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Case Of Ends And Means In Conflict
ISSUE 247
Front Page
Index
Headlines

Extremists Linked To The Terrorist Courts Of Mogadishu Burn Haatuf Newspaper In Buroa

IGAD Forces Must Stay Out Of The Territories Of Somaliland

Somalia's Islamic Group Imposes Harsh Rules On Media, Says Press Watchdog

UN Pulls Staff Out Of Somalia

Djibouti To Hold Summit To End Somali Violence

Range Resources Signs US$50 Million Deal With Canadian Canmex

Regional Affairs

Garbage Collection Puts Money In The Pockets Of The Poo

U.S.-Ethiopian Security Ties Deepen

CANMEX Signs MOU To Acquire Interest In
Two Oil And Gas Prospects In Puntland, Somali

Editorial
Special Report

International News

Somalia: Washington's New Approach To The SICC

If Killing Civilians Is Terror, Then Who's The Terrorist?

Muslim Cabbies Refuse Alcohol-Toting Fares

Two Teens Charged As Adults In Killing

Monitors Needed On Ethiopia-Somalia Border - Envoy

Scholar Calls On International Community To Interfere In Somalia

Case Of Ends And Means In Conflict

FEATURES & COMMENTARY

As Threat Of Regional Conflict Grows, A Critical Moment For Somalia

Ibis Triumph Raises Hopes For Rarest Bird

The Emerging Russian Giant Plays its Cards Strategically

Ex-Model Iman Hopes To Help Working Women

Islamic Courts Union Stirs Kenya

Somalia : Radical Militant Youth Group Becoming Dominant - Analyst

Food for thought

Opinions

Somaliland Native Doctors In The Diaspora Should Contribute To Their Community
Like Dr. Idan

Three Things That The World Can Do In Somalia To Avoid A Taliban-like Regime

Great Things That Happen In Somaliland

Here Again The Warlords Became-Islamo-Warlords!

Driven To Death By Political
Instability And Poverty

Reply To The Article Titled: ''Security Threat To Somaliland From Islamic Courts'' By Rashid Nur

Exposing The Lexicon Of The Anti-Somaliland Camp

BOOK REVIEW: LADH

Christopher Coker and Greg Mills

THERE is one question those studying the Middle East struggle to answer: why is it that some people are willing to take up arms in a struggle in which they know they will likely die — or, in extreme cases, are willing to strap bombs to themselves and commit suicide for their cause? The answer to this question is key to understanding how to end the ongoing violence. The question is related to another: how to deal with military insurgency? This is a question being asked from Colombia to Kashmir, Congo to Iraq. Finding the answers has so far involved scrutinizing past campaigns from Algeria to Zimbabwe, but especially Malaya and Vietnam.

Until now these have afforded a set of lessons which centers on the importance of public diplomacy in winning the battle for hearts and minds, and also stresses slowly extending governance and prosperity through “oil stains” or “ink spots” of relative stability, employing unity of effort by nations and institutions.

But in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the bulk of the west’s attention and resources are focused, such mechanistic instruments are unlikely by themselves to offer the solution to end the violence — ongoing bloodshed which undermines their original rationale to deny, in both cases, sanctuary and support to terrorists. Moreover both countries increasingly serve as magnets and sparks for radicals and radical Islam.

Four guidelines stand out in finding the right answers: first, ask the right questions. Fundamentally this means understanding what you are up against and identifying the relative assets at your disposal.

Second, realizing the existence of an insurgency is a necessary first step in developing an appropriate response. For example, what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be confused with peacekeeping. Nor should insurgents be confused with terrorists, even though their methods may be similar. Political acceptance of such realities is crucial in convincing western electorates of the stakes, and in accepting the inherent risks and developing policies that allow soldiers to carry out their tasks without onerous operational caveats. Risk-aversion is a function of political vulnerability in troop-contributing nations, yet it undermines the effectiveness of the multinational forces much more than any lack of equipment at their disposal.

Third, be aware of your instruments and your limits. The greatest asset the west has in Afghanistan, for example, is its long-term commitment. Yet the longer it remains front-and-centre of the campaign against the Taliban and other antigovernment forces, the longer it will become the focus of Afghan ire, a sentiment based less on rationality than on frustration at the inevitable slow pace of delivery. There is thus a need to balance short-term action, such as infrastructure spending, with longer-term needs, such as education and gender rights, and to manage this balance and public expectations.

Fourth, know your enemy. Finding the means to “outbid” insurgents in gaining the support of the society in which they operate requires understanding the difference between their and your means and ends. Herein resides the greatest challenge for those campaigns crosscut by tribalism, sectarianism and religion. Their form of warfare is less instrumental than expressive. The means — the very expression of violence, including, notably, vendetta — are the ends in societies such as Afghanistan’s, where conflict has been a way of life for centuries, or elsewhere, for Hamas, where it is viewed as a two-front war in which a Palestinian state can be forged and a true Islamic republic achieved.

Historically, insurgencies have largely been countered through political deals which military means have helped to cut. But political accommodation is much more difficult in an environment where violence is a condition of society. Where peace is seen as decadent and disarmament contrary to the way of life, security means different things. Where the west cannot play by the rules of the insurgent and wage terror against terror, the weak effectively deter the militarily strong.

At its heart, countering insurgency thus demands not only dealing with asymmetric means but also asymmetric ends, which can be achieved by understanding the cultural anthropology of the insurgent. While incremental progress is essential in maintaining morale and momentum, this aspect of change is the task of a generation.

Professor Coker teaches at the London School of Economics and recently visited the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) HQ in Kabul; Dr Mills, recently on secondment to ISAF HQ as a special adviser, heads the Johannesburg-based Brenthurst Foundation.

Source: Business Day, 4 October 2006

 


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