by Gerald B. Helman and Steven R. Ratner
Failed nation-state, utterly incapable of sustaining itself as a member of the
Civil strife, government breakdown, and economic privation are creating more and
more modem debellations, the term used in describing the destroyed german state
The collapse has its roots in the proliferation of nation-states, especially in africa
Self-determination, in fact, was given more attention than long-term survivability.
Fundamental to the notion o f decolonization was the idea that peoples could best
govern t hemselves w hen free from t he shackles, or even the influences, of
The idea, then, that states could fail-that they could be simply unable t o function as
independent entities was anathema to the raison d'etre of decolonization and
offensive to the notion of self-determination. New states might be poor but they
would hold their own by virtue of being independent.
While it lasted, the cold war prolonged the viability o f some of the newly
independent and other third world states. Countries with seri-ously underdeveloped
economies and governments received hefty infusions of aid from their former
colonial masters as well as from the two superpowers. The systemic corruption that
characterized many of the new states did not stop the superpowers from sending
foreign aid as they sought to but tress a potential allying the cold war.
Over time, however, the hurdles faced by some young countries have proven
overwhelming, and the assistance cuts that began in the late 1980s brought home
the full weight of their shortcomings. In states like somalia, sudan, and zaire,
discredited regimes are being challenged by powerful insurgencies.
The disintegration of the soviet union and Yugoslavia over the last two and a half
years has created almost 20 new states, most of which have no tradition of
statehood or practice in self-government.
One hopes that most will succeed, but lack of experience in government, weak civic
institutions, limited economicp rospects, ande thnics trifew ill inevi-tably reduce
some to helplessness-a condition in which bosnia, with its civil war, now finds itself.
Thus, there are three groups of states whose survivali s threatened: first,t here are
the failed states like bosnia, cambodia, liberia, and so-malia,a smallg roupw hose
governmentalst ruc-turesh aveb een overwhelmedb y circumstances. Second,
there are the failing states like ethio-pia, georgia, and zaire, where collapse is not
imminentb ut could occur within severaly ears. And third, there are some newly
independent states in the territoriesf ormerlyk nowna s yu-goslavia and the soviet
union, whose viability is difficult to assess.