Weak States, State Failure, and Terrorism
In recent years it has been common to hear the assertion that weak or failed states are fertile ground for terrorism. This argument suggests that weak or failed states provide an environment which enables the emergence—or infiltration—and operation of terrorist organizations which launch attacks within these countries or elsewhere. It is possible that state failure or poor governance may be greater threats, as terrorist organizations exploit the absence of order and regulation, even without the support of governments. The association between weak or failed states and terrorism can be seen in the context of broader dangers. In particular, analysts have suggested that there is a significant risk of terrorists using such states as a base or ‘‘launching pad’’ for international operations. Terrorist organizations operate in weak and failed states but it is not necessarily the condition of weak or failed statehood which explains their presence. Moreover, it is not necessarily the weakest states which do host such groups. According to Newman in Weak States, State Failure, and Terrorism, when considering terrorism as a general phenomenon—including a wide variety of groups, methods, and objectives—there is not a conclusive relationship between state failure, weak states, and terrorism. Terrorists have a long history of operating within very different political and social environments—including stable democratic states. Therefore, this condition is not a sufficient explanation for their presence. While weak or failed states might provide an enabling environment for certain types of terrorist groups to operate, additional explanatory variables need to be identified. Finally, the author believes that contested states rather than failed states are generally the sites of terrorism. In turn, contested states tend to be weaker, but it is not necessarily this weakness which generates or attracts terrorism.