Why not a ‘failed’ foreign policy index?

See how countries like the US and its allies rank on it for their recent fiascos in Iraq, Afghanistan.

Syed Mohammad Ali July 01, 2012

While I hardly consider myself an apologist or a conspiracy theorist, I have to admit that I fume every single time the US-based Fund for Peace releases its Failed State Index (FSI). This year was no exception, since once again we saw Pakistan being given another dismal position on the eighth edition of the index, deeming us the 13th most-failed state in the world.

While other countries placed on the index may also feel similarly offended, I will only focus on the case of Pakistan. Pakistan suddenly slipped from 34th position in 2005 — when the index was first created — to ninth position the very next year and has held an unenviable position since then. In both 2009 and 2010, Pakistan took the 10th slot on this index, whereas last year, it was ranked the 12th most-failed state out of 177 countries around the world.

During the present year, it seems that even Nigeria is faring better than us (14th), as is North Korea (22nd) and even Syria (23rd), for that matter.

Let us turn to an examination of the methodology used by the Fund for Peace on the basis of which it ranks states on its index. According to this organisation’s own website, the main data collection method is content analysis (electronic scanning), which relies on online English language publications worldwide. These are then supplemented by quantitative data from the World Bank, UN agencies and also the ‘all-knowing’ CIA World Factbook to score countries on 12 social, economic and political/military indicators, on the basis of which these countries are then ranked. It is unclear, however, how qualitative and quantitative data is merged and how the discrepancies within it are resolved.

The emerging results are apparently also “critically reviewed” by experts to provide what the Fund for Peace describes as “greatest accuracy”.  One wonders who these experts are and the extent to which they are neutral. Perhaps, it is experts like Robert Kaplan, who in his recent Foreign Policy article (in a magazine which collaborates on the FSI with The Fund for Peace) writes: “Only the worst African hellholes, Afghanistan, Haiti, Yemen, and Iraq rank higher on this year’s Failed State Index [than Pakistan]”.  He describes Pakistan as being “India-obsessed” and considers vast amounts of its territory dominated by tribes, “defined by a near-universal male participation in organised violence” despite the presence of an “over-bearing army”.

Despite this provocative rhetoric, however, Kaplan goes on to argue (in the same article mentioned above) that Pakistan does have geographic logic. He, in fact, goes on at great length to describe the history and geography, which impelled the drive to create a separate Muslim state anchored in the subcontinent’s northwest. This latter analysis, however, has been largely ignored by numerous papers around the world, which have instead chosen to highlight the condescending statements of Kaplan’s article. One wonders how many of these secondary sources will be picked up by the content analysis exercise of the Failed State Index to provide the basis of assessing Pakistan’s ranking for the upcoming year.

At best, such a ranking does no more than reinforce stereotypes. It certainly makes citizens of countries, described in such pejorative terms, very upset and offended.

The press attaché at the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington has taken notice of the Failed State Index ranking and methodology, which has failed to capture Pakistan’s strengths while it exaggerates its perceived weaknesses.

Having the luxury of being much less diplomatic, I would in fact like to suggest that someone should come up with a ‘failed foreign policy index’ and see how countries like the US and its allies rank on it for their recent fiascos in Iraq, Afghanistan and the larger mess such interventions have created for the broader region.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2012.


Hunter punter | 9 years ago | Reply

@kaalchakra: Fully agree with you! first Pak defeated USSR, and now it has defeated USA and got apology. Not just that, pak has been magnamimous and offered to open Supply routes at no charges!! That is sign of a powerful( not in electricity sense!) nuke country, and leader of islamic world!! Now everyone will fill pak coffers as they are scared of defeat!

aviratam | 9 years ago | Reply

@kaalchakra so what have you been smoking?

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