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

Sunday, March 1, 2009

From the AIV-GIV hydra to the Wardak APPF and Pakistani rifles

This is what happens nowadays when I at least try to read something not Afghanistan-related. I fail. I was preparing for a lecture about conflicts and insurgencies in the Central African Republic and Chad, and I came across Steve Reyna's study of "structural violence" in Chad.

Reference: Steve Reyna: Imagining Monsters: A Structural History of Warfare in Chad (1968-1990). In: Globalization, the State and Violence, edited by Jonathan Friedman, AltaMira Press: Walnut Creek - Lanham - New York - London, 2003, pp. 279-308.

It gives us a rather interesting insight with the concept of the AIV-GIV hydra. I don't want to tear out excerpts here to outline the essence. I'll rather say my own words, especially since I'm looking to somewhat reconfigure this concept to fit what I want to point to. The abbreviations AIV and GIV stand for Autonomous Institutions of Violence and Government Institution of Violence. It is a commonly observed phenomenon, seen in a number of cases, that in extremely poor states, with large areas characterised by abdicated governance, you just see conflicts in the so-called centre, zero-sum games between the powers-that-be and the powers-that-would-be, for the resource of international legitimacy and all that it can practically entail, with spillovers to the peripheries and potentially even beyond the largely administrative borders of the country.

The point about calling enduring struggles between AIVs and a GIV, with the status of GIV taken on in the revolving-door process of a continuous string of violent takeovers of power by one AIV after the other, a "hydra," is that they seem never-ending. Marxist /structuralist authors call this "anarchy" in the sense that there are "no stable relations of domination in these forcefields."

(For an interesting aside, Virgil Hawkins effectively and eloquently debates whether this is "chaos" here.)

In my reading of the concept, and it takes somewhat beyond what Reyna's version of it strictly is, is that a continuous flow of arms and great-power intrigue created the hydra that cannot be killed. Going beyond this in time, as Reyna's study is originally from the beginning of the 1990s, what happened after the Cold War was that in the end the hydra's heads became smaller but more numerous. Arms continued to flow in ways, and AIVs needed sources of financing other than external powers' now not-so-generous and not-necessarily-forthcoming support. Fragmentation occurred therefore, as the exploitation of local resources empowered lower-level commanders. Meanwhile, GIVs were affected as well, since their sources dried up to a degree, too. Soldiers turned rebels in some cases - this is what is called the phenomenon of "sobels" by some, mostly in some African contexts.

Does this say something about Afghanistan then? There some of the external intrigue was gone in the 1990s, with Soviet and American withdrawal of interest. Arms remained and continued to flow. Some further fragmentation occurred...

And what are we doing now? And, on the other side of the Durand Line, what are they doing at the same time, handing out rifles, justifying it with reference to our intentions?

We are all about to create quasi-GIVs... Many. Us, we call them Afghan Public Protection Force militias. The other side of the Durand Line calls them village lashkars or what. We try this in Wardak first.

The author of the piece about the Wardak programme that I just linked to, Virginia Moncrieff, half-sympathetically says this in reaction: "When thinking of ways out of the Afghanistan miasma, arming young, uneducated men with guns, as a "protection force" does not immediately spring to mind as a great way forward." (You know, I don't really like the part about calling a country a miasma. Why? Wasn't it Afghanistan rather that caught all sorts of miasmas coming from beyond its borders? Wouldn't Afghans be entitled to call a whole list of other countries a "miasma"?)

Anyway, the potentially most discouraging structural reading of this, continuing along Reyna's unfinished lines from the early 1990s, is that our corrective reaction to what was the monstrous child of the AIV-GIV hydra aims just to create an IV hydra, with unclear boundaries between AIV and GIV. A sobel-hydra. This may kill the monstrous child, but merely through a reincarnation of the old monster turned against it.

Anyway, let's hope that another, this time extremely careful injection of guns and gunners is what will bring protection to the people. That would be the main aim of the APPF after all.

No comments: