Making States Work: State Failure and the Crisis of Governance

In This Review

Making States Work: State Failure and the Crisis of Governance

Edited by Simon Chesterman, Michael Ignatieff, and Ramesh Th
United Nations University Press, 2005
350 pp. $45.00
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The Bush administration's 2002 National Security Strategy asserted that "America is now threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing ones." Unfortunately, a coherent and sustained way of responding to failing states remains elusive. This volume assembles a large cast of experts to map the dimensions of the challenge and explore the disparate experiences of weak and conflict-ridden states. Their key finding is not encouraging: states cannot be made to work from the outside. In cases where state failure has been overcome -- Mozambique, Costa Rica, Singapore -- history, culture, and the actions of local groups were as important as any international involvement. Thus, the editors conclude, outside actors can do little to shape the fortunes of failing states. What leverage they do have, meanwhile, is most effective when it is tailored to local needs and channeled through local hands.