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Articles in State Failure

Is There an Arc of Instability?

By Martin W. Lewis | October 3, 2014 |

In grappling with the geography of geopolitical conflict, many journalists, politicians, and military strategists use the term “arc of instability,” implying that the world’s troubled countries are arrayed along a curve. But different sources have very different ideas about how such an “arc” is configured. A recent The Wall Street Journal article (“Obama Contends With Arc of Instability Unseen Since …

Can We Map State Instability?

By Martin W. Lewis | September 28, 2014 |

The previous post showed that the Fragile States Index did not capture the fragility of Syria and Libya on the eve of the so-called Arab Spring. The question is then raised about the performance of other indices of state weakness in this this regard. As it turns out, they did little better.
Consider, for example, the World Bank’s 2010 map of …

The Fragility of the State Fragility Index

By Martin W. Lewis | September 25, 2014 |

I recently came across a “State Fragility Index Map” from 2010 that made me doubt the usefulness of the index. As a predictive measurement, its failures are obvious. Note that Syria was depicted at the time as a relatively stable state, while Libya was portrayed as quite secure. In the 2010 Index, Syria ranked 48th from the bottom (out of …

ISIS Advances and the Kurds Retreat In Northern Syria

By Martin W. Lewis | September 21, 2014 |

The struggle involving the Islamic State (alternatively, ISIS or ISIL) in northern and eastern Syria and northern Iraq is finally receiving abundant coverage in the global media. Today’s (Sept. 21) New York Times, for example, features several articles on the issue, focused mostly on the international complications generated by the conflict. Many publications in the U.S., however—including the Times—have either …

Conflict in the Comoros

By Martin W. Lewis | October 28, 2011 | 4 Comments
Wikipedia Map of the Invasion of Anjouan in the Comoros

Although Mayotte is a troubled island, its difficulties are minor compared to those of the other islands in the Comoro Archipelago, which collectively form an independent state. By some accounts, the Comoros is the most coup-wracked country in the world, having suffered twenty military assaults on its government since independence in 1975. Its instability is almost matched by its poverty; …

The Failure of the Failed State Index

By Martin W. Lewis | January 11, 2011 |

The use of the term “failed state” has surged over the past fifteen years, as can be seen in the Google N-Gram posted above showing the frequency of the term’s occurrence in scanned books. A January 8, 2011 Google news search for “failed state” yielded—in the first twelve articles alone—stories on Sudan, Mexico, Egypt

Is Belgium a Failed State? Does It Matter?

By Martin W. Lewis | January 9, 2011 | One Comment

News stories have been coming out for months on the continuing failure of Belgium to form a government after the June 2010 election. On January 6, 2011, the BBC announced that two Flemish parties were yet again demanding “adjustments” to a compromise plan crafted by the mediator of the Belgian king. On the face

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