Weak Authoritarians

by Nathan Hamm on 4/21/2008 · 5 comments

The Brookings Institution recently released its Index of State Weakness in the Developing World (PDF). Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan came in as the weakest states in Central Asia, ranking 35 and 36 respectively. The interesting thing is that these are, by most accounts, the most authoritarian and repressive states in the region, making it perhaps seem odd that they would be evaluated as being the weakest.

IWPR has a summary of the report that mentions some of the clues that indicate the weakness of the Uzbek and Turkmen governments. The report notes that officials are routinely shuffled in both countries and that both governments pursue foreign policies that first-and-foremost enhance the power of the executive. (I explore Uzbek and Kazakh foreign policies as reactions to internal balances-of-power in much greater detail here).

Brookings has a few pages of recommendations for policymakers, but I think that the authors are missing one that at least where Central Asia is concerned seems very important. Policymakers need to take seriously that authoritarian executives like Islom Karimov feel quite a bit of insecurity, and that threats to central authority take shape in ways that are hard to see. While creating durable institutions should be far more important than shoring up any one president’s position, doing so would probably be far easier if Western policymakers had a better appreciation for the situation in which Central Asian presidents see themselves.


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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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{ 5 comments }

Joshua Foust April 21, 2008 at 10:29 pm

I’m glad you didn’t fall into that Ian Bremmer crap about the J-Curve. And you’re right, of course.

Shohmurod April 22, 2008 at 10:07 am

hallelujah!

Laurence April 22, 2008 at 5:19 pm

Josh, One could quibble with the methodology–an authoritarian state is given “weak” scores on “political” grounds no matter how strong, for example Turkmenistan. But let us accept the ratings as is. What are the weakest states? Many of them are those that have had a history of receiving US and EU humanitarian aid and/or military intervention, specifically:

1 Somalia 0.52 0.00 0.00 1.37 0.70 226
2 Afghanistan 1.65 4.51 2.08 0.00 0.00 271
3 Congo, Dem. Rep. 1.67 4.06 1.80 0.28 0.52 130
4 Iraq 3.11 2.87 1.67 1.63 6.27 1134
5 Burundi 3.21 5.01 3.46 2.95 1.43 100
6 Sudan 3.29 5.05 2.06 1.46 4.59 810
7 Central african Rep. 3.33 4.11 2.90 5.06 1.25 360
8 Zimbabwe 3.44 1.56 1.56 6.81 3.84 350
9 Liberia 3.64 3.39 3.91 6.01 1.25 140
10 Cote D’ivoire 3.66 5.23 2.12 3.71 3.56 870
11 Angola 3.72 5.42 2.67 5.32 1.45 1980
12 Haiti

Laurence April 22, 2008 at 5:19 pm

Josh, One could quibble with the methodology–an authoritarian state is given “weak” scores on “political” grounds no matter how strong, for example Turkmenistan. But let us accept the ratings as is. What are the weakest states? Many of them are those that have had a history of receiving US and EU humanitarian aid and/or military intervention, specifically:

1 Somalia 0.52 0.00 0.00 1.37 0.70 226
2 Afghanistan 1.65 4.51 2.08 0.00 0.00 271
3 Congo, Dem. Rep. 1.67 4.06 1.80 0.28 0.52 130
4 Iraq 3.11 2.87 1.67 1.63 6.27 1134
5 Burundi 3.21 5.01 3.46 2.95 1.43 100
6 Sudan 3.29 5.05 2.06 1.46 4.59 810
7 Central african Rep. 3.33 4.11 2.90 5.06 1.25 360
8 Zimbabwe 3.44 1.56 1.56 6.81 3.84 350
9 Liberia 3.64 3.39 3.91 6.01 1.25 140
10 Cote D’ivoire 3.66 5.23 2.12 3.71 3.56 870
11 Angola 3.72 5.42 2.67 5.32 1.45 1980
12 Haiti

Oldschool Boy April 22, 2008 at 5:52 pm

Funniest thing is that Kyrgyzstan turned to be a stronger state than China and Russia.

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