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What a Real Failed Government Looks Like

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- The United States government may be operating on minimal auxiliary power, but there are regimes around the globe that find even that level of functional governance laughable.

As Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner vowed that there won't be an end to the shutdown anytime soon and a growing contingent of his fellow House Republicans suggested the opposite, word came down last weekend that U.S. special forces carried out raids in Libya and Somalia targeting key figures in al-Qaeda and the al-Qaeda-aligned al-Shabaab movement that killed dozens of people at a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, two weeks ago. The government shutdown is embarrassing on all fronts, but even this political skirmish hasn't stopped the U.S. from operating on a level far more stable than its counterparts in Libya and Somalia -- which rank Nos. 54 and 1, respectively, on the Fund For Peace/Foreign Policy Failed State Index.

Don't get us wrong: The government shutdown is terrible enough that even the Fund For Peace felt the need to explain why the U.S. isn't a failed state. But within the group's explanation of just how long this shutdown would have to go on for that to happen is a reminder of just how many actual failed states exist with problems that dwarf those of the United States' hiccup:

"There is not violence. There is no rioting in the street. Borders are still protected, firemen are still putting out fires, and business continues somewhat as usual. That is what resiliency looks like -- and not every country can claim to have it, or the same level of it."

The shutdown is pressuring the U.S., to be sure, but it's nowhere close to breaking it. Without diminishing the strain on government workers and those who rely on its programs, society is holding up in spite of Congress' stalemate. This may not reflect well on the U.S. ranking for next year's Failed State Index, but this year it's still the 20th most-stable country on the planet.

Compare that with Somalia, where government has been in tatters for decades, Western intervention has failed disastrously and only a mission led by the African Union of surrounding countries is containing what was once even more widespread violence, piracy and poverty. The attack on the mall in Kenya a few weeks ago was actually a reaction by al-Shabaab to Kenya's role in a steady string of setbacks for al-Shabaab operations in its Somalia stronghold.

Still, Somalia's central government and constitution are roughly a year old, as is its court system. The country was in a state of famine as recently as last year, and tremendous foreign influence from the African Union, United Nations and European Union are still necessary to preserve what little stability Somalia has achieved. Elite groups still control much of the nation's resources and human rights violations by various factions -- including, in some cases, the peacekeepers themselves -- are rampant.