Fixing Fragile States

A New Paradigm for Development

by Seth D. Kaplan


Visits seven deeply dysfunctional places-including Pakistan, Bolivia, West Africa, and Syria-and explains how even the most desperate of them can be transformed.

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Cover image for Fixing Fragile States

June 2008


Pages 232
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Politics, Law, and Government/International Relations

Fragile states are a menace. Their lawless environments spread instability across borders, provide havens for terrorists, threaten access to natural resources, and consign millions of people to poverty. But Western attempts to reform these benighted places have rarely made things better. Kaplan argues that to avoid revisiting the carnage and catastrophes seen in places like Iraq, Bosnia, and the Congo, the West needs to rethink its ideas on fragile states and start helping their peoples build governments and states that actually fit the local landscape. Fixing Fragile States lays bare the fatal flaws in current policies and explains why the only way to give these places a chance at peace and prosperity is to rethink how development really works. Flawed governance systems, not corrupt bureaucrats or armed militias, are the cancers that devour weak states. The cure, therefore, is not to send more aid or more peacekeepers but to redesign political, economic, and legal structures-to refashion them so they can leverage local traditions, overcome political fragmentation, expand governance capacities, and catalyze corporate investment.

After dissecting the reasons why some states prosper and others sink into poverty and violence, Fixing Fragile States visits seven deeply dysfunctional places—including Pakistan, Bolivia, West Africa, and Syria—and explains how even the most desperate of them can be transformed.

Series Description

Praeger Security International

As the world gets "smaller" through technology and globalization, the security risks we face grow and multiply.

International security in the 21st century is not a topic that can be adequately addressed in nightly news soundbites or online articles intended to be relevant for 24 hours or less. Comprehending these complex issues requires insight from foreign policy specialists, diplomats, military officials, peace scholars, historians, and security experts—participants and observers on all sides of each conflict. This series provides the tools for understanding security issues in our uncertain, unstable world.

Written by subject experts and well-known researchers, the books in the Praeger Security International series give readers access to carefully considered and highly informed viewpoints on the critical security issues that threaten to destabilize our world. With titles authored by diplomats, first responders, economists, journalists, civil servants, military leaders and combatants, legal experts, psychologists, and other knowledgeable specialists, these books offer in-depth reflections, thorough analysis, and international perspectives that are unavailable in mass media. These titles represent an invaluable resource for students and researchers as well as anyone who seeks a deeper understanding of the complex issues that affect our lives and future.


  • Provides reliable, comprehensive information on all matters relating to security that is ideal for students, teachers, researchers, and professionals
  • Offers insightful commentaries written by a diverse group of scholars and experts who provide interdisciplinary treatments of newsworthy events and important historical occurrences
Table of Contents

List of Tables, Charts, and MapsPrefaceAcknowledgmentsPart I Introduction1. Introduction: Why Fragile States MatterPart II Diagnosis2. Fostering Development: The Missing Ingredients3. Fragile States, Fractured SocietiesPart III Prescriptions4. A New Paradigm for DevelopmentPart IV Application5. West Africa: Stitching a Fragmented Region Together6. The Democratic Republic of the Congo: Constructing the State Bottom Up7. Syria: Countering Sectarianism with Unifying Institutions8. Somaliland: Reconnecting State and Society9. Bolivia: Building Representative Institutions in a Divided Country10. Pakistan: Redirecting a Countrys Trajectory11. Azerbaijan: Pressing Reform on an AutocracyIndex



"This is a stimulating contribution to a growing literature on how to deal with fragile states."—Foreign Affairs


"A timely and provocative volume, Fixing Fragile States offers a seldom-voiced perspective on why international efforts to repair broken countries tend to fail. Seth Kaplan argues that instead of dispatching troops or sending more aid, policymakers should focus on what these desperate and dangerous places really need: long-term help in building strong institutions to foster social cohesion, responsive and accountable government, and locally-driven economic dynamism. Kaplan's focus deals with one of the great challenges of our time, and his analysis deserves a wide hearing."—Dr. Chester A. Crocker, Professor of Strategic Studies, Georgetown University, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs

"A widely ranging and deeply penetrating analysis of why states fail and what to do about it. The book is full of new ideas that locate the job of state-building--usually misnamed nation-building--in the local institutions of society. It will enrich our flagging debate about failing states by focusing us, not only on good ideas, but also on their specific application (or lack of it) in seven cases of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. An insightful view by a man who knows his business."—Dr. I. William Zartman, Jacob Blaustein Distinguished Professor of International Organization and Conflict Resolution, School of Advanced International Studies, The Johns Hopkins University

"Fixing Fragile States presents a bold and innovative approach to development, one that emphasizes the need to customize governing bodies to suit local customs and the capacity of local institutions. For we Africans, tired of being told to emulate Western models of governance, this book is a breath of fresh air. With its explanation of how countries can use their own strengths to build stable and prosperous societies, Fixing Fragile States should be required reading, not only for government officials and development specialists, but for everyone concerned with the fate of weak and failed states."—Edna Adan Ismail, ex-Foreign Minister, Somaliland

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