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

Friday, March 7, 2008

Worlds apart, potentially: Party politics and insurgency

Recently I started beating the drums, and kept at it - with regards to Pakistan (but also, at times, WRT southern Afghanistan) I'm beginning to perceive a lack of sufficient engagement with questions more complex than that of what means may help us backwards along a continuum from supposedly all-tribal to all-Islamist outcomes in places like Pakistan's tribal areas. And in a very timely manner came this article in the Wall Street Journal. Joshua Foust spotted it first at Registan, not coincidentally. The elections on February 18, the day when the Pakistani military - with General Kayani at the lead - discarded the need to defend Musharraf as an asset at all costs, and made it possible for free elections to go ahead (which they had several good reasons to do), is proof enough that the locally diverse dynamics of party politics are worth just as much attention.
(No worries, I'm aware that this reminder concerns me as much as others - I've been focusing here quite a lot on counterinsurgency in a tribal context.)
An excerpt from Joshua White's article from the Wall Street Journal:
"Islamist discourse and strict Shariah are corrupting to liberal democracy in Pakistan. But the democratic Islamists are not a monolith. They adapt, they compromise, and they absorb a vast pool of young activists who might otherwise turn toward violence. Left alone on the margins, they may more readily adopt a vigorous politics of agitation, protesting progressive social policies and state action against hardline clerics."
This is not a process we have to understand specifically for the sake of controlling or trying to influence it as directly as we wish to do in the case of navigating tribal relations. A very indirect endeavour to influence what's going on probably works better than a direct engagement with the political forces in question. Let them develop organically as much as possible. But understanding the process in a more in-depth way is definitely advantegeous.
Here's Abu Muqawama crew member Charlie's point, taken out of context for the sake of continuing this train of thought here, regarding why there's more to be observed than just the issue of how to find guns against guns:
"In terms of counter-insurgency or irregular warfare, over-learning Iraq means making policy or institutionalizing lessons based on a worst case example... extrapolating from an extreme outlier to all other endeavors in The Long War. This tendency can cause problems from the tactical to the strategic level and may be just as dangerous as "over-correcting" for COIN, as it seriously circumscribes future strategic options."
Still, in the FATA, tribal relations will have to be addressed. Tribalised Talibanisation, as I have put it recently, does make it a fait accompli that we have to be bothered by the challenge of "communicating" in a context of basic tribal operating codes and coordinating messages.
The discussion we've been having with William S. McCallister is continuing by the way. Don't miss MAC's response to Josh Foust's comment to which Josh has already written in - click on this link to read more.

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