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Fear the Weaker

Author: Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations
May 6, 2013
Fortune Magazine


The greatest danger to our world isn't from those economies at the top -- but those at the bottom.

America's generals spend most of their time worrying about strong countries -- understandably so. But for the foreseeable future, the United States has even more to fear from weak countries. In today's world, it is only a matter of time (and often not a lot of it) before the consequences of weakness in the remotest areas become global.

Take China. There is much talk about how it might use its growing strength in Asia and beyond. Perhaps, but it has a long way to go. Meanwhile, a weaker China, characterized by slower growth and heightened unrest, is far likelier to embrace nationalism and turn to foreign adventure to distract a frustrated populace.

A different set of challenges stems from truly weak countries, those unable to meet their responsibilities to other countries and to their own citizens and that, as a result, pose a threat to both. Countries unable to control what goes on inside their borders are magnets for terrorists, drug cartels, pirates, human traffickers, and other criminal enterprises. A partial list includes Yemen, Somalia, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Mali, Nicaragua, Haiti, Central African Republic, Mauritania, and Afghanistan.

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