The world is blowing up, seemingly confronted by a violent new crisis every day: the bloody implosion of Iraq and Syria, the East-West standoff in Ukraine, abducted schoolgirls in northern Nigeria. The common thread, Sarah Chayes says, is government corruption so pervasive that some regimes now resemble criminal gangs.
A former adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Chayes spent most of the past decade in Afghanistan. She discusses her new book Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security and the premise that structural corruption inevitably provokes resentment, prompting protests and revolts and often fueling extremist violence. The U.S., she argues, has a tendency not just to ignore such international corruption but also compound it, which in places like Afghanistan can be destabilizing and dangerous.