The State of the State

From a post-Iraq invasion paper, The New Middle Ages to a New Dark Age: the Decline of the State and US Strategy (PDF):

National security policymakers are continuously challenged to ensure that the judgments and assumptions underlying policy, force posture, and provision are congruent with the international environment and the role the United States is playing within it. This has become problematic in the 21st century security environment characterized by complexity, connectivity, and rapid change.
This analysis offers key insights into what is a shifting security environment and considers how the United States can best respond to it. Dr. Phil Williams argues that we have passed the zenith of the Westphalian state, which is now in long-term decline, and are already in what several observers have termed the New Middle Ages, characterized by disorder but not chaos.
Dr. Williams suggests that both the relative and absolute decline in state power will not only continue but will accelerate, taking us into a New Dark Age where the forces of chaos could prove overwhelming. He argues that failed states are not an aberration but an indication of intensifying disorder, and suggests that the intersection of problems such as transnational organized crime, terrorism, and pandemics could intersect and easily create a tipping point from disorder into chaos.

The post-Apocalyptic scenario retains a powerful mythic charm that takes hold of men in their childhood and never completely lets go. We almost yearn for it. The political chaos, cultural degeneration and material comfort of the present mean it won’t go away any time soon–or until the apocalyptic becomes reality.

But how possible is that? Dr Williams’ paper quoted above is about the decline of the state. But we all know now that doesn’t mean a decline in the concentration of power or, forgive my disappointment, complete civilizational collapse returning us to a benighted state of nature.

Underlying the change from traditional geopolitics to security as a governance issue is the long-term decline of the state. Despite state resilience, this trend could prove unstoppable. If so, it will be essential to replace dominant state-centric perceptions and assessments (what the author terms “stateocentrism”) with alternative judgments acknowledging the reduced role and diminished effectiveness of states. 

This alternative assessment has been articulated most effectively in the notion of the New Middle Ages in which the state is only one of many actors, and the forces of disorder loom large. The concept of the New Middle Ages is discussed in Section II, which suggests that global politics are now characterized by fragmented political authority, overlapping jurisdictions, no-go zones, identity politics, and contested property rights.

There’s hope yet I’ll live out my fantasy of driving a Mustang around an abandoned LA a la Charlton Heston in The Omega Man.
But I suspect any dystopian future will be too crowded for that, for one, and technology has advanced too far.

Failure to manage the forces of global disorder, however, could lead to something even more forbidding—a New Dark Age. Accordingly, Section III identifies and elucidates key developments that are not only feeding into the long-term decline of the state but seem likely to create a major crisis of governance that could tip into the chaos of a New Dark Age. 

Particular attention is given to the inability of states to meet the x needs of their citizens, the persistence of alternative loyalties, the rise of transnational actors, urbanization and the emergence of alternatively governed spaces, and porous borders. These factors are likely to interact in ways that could lead to an abrupt, nonlinear shift from the New Middle Ages to the New Dark Age. 

This will be characterized by the spread of disorder from the zone of weak states and feral cities in the developing world to the countries of the developed world. When one adds the strains coming from global warming and environmental degradation, the diminution of cheaply available natural resources, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the challenges will be formidable and perhaps overwhelming. 

Order doesn’t break down so much as it devolves.

States, having reached the zenith of their power in the totalitarian systems of the 20th century, are in a period of absolute decline. The challenges from contemporary globalization and other pressures are neither novel nor unique, but are more formidable than in the past— while the ability of states to respond effectively to these challenges is not what it was. 

In a sense, states are being overwhelmed by complexity, fragmentation, and demands that they are simply unable to meet. They are experiencing an unsettling diminution in their capacity to manage political, social, and economic problems that are increasingly interconnected, intractable, and volatile. States are also undergoing a relative decline, challenged in both overt and subtle ways by the emergence of alternative centers of power and authority.

The forces that are dissolving state authority are the forces that will replace it. Order, of one kind or another, is established eventually.
If you find yourself trapped in some Muslim-held canton of Europe in the future, you will submit to your dhimmitude, official or otherwise, if you can’t get out. Police in Europe have already lost effective control over some neighborhoods. That doesn’t mean there’s no authority there. As this grows I expect eventually Muslims to gain control of official police duties in no-go zones, the white police having lost control of them, with subsequent problems issuing from them having a legally armed force.
Detroit and the black ‘hood have provided America with some training for dystopia-they are in fact just that. If the US succumbs beneath the hordes, history will set our end as beginning with the black riots of the sixties.

Stateocentrism tends to blind its adherents to the democratization and diffusion of coercive power to these nonstate actors. This has more recently been evident, for example, in a growing tendency to dismiss 9/11 as simply a blip rather than an indicator of a major change in world politics.6 Skepticism of this kind about the terrorist threat is unlikely to be dispelled by anything less than another major attack on the U.S. homeland. Yet, even without such an attack, these stateocentric perspectives are increasingly tenuous. Transnational networks and forces of disorder are seriously redrawing the maps of the world—and the lines that demarcate nation-states are becoming increasingly notional, if not wholly fictional. At the same time power and authority are moving away from states to other actors. These trends must now be examined. 

You know what else is redrawing the maps of the world making borders “notional”? The European Union and powerful non-state allies such as George Soros, whose obsession with browning the West contributes as a necessary condition to most of the factors the author cites as “…mutually interlocking and reinforcing conditions which give [global politics] a neo-medieval quality”:
“[m]ultiple or fragmented loyalties and identities”;
“inequality or marginalization of groups”;
“[t]he spread of geographical and social ‘no go areas’ where the rule of law no longer extends”;
“[a] growing disarticulation between the dynamic and technologically innovative north and the south”;
even “contested property rights, legal statutes, and conventions”, of course, which is commensurate at least with the rise of autonomous slums and no go zones.

And only an incidental mention of immigration late in the paper.

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