As an example, Somalia has been a failed state for several decades. It’s clear that Somali people are incapable to reach sufficient consensus to form a well run state, so the territory in question will likely remain a wasteland for thousands of years in the absence of foreign intervention. So why isn’t the international community supportive of a more capable nation taking over said land in order to make better use of it? I.e. Saudi Arabia has demonstrated far superior capacity for nation building, so wouldn’t it be better if Somalia became a part of their country?

  • 2
    How you define a failed state? Who have the right to give such definition? Looks like by international community you mean just the West. So it seems the question will be answered at the end just with some opinions.
    – convert
    Jan 28, 2023 at 16:05
  • Even if you define it as a failed state why do you think someone else coming in is going to be able to fix everything? Just because someone else comes in doesn't mean all the problems are going to be suddenly fixed. And if the people are opposed to it the problems can get even worse.
    – Joe W
    Jan 28, 2023 at 16:07
  • 1
    @JoeW Hawaii would be one example of a failed state takeover. Jan 28, 2023 at 19:49
  • 6
    Why not colonialism, they ask? After all, it worked so well the first time around.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jan 28, 2023 at 19:55
  • 2
    Chose being the operative word there. You propose annexation, not choice. Annexation by a fundamentalist absolute monarchy with a retrograde perspective on gender equality, to boot.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jan 28, 2023 at 20:53

3 Answers 3


Somalia isn't considered a failed state by the UN anymore.

It does have problems of course:

The recurrent droughts and floods are driving widespread displacement, rapid urbanization, hunger, malnutrition and poverty. Climate change is also increasingly seen as the driver of conflict and a threat to the country’s security, as the struggle over meagre resources deepens divisions.

In addition, the loss of traditional livelihoods makes people vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups such as Al-Shabaab. Somalia is currently experiencing a third consecutive season of below-average rainfall, with nearly 80 per cent of the country experiencing drought conditions, water shortages and livestock deaths, and one in five Somalis does not have enough water to cover their basic needs.

But how would Saudi Arabia taking over in Somalia help with droughts, floods, and the increased impacts of climate change?

And why would Saudi Arabia want to? It wouldn't have anything to gain, but would need to expend resources to manage humanitarian crises.

And that's assuming the sovereign nation of Somalia - a representative democratic republic - would welcome Saudi Arabia. A war of aggression to conquer a foreign nation would be contrary to international law.

At the core of this question seems to be the idea that the current "success" (by whatever measure) of a country is based purely on their peoples abilities. But that's of course not true. External factors and internal conditions are very much relevant. For an example where this sort of nation building failed, see the US involvement in Afghanistan.


This is a bit deeper question than its votes give it credit for.

Trouble is, even assuming good intentions, no rapaciousness and an objectively "failed" state with a takeover somehow generally approved by the international community, the reasons for skepticism are a bit more complex and pervasive than saying/claiming that Somalia is not a failed state or that "the Nazis did it".

The core problem, IMHO, is whether people living in a failed state area are likely to be better off from being absorbed by a "more successful" polity.

Even if Somalia is/was a failed state, would adoption by Saudi Arabia be, for the lack of a better word, "nice" for Somalians? I would think that there are ethnicity and racial problems that would preclude Somalians being treated as worthy Saudis.

If, and not saying it will get there, but just because it sometimes gets talked about in that term, Mexico fails, would absorption by the same people who elected a POTUS calling them rapists likely to work out well?

Look at Haiti, if there ever was a candidate for this. The UN mission, not an annexation, resulted in rapes and cholera, because the locals were treated badly, looked down upon, and given no agency.

Merging a failed state which has no natural affinity and feeling of togetherness with another state is unlikely to work out well.

Even when there is a strong desire for unification - outside of a failed state context - things are difficult to pull off with respect. There is just a strong tendency in human hierarchies to treat "wards" condescendingly and sometimes abusively. Colonialism is an appropriate description for many possible outcomes. Local politicians would also find it expedient to either kiss up or, conversely, ride resentment against the "invaders".

On the flip side of things, it is also hard to see what the absorbing country's taxpayers would get out of a principled, non-exploitative, merger.

You see an hint of these problems with East German reunification. You'd see them with Korean reunification.

The reason this is a worthwhile question is: given the existence of a failed state, should the international community consider takeover/adoption to be part of the toolbox to fix it (possibly even extending to takeover by UN agencies)? For the reasons cited above: mostly likely not. Support for organic nation-building is more likely to work.

  • But the UN intervention into Haiti wasn't a full annexation, right? If Haiti was officially absorbed into a non-failed state (Dominican Republic would probably be the best candidate), things would be quite different. Jan 28, 2023 at 18:50
  • I don't think so, no. Haitians are in a particular location in the Caribbean social hierarchy - I grew up in St. Maarten - and mostly looked down on. Dominicans are also culturally very different from Haiti, bit like your Somalia Saudi example. Jan 28, 2023 at 18:58

1: This is to comparable to what Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy tried to impose in world war 2... and nobody (except Putin apparently) wants to be in the same list as those two.

2: Who would get the land? in your Somalia example, why does Saudi Arabia get it? why not the USA, Russia or China seeing they have more resources to develop the nation? Or Ethiopia seeing it shares a land border? and if all of them laid a claim... how is it decided who gets it without it escalating to a military conflict?

3: What criteria would make a nation a "failed" state? Should South-East Asia be dominated by China? should Mexico be annexed by the USA? Should the USA be annexed by Canada while we are at it? Hell seeing the state of most African nations... Europe should re-colonize it by this logic...

Maybe comparable, the nation of Somaliland wants to break free from Somalia for quite some time now. If we were to allow that...what right do we have to say Texas should not be independent from the USA, or Catalonia from Spain? The big issue is that ANY border change is an international matter... if you approve something being done once you can't say it is bad in other situations without being branded a hypocrite.

  • we have no right to say Texas or Catalonia should not be independent Jan 31, 2023 at 13:19
  • @user253751 agreed, but the US and Spanish governments won't support other countries independence movements because it would give their own independence movements more ammo for the discussions.
    – A.bakker
    Jan 31, 2023 at 13:46

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