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

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Blogging about blogging about rumours and leaks

As promised, posts keep coming here. My relatively intensive blogging over at the other site I've launched will give me what to sum up in any case - blogging about what I'm blogging about. As to today, I looked at some unrelated, but interesting pieces of news, that were relatively insignificant, in one case probably unsubstantiated, in the other potentially unsubstantiated, yet interesting to speculate on, for example seeing people's reactions to them.

Both might be interesting - as well as already known to you:
  • My first post today was about concerns in some narrow French circles, originating indirectly from a blogger of the daily Libération, that many Muslim soldiers in the French land forces refuse to serve in Afghanistan. One fellow Hungarian, Tiboru, has already done a good job of picking apart these rumours. Some people just thought of generalising over a low number of cases ("less than five"), with no clear picture of causality and without any deep understanding of motives in the really low number of cases one can cite. Actually, the original Libération blogpost's title at Secret Défense, "L'armée reconnait que quelque soldat musulmans refusent de partir en Afghanistan," is a touch more carefully formulated than the title of Le Figaro's article on the issue, "Des musulmans refusent de combattre," even though Le Figaro starts out by referring to Secret Défense, and not the other way around. At the end of his critical take on all this, fellow Hungarian blogger Tiboru still considers the possibility of Muslim soldiers going over to the other side with a tank or an APC. While almost everything is possible in this world, just not evenly possible, I did see the need to note, in reaction to this, how loyalty issues do or may come up in any case in Afghanistan, for example with regards to ANP and ANA units or Afghan PMCs; that such issues were much more of a concern for the Soviets back in their time; and that in the current military coalition (broader than ISAF) that is looking to handle the militant challenge in Afghanistan/Pakistan, there is a country where the loyalty (to the coalition's goals) of a whole shadow faction of certain state organs might be pondered. I was mostly intent on indicating by this that Muslim soldiers in Western armies are perhaps not really the major concern on the ground. For some historical context I even brought up how the Grande Mosquée de Paris was built partly as a tribute to Muslim soldiers of the French armed forces who fought loyally in World War One, even while the Ottoman sultan tried to play leader of the umma, and call on them to desert.
  • The second post was about this piece of mysterious news, straight from Algeria's remote mountains, via, of all possible media, The Sun. It said, on January 19, that AQIM (al Qaeda in the Maghreb) militants died, some 40 of them, of the plague, in Tizi Ouzu province. In the evening then, in the Washington Times, an unnamed "senior US official" came out to leak that a terrorist biological weapons program went awry in Tizi Ouzu, but no, they can't say to have heard of no dead bodies. Just to reassure everyone. The picture is more than murky overall, and I'm not able to say what really happened. Still, bringing this up gave me the chance to revisit the issue of why one might be there in Afghanistan, pointing out how political instability depriving vast areas of a modern health system increases the threat of infectious diseases that can spread from the most wretched places on the planet. And I pointed out how polio will never be globally eradicated unless the Afghan-Pakistani borderland is stabilised somehow. The Sun, for its part, reported its non-specified al-Qaeda sources' concerns about Algerians taking the plague to the FATA with them.

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