Islam and Failed States
Shortly before his death, Samuel Huntington learned of rugged pluralism as the defining feature discerning variable polities constitutive of Islamic regimes, it was an insight that came long after his critique of Islamic polities in the infamous Clash that lines bookshelves unread next to Fukuyama’s Last Man Standing. Both men tried to explain the loss of new or renewed capital as the scourage animating the barbarism that is contemporary Islam. It is a far cry from the determinism that animated previous scholarship evidenced in locating the chief cause of state failure in geography, climate, or even culture. Efficient institutions matter, but so does politics. It is political craft that underwrites Islamic Civilizations inability to come to terms with modernity.
South Sudan is an extreme but likely candidate in any sound explanation of predatory states, archaic polities and the formative role ethnicity plays in Islamic political norms. How else does one explain the role of tribalism, militiamen and the limited but extremely lucrative role the state plays in criminalizing identities. Although South Sudan is the most prominent example, their are others in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, the Magreb, and hosts of others to numerous to mention.
Foreign military support can buy time, even assist in the constitution of a government polity, but institutions outside of clan must take hold. Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Colombia, even Iraq after the success of Anbar Province proved that good governance cannot simply be imposed from outside. More is required. . .
The fight over the sources of social, political capital are theological. For Islamic politics, the crux of its paradoxism is its unwillingness to ponder the impact of sources of renewal or grace outside of revelation. If the theoretical matters, it matters here more than anywhere else. If Islamic scholarship remains unwilling or unable to ponder a renewed theology of revelation, one that may reject or upend archaic jurisprudence, then Islamic Civilization will continue to wither in its social impact with modernity.
On a practical matter, a degree of physical security must be imposed by the state, if only to introduce comity. Next is the rule of law or the introduction of custom in the security of several property; national institutions cannot surmount innumerable indigenous bulwarks that serve predatory polities. If Islamic Civilization is to mature in its grasp of modernity, then it must begin the long arduous journey of “faith” that constitutes our extended order. To conjure functioning national institutions of sound governance, ethics and leadership are required.
The west started this process hundreds of years ago, by some accounts over 500 years ago. With a good American Executive, it can be cut down to decades.
Originally published on William Holland’s website.