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

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Afghanistan and a costs/benefits perspective

Blogging has never been so effortless. I will just copy/paste here the executive summary of an extensive background paper I wrote for HIIA, the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs, titled Pomeranian grenadiers in the Hindu Kush: A look at the Afghanistan mission from a (broadly interpreted) cost/benefit perspective.
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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
This policy background paper discusses whether the Afghanistan mission—or any other similar international mission—could or should be looked at from an individual country cost/benefit perspective. For example: from Hungary’s perspective.
It makes the following points:
1) Costs and benefits have to be interpreted beyond a narrow economic sense: Security costs and benefits matter.
2) (Security and other) costs and benefits have to be examined from a security community perspective rather than from an individual country perspective.
3) Security interdependence is a relevant but non-decisive argument in favour of prioritising a security community perspective. Global security interdependence is limited. Regionally as well as within issue-specific security complexes (i.e., within webs of specific security relationships) security interdependence is higher.
4) Empirically identifying issue-specific security complexes is methodologically challenging.
5) Since it is challenging to measure or even describe security relationships, it is subsequently challenging to show how certain threats (designated as such through securitisation) affect a country’s interests. In the absence of clear threat perceptions and a truly consensual threat list, it is problematic to shape a country’s policy in the contemporary security environment.
6) In the case of ISAF, the impact that coalition members presently see either from refugee flows, or from jihadist terrorism, or from the drugs trade, is not enough in and of itself to dictate to each country its exact necessary measure of involvement in Afghanistan.
7) The refugee flow security complex is contained in Afghanistan’s immediate region. Jihadist terrorism is partly being deflected in the direction of Afghanistan (and other, similar areas) at the moment. The illicit opiate trade security complex is meanwhile anchored in the West—persistent demand in Western countries does not suggest it would truly be possible to eliminate the market of illicit opiates.
8) Instead of these threat sources in and of themselves, it is the picture in its entire complexity that matters. The key issues are interlinked, and overall success is important to the West.
9) Instead of measuring threats as they are at the present, expectations matter, about what failure in Afghanistan would mean in terms of the above listed threats: most importantly with regards to terrorist networks that could gain a lot if the West would abandon its efforts in Afghanistan.
10) Instead of looking at Afghanistan as an isolated unit of analysis, one has to take a regional outlook and ask whether involvement is necessary in Afghanistan’s region as such.
11) If one insists on a disaggregated analysis—i.e., tackling threats one by one, trying to connect them directly to current policy-making—there are remarkable consequences to ponder. Such analysis may dictate more European involvement in Iraq, for example.
12) Some implications of a disaggregated approach are absurd. Such an approach could dictate departing a mission area as soon as threat indicators diminish, although such a departure may be premature.
13) Security communities that exist today, such as NATO or the EU, formed only partly under the influence of common threat perceptions. There is much more that contributed to their formation. Their day-to-day operation is more about mutual aid than collective self-aid. They are not issue-specific.
14) Even if we could, somehow, make issue-specific security complexes exactly measurable, they would not provide absolute guidance for policy. A country that is not critically implicated by any of the relevant security complexes concerned, may still contribute to the Afghanistan mission for humanitarian reasons.
15) Humanitarian considerations cannot be considered exclusively altruistic. Collective action by stakeholders in defence of a desired world order is something that furthers collective interests—if such collective action is well-conceived and carried out efficiently.
16) The question of whether the Afghanistan mission is an overall worthy endeavour should be viewed separately from the question of whether it can or cannot be unproductive or counterproductive in its current form. That it is a worthy endeavour does not entail that it is guaranteed to produce success, or that there is nothing that could be improved about it on the strategic, tactical and operational levels. Far from it.
17) These arguments are difficult to present to the public. Yet the engagement of the public—trying—is necessary. That is the only way the reactions as well as the expectations of the public may be better informed. Subsequently it is the only way for decision-makers to at least have the chance to get policy and strategy right.

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