Failed States 'Irrelevant' to US Security, Expert Says

The Obama administration has been banking on the role of foreign aid in promoting national security in its attempt to secure a robust international affairs budget. And in doing so, it focuses on fragile states. But one expert quashes what many say is a strong link between fragile states and U.S. national security.  

Most failed states - those with weak governance, and usually spawn transnational security threats - are “irrelevant” to U.S. national security, according to Stewart Patrick, a senior fellow and director of the program on international institutions and global governance at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“The risks they pose are mainly to their own inhabitants. Sweeping claims to the contrary are not only inaccurate but distracting and unhelpful, providing little guidance to policymakers seeking to prioritize scarce attention and resources,” Patrick writes in The Washington Post.

In 2008, Patrick collaborated with Susan E. Rice, who was then a Brookings Institution senior fellow and now the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, on an index of state weakness in developing countries. More recently, he has examined whether the index say anything about the role of these failed states in major global threats, including transnational terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, international crime and infectious disease.

“The findings are startlingly clear. Only a handful of the world’s failed states pose security concerns to the United States. Far greater dangers emerge from stronger developing countries that may suffer from corruption and lack of government accountability but come nowhere near qualifying as failed states,” Patrick argues.

Read more about U.S. development aid.

About the author

  • Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.