CSS Research and Policy Seminar with Bridget Coggins

Bridget Coggins, associate professor of political science at the University of California, Santa Barbara and visiting scholar at the Center for Strategic Studies, presented her second book, Anarchy Emergent: Political Collapse and Non-Traditional Threat in the Shadow of Hierarchy, at the CSS Research and Policy Seminar on October 28. The forthcoming book explores the idea of state failure, investigating whether failed states cause non-traditional threats, such as terrorism and piracy, or not.

Weak states, failing states, and state failure loom large in analyses of the international system since the end of the Cold War. Coggins examines whether there is a causal link between state failure and non-traditional security threats. Contrary to conventional wisdom, she argues that existing data does not support claims that state failure increases non-traditional threats to the international system and major powers. The threat is exaggerated. Thus, military interventions by major powers, especially the United States, designed to build states rest on flawed reasoning and a basic misunderstanding of how non-traditional threats emerge.

Coggins built a comprehensive dataset to statistically evaluate the relationship between state failure and non-traditional threats, and conducted three in-depth case studies, investigating terrorism in Afghanistan, maritime piracy in Somalia, and trafficking in North Korea. Despite widespread fears, internal anarchy in a state makes it a challenging location for non-state actors and organizations to operate, reducing the risk of transnational threats emerging out of so-called failed states. Following her presentation, Coggins received feedback from Karim Elkady, a CSS postdoctoral fellow, and other seminar participants. The book will be a must-read for anyone interested in weak states, non-traditional security threats, and the stability of the international system.

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