In “War and the State in Africa,” Jeffrey Herbst states that "

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Intro to Comparative Politics

In "War and the State in Africa," Jeffrey Herbst states that "…it should be recognized that there is very little evidence that African countries, or many others in the Third World, will be able to find peaceful ways to strengthen the state and develop national identities."

Do you agree with Herbst's argument? Why?

Lei Zhang

Professor Dickson



Although African countries are facing many severe problems including weak national identities and limited governmental capabilities, war might not be the only way to strengthen the state and develop national identities. When we consider the intense globalization undertaken by the world, collaboration by African unification provides another choice to reinforce the state and to progress a national identity.

There is no doubt that African countries are facing many severe problems, including poverty, shortage of trained manpower and limited social capital. The most pressing of these problems is a weak national identity resulting from the absence of a nation-state form.

A nation-state is "a sovereign state encompassing one dominant nation that it claims to embody and represent".� Colonialism is the main cause of the absence of the nation state structure: "80 percent of the borders in Africa were drawn according to longitude and latitude, not ethnic or geographic distinction. Even after empires collapsed or withdrew, these borders remained."� One state often incorporates a multitude of ethnic groups. When different ethnic groups within a state struggle to achieve certain political or economic power at each other's expense; ethnic conflicts break out.� Because of the immense ethnic diversity, people within a state seldom share common political aspirations and institutions.

Many African weak or failed states lack the ability to collect enough revenue. "Elites can come to power but, given the precariousness of control in countries where rules governing leadership and...