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On the demise of state and society

Recent developments reflect the fall of Arab countries into the clutches of militancy...

Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran

Published: Updated:

It is shocking to see how Iraq has changed since the 2003 US invasion. The state has collapsed and been replaced by isolated entities or statelets. Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama recently spoke of his mistakes in Libya, where he intervened but failed to prepare for the aftermath of ousting former leader Moammar Qaddafi.

A few days ago, Ash-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper reported that there had been contacts between Beirut airport employees and terror groups.

These developments reflect the fall of Arab countries into the clutches of militancy. A society that is managed by statelets ends up turning into groups of mercenaries, with no laws nor institutions to organize people’s lives, and where agreements are not respected. These failed countries - their fall expedited by invasion or revolution - cause deep concern for those researching the nature of relations between society and law.

Law of the jungle

The demise of the state is accompanied by the collapse of relations among individuals in society, between society and the law, and between institutions. This takes us back to the state of nature - before societies existed - with all its brutality.

Individuals in a failed state are always at war. Even if some do not possess arms, there is a craving for division and a willingness to fight and attack. It does not matter how intellectual or developed the society was in the past. This happened during European civil wars.

Individuals in a failed state are always at war. Even if some do not possess arms, there is a craving for division and a willingness to fight and attack

Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran

Thomas Hobbes, who wrote the history of the British civil war, said: “If man is in the state of nature, he is in that condition which is called war, and in such a war all men are each other’s enemies. Everyone is governed by his own reason, and there is nothing he can make use of that may not be a help unto him in preserving his life against his enemies. As a result, in the state of nature we each have a right to all things, even to one another’s body.”

This state of war and chaos can be seen in Lebanon, Syria, Libya and many other countries, where it is easy to shed blood, displace people and resort to militias. Even peace among sects, tribes or factions does not reflect the formation of the state. For example, the phase in Lebanon following the Taif Agreement, which ended the civil war, is merely a long truce.

English poet William Butler Yeats witnessed the Irish civil war in 1916, in which many of his friends were killed. In his poem “The Second Coming,” he wrote: “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere, the ceremony of innocence is drowned.”

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Apr. 14, 2016.
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Fahad Shoqiran is a Saudi writer and researcher who also founded the Riyadh philosophers group. His writings have appeared in pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Alarabiya.net, among others. He also blogs on philosophies, cultures and arts. He tweets @shoqiran.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.