Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Direct Action

Article on "Direct Action" as analysed in General Frank Kitson's 1971 counter-insurgency manual Low Intensity Operations:

It is rare to find large numbers of people who are so interested in a political cause that they are prepared to abandon their work and sacrifice their recreational time merely to stand around in a group being troublesome to the government on the off chance that it will make concessions in some direction which will probably bring them little personal benefit or satisfaction. In fact only the hard core organizers are likely to be sufficiently dedicated to behave in this way, and such people are normally viewed with suspicion by the normal working man or housewife and even by the majority of the student population.

Kitson argued that to overcome this problem, the hard core organizers need to mobilise an intermediate group of 'politically conscious idealists' in sufficient numbers to goad the authorities into discrediting themselves by some violent action.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Reconceptualising War

By Mary Kaldor. 3 great points: I had to include them all. The first 'point' is rather complex and frankly incoherent - at least to me. Nevertheless it is thought-stimulating.

It is now fashionable to argue that instead of imposing international norms, the international community should help to strengthen local structures. I agree with Shahrbanou on this issue. Very often what the international community regards as traditional structures are new institutions established by the warring parties. Both Kosovo and Afghanistan have been transformed by war and conflict and what was tradition has often been totally uprooted and reinvented in ways that may often be even more oppressive and violent especially to women and minorities than in the past. Kosovars, for example, ended blood feuds during the period of non-violent resistance; now blood feuds have been reinvented. Of course, there do have to be hybrid structures - people have to design their own institutions - but, in my experience, many ordinary people in conflict zones do not necessarily want to return to the past and welcome international support if it is about meeting needs and respecting human dignity and if it enables people to deliberate without fear.

This analysis also has implications for dealing with the greed element of contemporary conflict. Establishing a legitimate economy is often the key to ending violence. The Kimberly process for diamond certification was a hugely important factor in ending the wars in West Africa. What about the legalisation of drugs as a way to undercut the war in Afghanistan?

Actually violence is the opposite of conflict, as the French sociologist Michel Wievorka argues, “Violence shuts down conflict and makes it more difficult to address genuine grievances and ‘root causes’”.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Reconceptualising war

Reconceptualising war
Mary Kaldor, 24 February 2010

What if defeating the enemy was the justification for war, but not its real goal? What if its goal was a certain kind of power-brokerage?

Because the so-called international community tend to think of war as a contest of wills they focus on reconciling the extremists rather than bringing together ordinary people. Indeed they hardly ever talk to ordinary people, partly because of their colonial mentality so vividly described by Oliver Richmond, and partly because they think that the extremists are the power brokers, which, in turn, reinforces their preset view of the war as a contest of wills. The paradox is that by so doing they legitimise the people with guns and disenfranchise everyone else. If we think of war as a mutual enterprise, then a different strategy is required aimed at marginalising the extremists.