when these terrorists are 
trained, armed and funded by the US, so long as they are serving the 
interests of the US and its closest allies.

It is the politics of the government being targeted that determines which 
governments will be toppled, which countries will be invaded.

If a country being targeted is not in chaos, does not already have a law 
and order problem or a crisis in government or a despotic dictator at the 
helm, then the first step is to create such a situation to justify a pre-
emptive strike and invasion.

This was done, as already mentioned, in Yugoslavia and in Chechnya, is 
being arranged in Iran, in Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Liberia, and elsewhere. 
Race, religion and nationality are all being used to foster divisions.

The euphemisms abound, twisting the meaning of language on its head, all 
part of the attempt to present imperialism as acceptable and humanitarian.

The struggle for sovereignty and independence

As already mentioned, the defeat of fascism in WW2 led to the smashing of 
the colonial empires of Britain, France, Portugal, Germany, Italy and 
Japan. It resulted in the emergence of a number of socialist states.

With the breakup of the Soviet Union and the overthrow of socialist 
governments in the USSR and in eastern Europe imperialism was free to 
continue its drive to re-colonise the former colonies and to take back the 
many economic and political conditions and rights won by the working class 
throughout the world.

None-the-less, the socialist example survived and many lessons were learnt. 
The Third World countries, comprising those countries that had been former 
colonies, resisted the discriminatory policies being foisted on them by the 
IMF and the World Bank.

Today Third World countries continue their struggle for economic and 
political independence and to overcome the colonial legacy which has had 
devastating consequences on their people, economies, culture and 

Today, there is a world-wide anti-globalisation movement which is linked 
with the equally strong and active world peace movement.

War is an essential hand-maiden of imperialism and opposition to war is an 
essential part of the movement against capitalism and imperialism.

The world has never before witnessed such massive and world-wide 
demonstrations as took place against the war on Iraq. Although this 
movement, together with the refusal of many countries to bow to the 
dictates of the US in the United Nations, did not succeed in stopping the 
US, British and Australian aggression, it signalled a new level of 
consciousness and determination to act.

There is stubborn opposition among Third World countries to the economic 
policies which the developed capitalist countries are attempting to impose 
in the World Trade Organisation.

A number of new progressive governments have been elected  in Venezuela, 
Brazil, Ecuador, South Africa, the Democratic People's Republic of the 
Congo, Namibia, Cambodia, and in some Indian states, for example.

These governments face enormous economic and political pressures and 
destabilisation by the imperialist powers. Their election shows a new level 
of consciousness on the part of the people in these countries.

Despite its military superiority, the US war machine is becoming bogged 
down in Iraq as it faces massive rejection on the part of the Iraqi people 
who are strongly committed to the independence of their country and demand 
that the occupiers get out. Their resistance illustrates the point that 
while military technology creates the illusion of limitless and unstoppable 
power, people remain decisive.

Another factor is the endemic economic and social crisis of the developed 
capitalist countries. And although capitalist states still control enormous 
resources and political capital among the people in the capitalist states, 
the economic difficulties and the inherent drive of capitalist employers to 
intensify the exploitation of the working people, is driving down living 
standards and generating resistance.

Furthermore, the social and political policies of the political leaders in 
these countries have led to a widespread understanding of their class 
commitment to the interests of the transnational corporations. Their 
massive lies over the objectives of the war against Iraq are also becoming 
a major factor in the disillusionment of many in their political and moral 

It is on this background of growing opposition that the imperialist powers 
are intensifying and speeding up their pre-emptive strikes against so-
called "failed states", using this excuse to re-impose their colonial 
domination and occupation of other countries with rich resources, 
particularly oil, or which occupy strategic positions, in their drive for 
world domination.

However, it is the consciousness of the people and their acts of opposition 
that will eventually stop this new imperialist drive to war and domination 
in which the sovereignty and independence of other countries would be 

It is the millions upon millions of ordinary people who have in their hands 
the real security and the real interests of the people of the whole world.

* * *
Reordering the World, edited by Mark Leonard, foreword by Tony Blair, published by The Foreign Policy Centre, London, 2002.

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