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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

In Brief: The Viability of Statebuilding

Peacekeeping and state building should only be included in the process of deciding when to go to war in specific circumstances, not in all possible outbreaks of war. If a war is to be fought for the freedom of a state’s people from a sufficiently oppressive government, to end domestic atrocities between different factions, or to end the occupation of a state by an external group, then the issues of the state’s status, following the execution of war, are inarguably important and must be considered. Since, here, war would be fought for more noble, protective, or interventionary causes, true mission success can not be had without accounting for the wellbeing of the state and its people following the cessation of hostilities. However, if a war is fought as the result of aggression or otherwise hostile activity, particularly in cases where there is sufficient domestic support, there should be no considerations of state building and only those for peacekeeping insofar as necessary to ensure the continued success of the war effort. When a state has entered into a status of war as the result of its own actions and the government appears to be appropriately synchronized with the will of the people, then it should be the sole responsibility of the state, itself, to bear the burden of rebuilding what it will have inevitably broken.

Since peacekeeping -- and, by association, its peace imposition predecessor -- are necessarily part of ending a war, their role is clear. State building, however, is less so, as what kind of state, to what extent, and to which standards are all factors that must be addressed. Democratic republics or other similar forms of Western government are not necessarily appropriate for all states and peoples, and the particular needs and desires of a people must be considered when engaging in state building. Whether the people are prepared for a Western-style government, a modern society, and an immersion in the high technology now pervasive should be a decision left for themselves, and any state building efforts must necessarily include decisions. A failure to properly account for the people and their needs results in an ill-fitting form of government that is neither representative nor successful: both Afghanistan and Iraq stand as evidence to this point. Had the difficulty of peacekeeping and state building -- particularly regarding what form of state must be built -- been realized prior to the outbreak of warfare, both the strategies and goals of the war may have been substantially different and, perhaps, more successful.

Although there may exist an ethical imperative to engage in state building in the allowable cases, it remains unclear for whether this can actually be fully engaged, for one, single reason: financing. Ideally, the state requiring rebuilding should be able to fund its own development, through such means as natural resource exploitation or an exchange of services, but this is known to be exceedingly rare.

If the victor -- or, perhaps, liberator -- state is expected to engage in state building at its own expense, presumably as the result of the state in question’s inability to provide for itself, then the victor state faces a dilemma of funding the development of another state while a potentially un- or under-developed domestic status exists for itself. The victor state must, therefore, inquire as to whether necessary rebuilding efforts are not, first, required within its own borders and for its own people, through venues such as infrastructure, education, or healthcare. In the event that these needs have been domestically satisfied, the victor state must, then, investigate whether it has the financial ability to continue to support its own domestic needs while simultaneously developing the societal structure of another. Finally, the victor state must consider whether the rebuilding of this state will serve in its own best interests, such as a valuable ally or economic partner. If a state has domestic issues to be addressed, no funds for foreign state building, and is unlikely to see such an expenditure as part of an investment strategy, then the victor state cannot, in any regard, see to the rebuilding of another state following a war, regardless of ethical imperatives.

The needs of another state do not supercede those of the state itself.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Non-State Militaries and Declarations of Statehood: the Islamic State

As the Syrian civil war carries on, the Russia-Ukraine conflict remains rather tensely unresolved, and ISIS/ISIL has renamed itself the Islamic State (IS) -- following the acquisition of substantially greater territory in Iraq, the declaration of a Caliphate, and the alleged seizure of low-grade uranium -- the time has arrived that a topic, previously disregarded by many, requires attention:  non-state militaries.  Here, at Sense and Security, the subject has been alluded to only twice: on June 10, 2014 and February 2, 2014.

IS is most easily described as a proof-of-concept: in the modern context, it was a stateless military (no longer stateless) with demonstrated capabilities to pursue and acquire targets in a non-asymmetric fashion.  To date, the emphasis of Islamist engagements has been placed on asymmetric warfare, wherein the militants have been substantially outgunned, outmanned, and outmoded, but the behavior of IS, over the past few months, has been precisely the opposite.  Rather than undertaking battle in a way that emphasizes guerilla-style tactics, IS has used a more traditional approach to storming, conquering, and holding territory previously held or protected by another force.  This cannot have occurred, particularly at such a scale, if IS had a more haphazard or asymmetric structure, both administratively and militarily.

IS, therefore, should be considered much more than a militia or rebel force, and most assuredly different than a typical Islamist effort:  it is, truly, a stateless military.  In fact, it is now only stateless in the sense that it has not been recognized by any of the pre-requisite entities for statehood; however, it has acquired territory that it can, apparently, sufficiently defend from Iraqi and Syrian reclamation efforts, and has proclaimed sovereignty.  Reports indicate civil services are being rendered within the borders of IS and that governance structures are being created, just as would occur in any other newly created state.  Although many aspects -- such as freedom, the form of governance, and issues of religion -- are far from preferable, it would be difficult to not label IS a burgeoning state.

As both a burgeoning state and strangely modern adaptation of a traditional military, IS could only exist if appropriate training, funding, and circumstances were in place -- these requirements came in the form of the Syrian civil war, the continued unrest in Iraq, and the many years of asymmetric Islamist efforts.  Syria provided an opportunity for Islamists, previously fighting as an asymmetric force against Western forces, to form larger, more centralized, and more traditional militia forces to meet the Syrian government's military in battle.  The result was not just a semi-successful effort against Syria, but also the creation of a training environment -- both on the battlefield and in more formal environments -- to better unify the somewhat disparate levels of experience, tactics, and strategies of the individual jihadists.  Having been trained, then tested against the Syrian military, these jihadists evolved into an Islamist form of soldiers.

Syria and Iraq both provided poorly defended targets, through which territory could be acquired and held:  Syria remains focused on addressing the civil war itself and Iraq remains a poorly governed, fragmented catastrophe.  Unlike other states that may share some of these characteristics -- such as Afghanistan or Pakistan -- Syria and Iraq, sharing a large border, created an opportunity that did not require the full invasion of an entire state, or the invasion of a poorly defended region that could quickly be regained, if given proper attention.  Instead, IS acquired contiguous territory, out of both, without any great resistance, containing various forms of natural resources (including oil), technology and munitions (including Iraqi weapons stores), and funding sources (including banks) that will help to perpetuate the organization's success, as will its growing pool of regional and international recruits.

As such, the Islamic State has proven that, with the proper circumstances, a non-state entity can reform itself into a more traditional structure and declare sovereignty, following the ample acquisition of territory -- this was, until recently, not considered plausible.  Unless the United States or other major powers intervenes, IS is likely to continue its string of successes and further consolidate its power, since neither Syria nor Iraq appear to have the ability or interest required to reverse the organization's current course.  Moreover, as a state inherently friendly to Islamist ideals and dedicated to countermanding the strength of non-Islamist powers, it presents an imminent threat to the rest of the world: having grown from an asymmetric terror actor into a state structure, it should be assumed that others will be trained and financed, in accordance with both the experience and ideals of IS, to further its mission beyond present borders.

Although the remainder of Iraq and Syria may be more immediate targets, others -- both near (Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and perhaps even Israel) and far (Europe and the United States) -- should consider the very real possibility of a future attack.  Such attacks may be asymmetric or traditional, dependent largely upon the target's distance and military capabilities, but their intentions will undoubtedly remain unified: to expand the borders of the newly created Islamic State, in accordance with the principles outlined through its declaration of sovereignty.  Its successes, thus far, have only emboldened IS to continue.