Here's a radically fresh concept for leadership in developing or strife-ridden countries. It's certain to ignite controversy, yet I believe it would be a win-win-win situation for any potential failed state, as well as the rest of the world: import experienced foreigners to serve as your supreme leaders.
For example, after his current term expires, U.S. President Barak Obama could hire on as president of Afghanistan or Iraq. Or how about former British Prime Minister Tony Blair taking on a good-paying job as president of Libya? Or Angela Merkel, after she's done in Germany, as president of Syria?
Scenarios like those could be triple-wins because the president-for-hire (1) would not be beholden to any particular tribe or faction and therefore be more impartial, (2) would come with a proven track record and a personal network of friendly international relationships, and most importantly, (3) would greatly increase the chances of stability and peace for the rest of the world.
If you were a citizen of a developing, poor or backward country, who would you prefer to lead your country: a local tyrant or a non-native, professional leader?
In the types of countries of which I speak, the native leader often lacks government expertise, rose to power via the oligarchy, gerontocracy or an influential family, is a powerful warlord or belongs to a dominant tribe or religious sect, and has few if any qualifications for fixing his country's economic or social problems.
The non-native, leader-for-hire would be an individual who has already succeeded elsewhere and brings a resumé of administrative accomplishments and successful, 21st-century governance.
Some will insist that locals will never accept foreign leadership, but from my own personal experience in the Middle East, I find that's not true. The locals yearn for professional governance.
Four years after the U.S. liberated my native Afghanistan from the yoke of the Taliban, I spoke with an old neighbor and merchant who was unhappy with the American and coalition forces - but not for the reason you might think. He told me that he wanted a "full invasion." He was disgusted with corruption in the Afghan government and legal system, and he mirrored a sentiment I find throughout the Middle East: citizens long for a cleaner, more honest governance that could come from foreign leadership via the U.S. and/or other democratic nations.
Hopefully, the day will come when Afghanistan and other states in the struggling or developing world can competently govern themselves, but until the corruption and tribal in-fighting end, we need help.
The era of nationalism is over. In his book Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization, Parag Khanna asks us to remap the world in terms of its connections rather than its borders. Connective infrastructure trumps separatist nationalism. The economy of supply lines moves into the foreground as politics and ideology fade away.
The world is changing, and so should its political systems.
Yes, hiring foreigners is an unorthodox approach to leadership, but one that in certain situations actually makes sense. We see successful precedents throughout the business world, where corporations often scour the entire planet in search of talent and expertise.
As the world's sophisticated economic demands supersede geographic boundaries, multi-nationals increasingly hire skilled CEOs, managers and labor from all parts of the globe. China and Russia, once dismissive of capitalism, today employ chief executive officers from the United States to run or salvage broken companies.
Likewise, the U.S. issues thousands of visas to talented professionals in the fields of medicine, engineering and science from the Far East, India and other points around the globe. Qatar is a case in point where thousands of foreign experts have helped the country capitalize on its resources, and it now enjoys the world's highest per-capita income.
The U.S. and other nations pour billions of dollars in aid into countries like Pakistan and Egypt. Why not leverage that financial support to nudge the creation of transparent, efficient, honest and fair governance?
The Congressional Research Service estimates that the U.S. has spent over $686 million in Afghanistan since 2001, yet attained no tangible improvement in the lives of ordinary Afghans. This is due in part to rampant corruption, resistance and a lack of healthy leadership. In the words of former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, those in power now "consistently oppose foreign efforts to create transparent, rule-bound Afghan institutions because such projects threaten to undermine their political domination and economic banditry."
In failed states such as this, rife with instability, violence and political unrest, powerless citizens caught in the crossfire often risk their lives to escape. They will travel through unforgiving terrain or in unseaworthy vessels to reach western borders, even if it means living in military tent camps, rather than stay in their native land.
So far, the U.S. and European recipe for dealing with these conflicts has been an unfruitful mix: deploying boots on the ground, preaching the advancement of democracy through free elections, and dumping tax dollars into the coffins of comatose states. These actions only serve to keep ineffective governments on a sort of codependent life support.
When the Emir of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, was asked by a reporter about his success, he responded that managing the affairs of a state is not much different than managing the affairs of a corporation; It takes good planning and good management.
It's time to take an unconventional approach. Go global! Select your next president from the new, free-market World Leader Placement Agency.