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Stability/Conflict Framing

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Stability/Conflict Framing

Framing criticism of the war on terror in terms of threats to U.S. national security generates a militarized paradigm. We orient ourselves towards “failing” states like Pakistan in a militaristic manner—we need more precise forms of killing to solve instability—that’s their whole solvency contention

Neil COOPER Peace Studies @ Bradford ‘5 “Picking out the Pieces of the Liberal Peaces: Representations of Conflict Economies and the Implications for Policy” Security Dialogue 36 (4) p. 471-
The political economies of contemporary conflicts have also been the object of analyses influenced by critical theory and post-structuralism. Mark Duffield, in particular, has identified shadow trade in the developed world as a form of really existing development taking place outside the formal structures of the global economy, from which large parts remain excluded. Much of this literature has also emphasized the need to distinguish between different kinds of economies that exist in the same environment, for instance the combat economy of the warlords, the shadow economy of the mafiosi and the coping economy of ordinary citizens (Pugh, Cooper & Goodhand, 2004). A key feature in this work, however, has been a concern with the way in which weak and failed states have been incorporated into a discourse that has re-inscribed underdevelopment as the source of multiple instabilities for the developed world—what Luke & Ó Tuathail (1997) term the virus of disorder’. Duffield’s work, in particular, has identified the processes by which the securitization of underdevelopment has underpinned the new ‘liberal peace’ aid paradigm, centred around the restoration of order through the application of neoliberalism and the formal accoutrements of democracy and civil (but not economic) rights (Duffield, 2001). Indeed, for Duffield, development has become a form of biopolitics concerned with addressing the putative threats posed to effective states by transborder migratory flows, shadow economies, illicit networks and the global insurgent networks of ineffective states (Duffield, 2005). And, in contrast to the Cold War, the geopolitics of effective states is concerned less with arming Third World allies and more with transforming the populations inside ineffective states. In this view, development represents a ‘security mechanism that attempts through poverty reduction, conditional debt cancellation and selective funding to insulate [developed] mass society from the permanent crisis on its borders’ (Duffield, 2005: 157).

While Duffield’s analysis arguably understates the continuities between the Cold War and the post-Cold War era, these insights are nevertheless of particular relevance when examining both shifts in discourse and policy on development and security in general and the political economy of conflict in particular, and it is to these that we will now turn.

Towards a Synthesis of Difference or a Difference in Synthesis?

In the aftermath of 9/11, weak and failed states have become the object of a heightened discourse of threat that represents them as actual or potential nodal points in global terrorist networks. In this conception, the absence of state authority and the persistence of disorder creates local societies relatively immune to technologies of surveillance, making them ideal breeding grounds for terrorist recruitment, training, money-laundering and armstrafficking, as well as organized crime more generally. As Collier et al. (2003: 41) note, civil war generates territories outside the control of governments that have become ‘epicentres of crime and disease’ and that export ‘global evils’ such as drugs, AIDS and terrorism.

This has produced an element of synthesis between new-right critiques of the current aid paradigm and at least some critics from the liberal left. In particular, the idea that the neoliberal project has been taken too far and has had the counterproductive effect of eroding state capacity and legitimacy—a traditional refrain of the left—has now been taken up by realists. Thus, Fukuyama’s State Building signs up to earlier analyses that have emphasized the way in which neopatrimonial regimes used external conditionality as an excuse for cutting back on modern state sectors while expanding the scope of the neopatrimonial state (Fukuyama, 2004: 22). Fukuyama has also become a belated convert to the idea that, under the Washington Consensus, the state-building agenda was given insufficient emphasis (Fukuyama, 2004: 7). Thus, the new-right analysis is one that emphasizes strong states and local empowerment. Even (especially) the Bush administration concluded in its National Security Strategy of 2002 that ‘America is now threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing states’ (White House, 2002: 1).

However, this apparent consensus between the new-right analysis and the liberal critique raises a number of concerns. First, the new-right analysis is situated as a response to the apparently new global dangers unleashed by 9/11. As Fukuyama (2004: 126) notes, ‘the failed state problem . . . was seen previously as largely a humanitarian or human rights issue’, whereas now it has been constructed as a problem of Western security///

. This dichotomy between the situation preceding and that after 9/11 is most certainly an exaggeration. Underdevelopment has always been securitized, just in different ways; and even its post-Cold War manifestation was firmly in place well before 9/11. Indeed, this historical amnesia can be understood as an intrinsic element of a securitizing discourse that justifies regulatory interventions as a response to a specific global emergency rather than as part of longer-term trends.

Nevertheless, it is also the case that the securitization of underdevelopment highlighted by Duffield has become acutely heightened post-9/11, and it is in this context that current debates about the need to eradicate debt, increase aid and reform trading structures are taking place. Thus, the cosmopolitan emphasis on responding to the plight of other global citizens has been merged with the security imperatives of the war on terror to create something of a monolithic discourse across left and right that justifies intervention, regulation and monitoring as about securing both the poor and the developed world.

Consequently, what structures the debate about addressing abuse or underdevelopment in this perspective is not the abuse or underdevelopment per se but its links with multiple threats posed to the developed world. A continuum is thus created for external intervention, entailing not merely the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq but also structuring debate about Somalia or the need to address shadow trade. Moreover, this discourse is by no means unique to new-right perspectives. Thus, the recent Barcelona Report on a Human Security Doctrine for Europe deploys much the same kind of language, despite being situated in an explicitly cosmopolitanist analysis that emphasizes the importance of human security. For the authors, regional conflicts and failed states are ‘the source of new global threats including terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and organised crime’ and consequently ‘no citizens of the world are any longer safely ensconced behind their national border’ (Study Group on Europe’s Security Capabilities, 2004: 6–7).

