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

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The R2P moral hazard... in Afghanistan?

Having accidentally seen the Amanpour show featuring, among others, Alan J. Kuperman, scholar, and currently a fellow of the Woodrow Wilson Center, a couple of days ago, I was interested enough by his comments to look up something to read from him. I came across his article on the moral hazard of the readiness to intervene in the murky world of mass violations of human rights, destructive intra-state conflict and genocide, especially with the seemingly growing prominence (or whatever) of the principle known as the Responsibility to Protect.
Full reference to the article:
Alan J. Kuperman: Mitigating the Moral Hazard of Humanitarian Intervention: Lessons from Economics. Global Governance 14 (2008), 219–240.
It was predictably the sort of highly stimulating intellectual fun of litte current practical consequence that I expected (which is not to say that it is not well-written, or that it is not clever, or that it is something that can in no way take on greater significance in the future).
The essence of its argument is simple: by offering a helping hand to potential rebels we might make potential rebels out of people who would otherwise just play silence-of-the-lambs or whatever. And this could, in fact, be problematic, as potential rebels tend to be destructive themselves and also to bring about a lot of destruction from the regime against which they rebel. Which could all be for a noble cause in the eye of the beholder, but may demand unwilling victims for its success. And so on.
Why am I writing of this here? How would this be relevant regarding Afghanistan? Well, the Taliban are certainly not rebelling for intervention, so if there is a link it has to be somewhere else.
Let me think.
Aha. I see. It can be found in the absence of something. In all those debates about the U.S. national interest that should (irony) drive the activities of the 38 ISAF contributing countries and the others that participate in Operation Enduring Freedom, one implicitly finds the constant rejection of the principle of the Responsibility to Protect, or R2P... and the rather mistaken idealisation of the 1990s when the UN and others were expressing concern about things like the war blockade of the Hazarajat where the Taliban were facing local resistance and persistent guerrilla warfare, but of course no intervention was meaningfully contemplated.
The interesting thing is, Kuperman himself identifies a "randomisation" of the response to possible humanitarian-intervention situations as a way of mitigating the moral hazard of the R2P "insurance" dilemma. That randomisation is being practiced, and when interventions are carried out, staying the course is not regarded as that what needs to be done by default.
I am not, actually, taking a normative view on this, saying that this is universally wrong, and that national interests should be forgotten and humanitarian interests necessarily prioritised all the time. I am merely intrigued, intellectually, by the total disconnect between the discourse about Afghanistan and the discourse of R2P...

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