- Cote d'Ivoire. More proof that elections cause as many problems as they solve. Makes the 2000 US election look like a picnic. So, definitely a conflict, but is it likely to spread or attract outside intervention? Not so sure.
- Colombia. I guess this raises the question of: is it a prediction to predict something that has been on-going for decades? As long as Americans are willing to consume heaps of cocaine, I have little confidence in Colombia becoming peaceful. Lootable resources (blood diamonds, drugs, whatever) may not cause conflict, but they probably do prolong it (see Michael Ross on this).
- Zimbabwe. Mugabe is the gift that keeps on giving and reminds us that Milton was right about how some people think: "Better to reign in hell." Again, elections may not be a solution.
- Iraq. Really?
- Venezuela. All the trends look bad here (and that is about as much as I can say about Latin America as I have never focused in that direction).
- Sudan. Um, what is the order of this list? It is certainly not by likelihood or by size of likely consequences as Sudan would be near the top or at it. We will be quite lucky if this one does not blow up. Again, it gets back to the basic question of when will commitments be kept and when institutions will bind behavior? And as this piece notes, an independent Southern Sudan will have a lot of work to do to be more than a failed state.
- Mexico. Speaking of failed states, Mexico is not one, but it is starting to resemble many African countries that control their capitols but not much else. 30,000 deaths in a drug war? The US will eventually start to get serious about this, not necessarily a good thing as the US can damage more with good intentions than anyone else.
- Guatemala. More drugs, more elections.
- Haiti. Kind of feels like the Emmys when the same shows always get nominated. Haiti can enver get a break. Bad weather, disease and an election. "Haiti is on the verge of a social breakdown." If this is what the verge looks like ....
- Tajikistan. Bleak.
- Pakistan. Again, this list is not logically ordered. Pakistan should be at the top if only for the amount of trouble it can cause its neighbors. Not to mention what the combo of state failure and loose nukes might mean.
- Somalia. Should join Haiti in the gold member's club of hotspots. Nice for the piece to note that separatism can work: "Somaliland in the country's northwest is an island of stability and democracy, and Puntland in the northeast is relatively peaceful, if troubled by Islamists and pirate gangs."
- Lebanon. Looks amazingly functional compared to most of the folks on this list. Pretty sad statement.
- Nigeria. Elections ahead!
- DR of Congo. Last but certainly not least. The UN is spending heaps of time and money here but is failing to protect.
And then the next question is 16 out of 200 countries or so? Is the average state ok? I was asked on TV last week whether ok was too low of a standard for places like Afghanistan or Iraq? Well, if we have three choices: an unrealistic expectation of democracy and happiness, a possible slide into more and more violence, or "ok", I think I will take ok even if ok means corrupt, only semi-democratic but not generating too much violence into the neighbors or against the foreigners in town. What is the basis of comparison? An idealized future, the recent past or the other countries in the neighborhood.
On the bright side, I may have a winner for the most depressing post of 2011 and it is only day three.