Interventionary strategies, whether designed to address weapons of mass destruction, AIDS or the shadow trade emanating from civil conflict, are thus explicitly framed as prophylactic strategies designed to protect the West from terror, disease, refugees, crime and disorder. In the words of an IISS (2002: 2) report on Somalia, the concern is with ‘inoculating failed or failing states against occupation by al-Qaeda’.

This is not to suggest there is now complete synthesis between new-right analyses and liberal critiques. As already noted, analyses such as the Barcelona Report are located in a cosmopolitanist perspective that still emphasizes the importance of providing human security to the citizens of weak states and stresses the need for a bottom-up approach that empowers locals. In contrast, for Fukuyama (2004: 115), state-building and local ownership somehow manage to encompass approval for the idea that, on key areas such as central banking, ‘ten bright technocrats can be air-dropped into a developing country and bring about massive changes for the better in public policy’. The emphasis is also on state capacity for enforcement, ‘the ability to send someone with a uniform and a gun to force people to comply with the state’s laws’ (Fukuyama, 2004: 8) and to maintain the integrity of borders too easily traversed by networked crime and terror.

However, the promise inherent in this monolithic discourse is of a potential synthesis between solidarism and security—one in which welfare, representation and security (for both rich and poor) can really be combined. The risk, though, is that security will delimit solidarism in terms of both the breadth of its reach and the depth of its implementation. For example, following US allegations of support for terrorism, the operations of a Saudi charity operating in Somalia were suspended, throwing over 2,600 orphans onto the streets (ICG, 2005a: 15). Similarly, while the USA has increased aid, much of the direction of this aid has been determined by the priorities of the war on terror, while bilateral trade arrangements have been used to reward key allies in the war on terror, such as Pakistan (Tujan, Gaughran & Mollett, 2004). A further notable feature of the post-9/11 environment is that while the ‘war on terror’ framing has colonized the representation of a wide variety of topics, including discussion of conflict trade and shadow war economies, insights from this literature have not always travelled in the reverse direction. Thus, even the most basis lessons from the literature on the economic challenges of peacebuilding were ignored in Iraq. What was notable here was the failure of imagination to conceive pre-invasion Iraq as an entity that exhibited many features of a war economy—for example, high levels of corruption, weak infrastructure, a shadow trade in oil and other forms of sanctions-busting, and a militarized society. Similarly, concern at the way porous borders and informal economies may have been exploited by terror networks in the Sahel has led the USA to develop a Pan-Sahel Initiative focused on reinforcing borders and enhancing surveillance. In other words, cutting off networks that have ‘become the economic lifeblood of Saharan peoples’ (ICG, 2005b: i) has been prioritized rather than dealing with the underlying dynamics driving such networks.


In some respects, then, there has been a degree of convergence in at least the mainstream discourse and language deployed to discuss weak states and their various features, including shadow economies. The current emphasis is on reversing the excesses of neoliberal reforms that are deemed to have undermined the state in the 1980s and 1990s. The consensus is on the need for strong states and local empowerment (see the contribution by Rolf Schwarz in this edition of Security Dialogue). However, while the discourse and terminology are the same, the meaning applied to them is often very different. How these commonalities and differences will play themselves out in the development of policy remains to be seen. What is nonetheless clear is that much of the discussion of civil war economies has become infected by the virus that is the language of the war on terror. A key concern that this gives rise to is that such framings will structure all or much policy on inconflict and post-conflict societies as being about providing hermetic protection for the West, rather than really addressing the lessons about the local economic dynamics driving shadow economies. The risk is that post-9/11 post-conflict reconstruction may fuse the liberal peace aid paradigm (a continued emphasis on the rigours of neoliberalism, albeit mitigated by a nod towards poverty reduction) with elements of more traditional Cold War interventions that emphasized formal state strength: powerful militaries and intelligence services (albeit mitigated by a nod to civil society). The ways in which this synthesis between the security imperatives of the developed world, cosmopolitanist concerns with the poor and the current reworking of the neoliberal model play themselves out will only really become clear with the test of time. However, what seems to be emerging is a variable-geometry approach to weak states. Some, like Iraq and Afghanistan, may become the object of heightened discourses of threat, producing highly militarized intervention strategies that prioritize order and security issues while failing to address other factors such as the nature of shadow economies and their relationship to occupation and regulation. Indeed, at their extreme, as in Iraq, rather than witnessing the modification of discredited neoliberal models, such objects of intervention may experience even more virulent versions (Klein, 2005). Others, such as Sudan, may find themselves subject to a post-9/11 variant of the new barbarism thesis, in which the anarchy and extremes of violence they are deemed to exhibit are simultaneously presented not only as a rationale for intervention but also as a reason for severely delimiting intervention in the absence of acute imperatives for action provided by the logic of the war on terror. In between, there may be a broad swathe of states, from Sierra Leone to Angola to Liberia, where specific intervention policies may be less strongly influenced by the logic of war on terror and the more general securitization of underdevelopment, but where broader policies that influence such interventions are mediated via the dictates of both solidarism and the security and economic interests of the developed world. Thus, it is perhaps more appropriate to refer not to the imposition of the liberal peace on post-conflict societies but to the imposition of a variety of liberal peaces (Richmond, 2005), albeit ones still imposed within the broad constraints of neoliberalism and within the context of profoundly unequal global trading structures that contribute to underdevelopment.

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