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

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Guy sent in a comment during the days I was away from home, and I'll recall it, since I think it's particularly important. He points to the significance of the lack of consensus behind the Afghanistan mission, regarding its objectives, and says re-branding could be required. This is true and yet very problematic.
French President Sarkozy is a good example of this. He has made the point that one cannot allow the Taliban to take Kabul one more time. He used the term "la somalisation du monde" to describe what the West has to counter in Afghanistan. He's getting a lot of mud thrown at him in response. So, what to do?
Re-branding itself is opposed by those who don't support the Afghanistan mission.
Otherwise re-branding could be just the necessary communication of an ever-evolving strategy. Our strategy, even our interests, they have to be different from what they were on September 12, 2001. We learned things and the situation has changed. What changed less is our values, supposedly. But I have to add "supposedly," because the opposition to the Afghanistan mission defies the idea.
Unfortunately, this can mean a lot of bad things for Afghans and possibly another September 12-context re-emerging in the future for others.
More comments are welcome on this.
Update (September 4): I was bothered by my use of the word "interest" above. It comes down to how one conceptualises the notion of interest. If it is a "desired state" as opposed to something you have to do or actively achieve (an "objective") than our "interests" haven't changed that much. Why is this important? Because some argue that since Pakistan is now the real epicentre of Islamist militancy, the terrorism threat no longer justifies focusing on Afghanistan (which in their view is a futile effort). The way too obvious reply to that could be that, hey, so how does viewing Pakistan as the epicentre justify accepting the epicentre moving to, or alternatively moving back to, Afghanistan? This is what the "desired state" concept entails as well. We want an Afghanistan that is not the epicentre of terrorism. So even if it used to be just that on September 12, while it is not that at this very moment (currently it's a target of global terrorism, I'd argue), our interest is not to let it be an epicentre again (plus save it from being a target). Just that right there there's no epicentre to eliminate now, it doesn't mean we don't have interests there - once again, it doesn't even mean that our interests would be different, either.

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