State collapse

Back in ’00 a writer posted;

“Who are you?” a prisoner of the Khiam jail in South Lebanon asked the stranger who was unlocking his cell. “What has happened? Where are the guards?” Not waiting for an answer, he tore out of the cell to look for his family, which he had not seen in the ten years he had been held there without charges. He was one of 140 freed this week as the South Lebanon Army lost control of the region and headed for the border to the cheers of the Lebanese people.

I don’t know if the story was true or if it was allegory. But it was true that in an instant a state had collapsed and 22 years of military occupation came to an end. How could it happen? The combined forces of a government failed and a whole territory was suddenly free of the grip of an imperial power.

In the history of political philosophy only a few writers have tried to explain the dynamics of state collapse. Etienne de la Boetie wrote Discourse on Voluntary Servitude in the 1550s and concluded that  “in order to have liberty nothing more is needed than to long for it.” Let us hope he was correct.


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