It is February 15th 2018 and the United States has had 30 mass shootings since January 1st. The usual battle lines are being drawn on why it happens despite ignoring data such as this in the New York Times last year. As an outsider it appears that the right to life and security of the person have been completely abandoned in the United States. Is gun violence a symptom of America’s failure?
The first set of factors to determine a failed state are:
- loss of monopoly on the legitimate use of force
- erosion of authority to make collective decesions
- inability to provide reasonable public services
- inability to interact internationally
The first of the above factors I’m taking as a given in the United States. The second is also evident in the hyper partisan, winner take all politics. Flint Michigan is a prime example of a nation not being able to provide basic public services. There are various reports a US diplomatic service in chaos and shortages of key diplomatic staff. Also, the contradictions coming from the current administration of foreign and trade policy make relations difficult.
More comprehensive checklists are available in the above article. The US hasn’t many of the social indicators until the economic inequality factors. The US has one of the highest infant mortality rates in advanced economies, poor education results, and certain groups suffer more deprivation than others based on ethnicity, orientation, or gender. The recent shutdowns of the US government is an example a state failure to fulfill obligations.
The first political indicator is criminalization and/or delegitimization of the state. This has been happening for decades in the US. Corruption disguised as campaign contributions, diversion of public resources to private companies, and defunding regulators all contribute to this. Much American media adds to the attack on government legitimacy with anti-government heroes promoted as pundits or in fiction. Holding government to account is difficult because of gerrymandering and the vast amounts of money required to run in politics.
The US public service is deteriorating, I mentioned Flint and the 30 mass shootings this year. There are many more examples where essential services for Americans are suffering a lack of services or terribly funded services. The wealthier an American is the more services are made available for them. When school teachers in poorer areas have to pay for supplies out of pocket it is a sign of failure.
Every country has a human rights problem at some level and the US is no exception. In my life we’ve gone from having to remind people Black is Beautiful back to Black Lives Matter. The militarisation of US law enforcement, the under siege mentality of US law enforcement, and the prison industrial complex are other factors pointing to America’s failure. Political violence against the state isn’t as common but does take place such as the Oklahoma City bombing.
The state within a state indicator is also met by the United States. Private security and intelligence services have been given access to state resources without the same stringent oversight. The weaponization of US politics hasn’t begun quite yet but threats of violence and radicalization of violent people has. There are plenty of armed groups eager for the next civil war to break out.
The American Revolution replaced a distant aristocracy with one down the dirt road. American bipolar, partisan politics still has elites and aristocrats controlling politics. Democrats fund one institution and Republicans are obligated to destroy that institution once back in power and vice versa. Both populi and optimi hide behind national symbols and patriotic rhetoric. Such extremism denies debate, progress, compromise and America’s existence.
There is currently an investigation into Russian involvement in the last presidential election. Any foreign government to pay for access to US policy makers. There alleged Russian connections to the National Rifle Association, which controls much of Congress. The above article mentions military/paramilitary not mere financial influence peddling but the money is destabilizing Americans ability to control their representatives.
Both KGB by Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky, and The Mitrokhin Archive by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin mentions KGB plots to destabilize the United States from within. Conspiracy theories, false information, financing armed groups, and feuling paranoia were tactics to weaken the Western Democracies. America may wish to look deeper into ties of extreme right wing groups and their Russian counterparts, it may lead to Russian security services involvement.
The United States is not a failed state, but it is not a stable and functional state either. Maybe fragile state is the best description right now. Blaming Russia, Mexico, the other faction, or whatever for America’s situation as every American is to blame and responsible for reversing these trends. Maybe Americans are happy living in a state that fails so many and are comfortable watching neighbours die for lack of care or security. Maybe Americans are waiting for United Nations intervention.