Hebrew University Political Science professor Ira Sharkansky evaluates the latest happenings in Israel.
Thu,Jul 31,2014 4 Av 5774
A "failed state" is one that is unable to function according to western expectations, either to protect and provide decent services to its citizens, or to behave responsibly in international relations.
Like most concepts in social science, it is best to think of more or less, rather than if a state is failed or not. Somalia is an extreme case, now joined by Syria where unknown numbers of opposition organizations are fighting among themselves as well as against government forces. Mexico belongs somewhere on the list due to the government's incapacity to prevent drug wars, or even to keep ranking government personnel from participation in the drug trade, with high casualties that limit personal security.
There are three candidates for the designation of failed state in current headlines.
Malaysia has been at the top of many news sites, along with its bungling efforts to explain what happened to one of its planes.
Malaysia is among the states that have trouble managing road traffic, never mind anything more sophisticated. Visitors should think again before renting a car and trying their luck.
International data indicate that Malaysian roads are among the most dangerous. The most widely available indicators are traffic deaths are per 100,000 population and per 100,000 motor vehicles. The numbers for Malaysia and a few other countries are
Malaysia 25 and 36.5
US 10.4 and 15
Germany 4.4 and 6.9
Israel 3.3 and 9.5
Among the problems casting doubt on the management of the Malaysian state, and especially its capacity to protecting airline passengers:
Ukraine has been competing with Malaysia for headlines, as well as for a ranking among the states considered to have failed.
Israelis are blessed with more than a million neighbors who are Russian speaking, which assures considerable reporting and commentary, as well as a personal friends with family connections in the Ukraine.
One should admit at the beginning that the Ukraine carries a large stain in Jewish memory. There were righteous Gentiles who sought to protect Jews from the Nazis and their neighbors,, and post-Holocaust expressions of regret, but nothing sufficient to erase the record of pogroms that preceded the German invasion, or the participation of Ukrainians in the Holocaust.
It is also appropriate to note that the Ukraine is large, populous, and complex. IDF graduates along with rabid anti-Semites were involved in the opposition to the pro-Russian leader, who himself was a caricature of corruption.
Also, there should be no illusions about Russia. The claim of 93 or 96 percent supporting the Crimean referendum to join Russia is as much a measure of Russian pressure, rent-a-crowds demonstrating in behalf of affiliation, and who knows what about the vote counting as it is a measure of anything that can be called democracy. Nonetheless, what can be gathered from news, commentary, and conversations, is that most Crimeans prefer a Russian affiliation to Ukraine.
One is hard pressed to find anything positive described about any of the various contenders for control in the Ukraine. One friend from the Ukraine uses the American phrase "voting out the rascals" to explain widespread support for Russia in Crimea. Rampant corruption, limited services (no piped water for many of the homes) and few economic opportunities may have led most residents of Crimea to think that Russia must be better than the Ukraine. It may not be, but the new realities may only be apparent later. And the residents might not have an opportunity to vote out the next rascals.
Commentators are ridiculing the toothless American sanctions against Russia (no visas for ranking Russians, but still visas for those at the very top), which have produced similar Russian moves against Americans. The New York Stock Exchange turned positive after a few rocky days, with some saying that the upturn was in response to an apparent resolution of the Crimean problem,