POLA90 – Lecture 10 (March 20)
Intervention and State (Re)-Building in Fragile Polities
The „central goal‟ in promoting development and democracy
in post-conflict societies is the building of a „state‟. Without
building the state, nothing else can really happen. Need to
distinguish it from the regime.
This is an extremely challenging goal – all processes of state
formation being long, violent, and “messy”.
The question is: Can state building be promoted and led by
external actors and, if so, how and how long would it take?
What does this process look like? What are the challenges?
Barnett Rubin: “(Re) Building Afghanistan: The Folly of Stateless
On the one hand, Rubin recognizes that any project of state-
building would be incredibly challenging:
o Historically it was a weak state, weak monopoly over
means of violence AND a weak taxation base. Most of
its money coming from the external arena.
o Evidenced by its collapse in the wake of the Soviet
withdrawal in 1989
o Further complicated by the rise of powerful,
regionalized warlords. This is the legacy that they are
dealing with today.
o They in turn have been empowered by ability to capture
revenue sources that might have gone to the state
(local taxation/extortion, links to transnational economy
– drugs, etc, external patronage/rent)
On the other hand, Rubin highlights some fundamental
problems with Western approaches to state-building in
o Quickly pushed for a democratic transition in
Afghanistan before the institutions of a state were in
o At the same time, they also promoted the „shadow‟
power of non-state actors, namely the various
regionalized warlords – failing, for example, to promote
their disarmament and demobilization or re-channel
their revenue sources into the state
o wonders whether the International Community is up to
the difficult, violent, and long term task that promoting
state-building in Afghanistan would require Historical Background to Issues of Conflict Resolution and International
Explaining the Rise of Military Intervention as a Policy Option
for the International Community.
o Initially, sovereignty was the overarching principle that
governed relations between states – going back to the
Treaty of Westphalia in 1648…
Reflected in the UN Charter that describes
sovereignty as “inviolable” – there is a bias
against intervention in order to promote a stable
Everyone intervening in other countries
would lead to a lot of instability and conflict.
Newly decolonized states of the developing world
also determined to protect their new-found
independence. Sovereignty gave them a legal
basis to keep other out while they try to figure
out their problems.
UNSC‟s ability to enact “collective security”
measures restricted by the Cold War divisions and
veto power of the great powers (USA and USSR in
Emergence of Competing Norms in the Post-World World Two
o Article One of the UN Charter:
Emphasizes that the promotion of human rights is
a fundamental mission of the organization
If the state is oppressing individuals, there is a
conflict between helping them and sovereignty.
Symbolized by the adoption of the UN Universal
Declaration on Human Rights (UNDHR) in 1948….
o Rise of a Global Human Rights Movement
Emerges in the West in response to political
repression in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union
Given expression by the Helsinki Accord in 1975
that was said to spark a “wave” of underground
civic activism on human rights issues
Paralleled by the rise of global human rights non-
governmental organizations (NGOs) such as
Amnesty International founded in 1961
All began to challenge norms of state sovereignty
and non-interference in domestic affairs
Now…human rights criteria are important pre-
requisites for the delivery of foreign aid and for membership in many international organizations
such as the EU and NATO (eg. Turkey)
o The End of the Cold War and the Rise of Discussions of
End of Soviet veto power in the UNSC
Easier to reach agreement because the US
AND USSR weren‟t just vetoing anything
that the other wanted to do.
Hopeful discussion of a “new world order”
Reduced expenditures on armaments
No more Cold War accumulation of
Increased expenditure on development
Rise of collective security and humanitarian
interventions to protect people
Rising phenomenon of collapsing and „failed‟
states – Somalia, etc.
o Dramatic Expansion in Size and Scope of UN Operations
abroad in the 1990s
# Of UN troops/peacekeepers increases from
4,000 to 70,000 between 1991-1998
World Food Program dramatically increases it
UN becomes increasingly involved in rebuilding
failed states (Mozambique, Haiti, Cambodia, el
Salvador, Angola, Kurdish “safe haven” in
northern Iraq, etc.)
o Responsibility to Protect Doctrine (R2P)
Formulated by International Commission of
Intervention and State Sovereignty ICISS (of
which Canada played a major part) in 2001
Created in response to a series of failed
interventions in the 1990s – principally Somalia
(1991) and Rwanda (1994)
Passed by the UNGA in 2005…
Aim was to establish norms on which decisions
about intervention could be based.
Goal must be to avert human suffering –
targeting “grave” and “large-scale”
violations of fundamental human rights…
Rules guiding military interventions...
all military options must be explored.
