Predicting Failed States: Look for the Zoo Indicator


2017-04-08 By James Durso

Every year official and unofficial Washington, D.C. spends a lot of time and money trying to divine the next big trouble spots.

Often called “failed states” or “fragile states”, they are scrutinized and the candidates for this dubious distinction wind up in serious tomes by think tanks, and governments.

The effort, which seems to employ legions of interns and every graduate of a local Master-level program in political science, analyzes many – too many – political, social, and economic factors in a contest to be the first to be called by CNN when country X “unexpectedly” goes down the tube.

It’s a lot of piffle, really. Sure, dictators, warlords, and oligarchs spend the public’s money on champagne, drugs, guns, fast cars, and faster women. Too hard! Get your zen on, dude! Simplify. All you need to know is: Does the ruler have a private zoo?

The ‘Tigers’ were first accused of war crimes during fighting in Croatia 1991 [Ron Haviv, Al Jazeera.
The proof:

We already knew Saddam was trouble, but if we entertained any doubts about his progeny, Uday Hussein relieved us of those. In addition to his interests in drugs, rape, torture, and murder, Number One Son collected lions, cheetahs and a bear.

Jean-Bédel Bokassa, the self-crowned emperor of the Central African Republic, bankrupted his country to pay for his coronation, which may account for his thriftiness: his political rivals were allegedly fed to lions and crocodiles in his personal zoo, thereby solving several problems at once.

Never one to disappoint, Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, complemented his bizarre wardrobe and the meandering prose of his Green Book with a private amusement park and zoo.

Cuba’s President Fulgencio Batista was probably too busy with his zoo to notice some trouble maker named Fidel Castro…

The only guy who can give Russia’s Vladimir Putin fits is the Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov, who loves the big cats. And here’s a picture of Kadyrov with a cougar.

Ukraine’s absconded Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych left a lot behind when he hurriedly packed his bags. He since manned up and has taken responsibility for the violence surrounding his ouster, but he drew the line at criticism of his ostriches.

The late (and unlamented) Serbian gangster and warlord Arkan was serious trouble and his private army, the Serb Volunteer Guard, or “Tigers” had a, you guessed it, tiger for a mascot. I know – that’s not a zoo – but he was going places.

In the private sector division, drug kingpins pioneered Living Large and, when not pocketing government officials and gold-plated firearms, they like to get back to their rural roots by collecting a little nature.

Pablo Escobar has moved on to the big hacienda in the sky but his pet hippos are still alive and kickin’.

Jesus “The King” Zambada, former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, shares something with his 200 wild animals: both are in state custody.

Chapo Guzman is now an honored guest of the U.S. government, but his sons Ivan, Alfredo and Joaquin are like many Instagrammers – they love to share cat pictures. Why, he’s a member of the gang!

And if owning a zoo isn’t enough, you can always “eat a zoo” as did the 2000 guests at Robert Mugabe’s 91st birthday party which served “young elephant, and two buffaloes, two sables and five impalas.”

Why? Because Mugabe!

James Durso is the Managing Director of Corsair LLC.

He was a professional staff member at the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission and the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Durso served as a U.S. Navy officer for 20 years and specialized in logistics and security assistance. His overseas military postings were in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and he served in Iraq as a civilian transport advisor with the Coalition Provisional Authority. He served afloat as Supply Officer of the submarine USS SKATE (SSN 578).

Editor’s Note: I am sure that some consulting firm has either done research along these lines or will propose to the US intelligence community such a study. 

Zut Alors!

That is right we know foreign nationals and even speak several languages which certainly ensures we are not qualified to work with U.S. intelligence so guess we won’t get that Zoo indicator study anytime soon!