What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The talk in blogistan is about...

An MStFB round-up of blogistan developments
Joshua Foust at the Conjecturer has been doing this regularly, then Bonnie Boyd started it, too, and now I'm the one about to come up with a round-up post. The reason for me is more case-specific, however. Getting back from my trip last week I first of all checked out all the blogs that I read regulary to read the posts I had missed. So this post of mine here is as much a summary for me as it is for readers in general. (Of course here I'll focus on what's of interest for this blog, and not on everything that's worth reading at all these sites.)
I'll proceed in something like an alphabetical order.
Abu Muqawama quotes two sources at length that provide much insight regarding the current UNIFIL mission in Lebanon. An ad hoc coalition, risk-aversion, problems of coordination etc. Spanish and other troops roadside-IED'd into passivity apparently. Familiar from elsewhere, too?
Afghanistanica discusses a very interesting problem, not for the first time actually. After reading the post I'm linking to, you actually have to want to read this intelligence community horror story, too. So the point is, how are intelligence services and other government agencies going to function right in today's supercomplex reality in crisis zones if some of the best area studies experts can't get in to help do the job, labelled suspicious basically just for having been exposed in some way to the world outside, just like any decent expert should be?
Some very much state failure-related analysis over at Bonnie Boyd's other blog (Ramblin Gal) then, which draws attention, among other issues, to Eastern Iran. Let's put ourselves beyond the debate regarding whether Iran plays any role policy-wise in the insurgency in Afghanistan for now. Whatever the truth is, it's very much worth a look now how the enormous and expanding drugs trade as well as the mass refugee movements in the border areas affect governance in Iran's most exposed corners.
At Registan, Joshua Foust raises the question whether we (I say 'we' becuase this clearly concerns me, too) are wrong to be bogged down blogging on the nuances of military operations in Afghanistan and the problems of structural nature that come with them, when in fact the major issue could be how inefficiently aid is used in Afghanistan (there, too). Cooley and Ron's study on the "NGO scramble", an AREU paper by Hamish Nixon this year on the state-building paradox, as well as Rossi and Giustozzi's paper on DDR programs in Afghanistan spring to my mind, among other things, and that's all illustration to how right JF is in raising this issue.
It's only a part of the problem that there aren't enough troops, or that there's probably not enough money allocated to the tasks to be handled in Afghanistan. But it's also a very important part of the problem how the money is often wasted, spent making no or relatively little impact, in near-total ignorance of the very state that is supposedly being built.
Finally, some additional reading for those who speak Hungarian or are ready to find some internet-based (or other) solution to bridge the language barrier. Here's a link to a page where my fellow Hungarian/scholar/blogger Péter Wagner's recently published study, in Hungary's Foreign Policy Review, on Hungary's role in Afghanistan, can be found. A detailed and critical take - I should indicate that the manuscript was closed in the autumn of 2006, however, so this study is more about the times preceding Hungary's taking on leading PRT tasks in Baghlan and the structure and the prospects of the latter undertaking (the study contains a general ISAF/OEF/Afghanistan backgrounder as well). The study also touches upon how much the Dutch were prepared to work in Baghlan province, which then of course they had to leave behind mid-course to migrate to Uruzgan. Baghlan obviously suited them much better than Uruzgan, but then is there a coalition country regarding which the same claim wouldn't be true in an identical situation?
So much for this round-up today. I hope everybody will find something interesting in this selection from blogistan.


Bob said...

Good article on the unifil mission. I think we should get rid of the idea that peacekeeping can be done with a bunch of jeeps and a few soldiers with unloaded weapons. Every mission should be treated with the worst case scenario in mind. This will provide the troops on the ground with a strong mandate and sufficient means to operate. What is the point of sending soldiers if they stay on their base because they don't have a mandate or the means to work in a environment that turns out to be anything but peacefull.

On Afghanistan. From september 2004 untill october 2006 180 Dutch Marines formed a PRT at Pol-e Khomri (Baghlan province). I thought this mission was unrelated to the one in southern Afghanistan that officialy started on August 1 2006 (Deployment Task Force started working on the bases as early as February 2006) and was comprised of mostly Army personell. I wasn't aware there were plans of continuing at Baghlan. Interesting.

Péter MARTON said...

Hello Bob,
Yeah, I agree with what you say about peace-keeping. I mean, as long as it actually works, it may be useful to play the nice guy, or social workers in military uniform, whichever, but the WCS has to be there on everyone's mind.
As to Dutch plans regarding Baghlan. Well, I think it's quite logical to assume the Netherlands would have stayed beyond the initially mandated period there (nothing really against it). ISAF's Stage 3 expansion, however, posed challenges because of which such plans had to be abandoned, actually under pressure to do so. Now, we have this situation with NATO that it is hurt by the division between countries willing to move south, and those that are not. My feeling is that Hungary took on the PRT in Baghlan, because it's a visible role, which is regarded as 1) important enough to substitute for a deployment of troops to the south (it even "freed up" the Netherlands to a degree), 2) costly enough to be respected by not calling on Hungary so much these days for it to live up to its NATO commitment by sufficient defence spending.
And that comes at a time when most countries relatively new to NATO and the EU, the 'new Europe' (a term that we don't like but have to live with), actually are either there in the south, like e.g. Poles, Estonians or Romanians, or may lead a PRT, like Hungary and Lithuania do. That's the way burden-sharing "works".
Nothing new in this of course. It takes no hardcore realism to assume there's a competition by many for taking less of the burden in any arrangement.