Must be a last resort. scale of intervention must
correspond/be proportionate to acts of
operation must have a reasonable
chance of success.
o This is why many people are
hesitant about helping Syria.
All interventions must be sanctioned by
either the UNGA, the UNSC, or by a regional
Interventions carry with them the
responsibility to “rebuild” and subsequently
“prevent further abuses of human rights”
o The War on Terror
Revealed failed states to be a serious security
“a tear in the global ozone layer” - Ignatief
Michael Ignatief described interventions and
subsequent state building programs in the wake
of 9/11 as being one of the “key imperatives” of
the 21 century
Resulted in two US-led interventions in two years
- Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003)
o Interim Conclusions
Emergence of „a half-way house‟ between
sovereignty and a commitment to the protection
of human rights…
One the one hand, sovereignty remains the main
principle underlying the international order today.
The real question is in what circumstances can we
cross that border.
Yet, the emerging norms around human rights
have opened up space for new dynamics in
How this may affect fragile and collapsed states in
the Global South is what we turn to now…
The Challenges and Dilemmas of Re-Establishing Security in Post-
The Dilemmas of International Intervntions in Failed
o Understanding the complex dynamics of conflict
o How best to intervene to stop the fighting?
What will work best. How can they guarantee that they will have
o How to find a sustainable state-building formula after
the fighting stops?
The Complexity of Conflict Situations
o NOT the result of „ancient‟ and/or „irrational‟
simplistic and analytically shallow
can lead to what Ignatief called „the seductiveness
of moral disgust‟
Saying that things aren‟t related to us so we
shouldn‟t get involved, but most of the
world conflicts are related to colonial
legacies caused by the western countries.
o Nonetheless, complex and unpredictable set of
conditions which makes decision-making processes
Weak and permeable state structures
High degree of social-political factionalism.
Multiple rules of the game, multiple forms of
Emergence of „war economy‟ dynamics
often ones that are transnational/global in
High degree of civilian casualties – heightening
moral imperatives for action
The context of new wars.
o Two broad set of complex dynamics:
Unfavorable structural conditions…
Disincentives on the part of various actors/parties
to decide to end the conflict…
o Given that structural conditions difficult to change
quickly, international interventions often focus initially
on changing calculations and incentives.
We should look at the reasons why countries
intervene, and what their incentives were.
Wonder how they can create an incentive to get
the fighting groups to settle their differences.
o Once the conflict has stopped, however, it is the
subsequent state-building programs that seek to alter
the structural conditions that underlie weak polities
Intervening to Stop the Fighting
o “Intervening powers can affect the structure of
incentives for continued violence and influence the calculations of belligerents about the benefits of
negotiated settlement” (p. 14). - Charles King, Ending
Civil Wars, International Institute for Security Studies,
Making Conflict Unprofitable.
Purpose is the sever the links between
conflict, war, and profit.
Actions: sanctions, freezing of assets,
control over financial/remittance flows,
eradication of crops (opium, coca, etc.),
regulating resource flows („blood
diamonds‟, etc.), care with regards
humanitarian assistance that can serve to
Resources, profits, andgreed are
rarely the sole source of conflict.
o Causes of conflict complex,
o Weight of importance varies
from conflict to conflict…
Moreover, contradictory results (Eg.
sanctions often backfire)…
Hence, no silver bullets!
Creating Incentives for Negotiating a Political
The purpose is to forge an agreement to re-
create the state. An internal agreement
rather than an imposed external agreement.
It will only work if the political leaders agree
For them to do so, they must be given a
stake in the process – they must be able to
see that they will derive advantage from
this new state.
To put this another way, the new state will
need to be seen to create opportunities for
these powerful actors to acquire power,
wealth, and security
Statebuilding requires an elite
How to do this: Control over different parts of the
state. Give different groups different
Mutual veto powers within the
decision-making apparatus of the
Security guarantees – at worst
allowing each of the negotiating
parties to maintain their militia
o Example: Lebanon, one guy was
allowed to keep his militia.
Sharing of administrative offices of
the state. Divide them up
proportionately according to former
amounts of power.
Allowing for group autonomy. Let
groups deal with their own social
o Example: the groups in Lebanon
had full control over their laws
regarding divorce, child custody,
etc. And no one could veto it.
Allowing for amnesties and impunity
of wartime atrocities
Since 1945, less than 25% of all civil
wars has ended with negotiations and
Those that have, most have
established an unstable peace – with
50% of all negotiated settlements
returning to civil war within 5 years…
o Highly factionalized
environments make the re-
creation of the state difficult