The Interconnectedness of Military, Political and Economic Tools in Conflict Resolution and Post-Conflict Reconstruction

(C) Kapok Tree Diplomacy. Jan. 2011. All rights reserved. Jeff Dwiggins. 12.5 pages, double-spaced, 3,310 words. 30 references.

Introduction                                       FREE CONTENT

Post-conflict reconstructionFor the last twenty years following the end of the Cold War, the nature of conflict has transitioned from mostly interstate conflicts to predominantly intrastate conflicts characterized by a “complex web of social, economic, cultural, political and religious factors” (Bercovitch & Jackson 3). As the context underlying conflict has changed, the approaches to conflict resolution (CR) and post-conflict reconstruction (PCR) have adapted as well. Policy-makers have a variety of military, political and economic tools at their disposal to contend with the security, welfare and political representation issues resulting from fragile and failed states.

This essay will analyze the policy tools available for CR and PCR, and, in doing so, answer the following questions:

(1)   To what extent are the political, economic and military tools available to policymakers for use in conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction interconnected?

(2)  Has the application of such tools become considerably more challenging since the end of the Cold War? If so, how and why? If not, why not?

Section One of the essay will provide a brief summary of how the environment of conflict has changed since the end of the Cold War. Section Two will analyze the military tools. Section Three will cover the political tools, and Section Four will address the economic tools. Section Five will include a brief summary of how these tools are interconnected, but the assertion that they are interconnected will be made in each section of the essay.

Likewise, the question of whether the application of these tools has become considerably more challenging since the end of the Cold War may be answered in the affirmative with the how and why addressed throughout each section of the paper. Section Six will conclude the paper with a brief summary of the essay.

The views and opinions expressed in this paper are completely my own and do not represent the views or opinions of the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of the Navy (DON) or any of the Armed Forces.

Section One – How the Context of Conflict Has Changed Since the Cold War

Paul Diehl notes that the demand for peace operations and subsequent escalation in third party interventions rose dramatically following the Cold War due to “superpower retrenchment in providing aid to other states,” an explosion of failed states and civil wars that spawned out of the power vacuum, an increased advocacy for democracy and free markets, greater international concern for human rights, and globalization (52-55).  Bercovitch and Jackson add that many of these intrastate conflicts are characterized by one or more of the following features: spillover into regional states, a flux of refugees (Sierra Leone), humanitarian catastrophes (Rwanda), ethnic and tribal battles over political power, cultural and identity issues, corrupt political regimes, resource scarcity, pervasive poverty and serious human rights violations (3-5).

These components often create a more intense, “intractable” or “protracted” conflict environment with forces intervening into ongoing hostilities and humanitarian crises (Bercovitch & Jackson 5). As the task list has expanded dramatically, the need for greater funding and logistical requirements, legitimate and impartial mediators, and forces with capacity building expertise has increased along with it. Moreover, the vulnerability of failed states to become transnational and regional havens for terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking, small arms and human trafficking, and weapons of mass destruction may threaten to destabilize an entire region (Naim 29).

This possibility combined with the larger task list, greater funding requirements and the other intrastate contextual features previously mentioned has increased the number of actors engaged in CR and PCR  to include international organizations like the United Nations (UN), regional organizations like the European Union (EU), and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) like the Red Cross in multilateral configurations that leverage resources and share the tasks of building the core pillars of society (Bercovitch & Jackson 11). These core pillars may be indentified as security, justice and reconciliation, social and economic well-being, and governance and participation (Hamre & Sullivan 91-92).  Boutros Boutros-Ghali remarked, “A majority of conflicts in the world today are intra- rather than interstate … [they] place a much greater demand upon the United Nations and impel it to respond in a variety of ways that go beyond traditional peacekeeping” (qtd. in Pan 14).

In what ways does PCR go beyond traditional peacekeeping? The U.S. Department of State’s Post-Conflict Reconstruction Essential Tasks include robust security and aggressive disarmament (5), transitional governance assistance (11), elections planning and execution (15), detailed economic stabilization projects (30), legal reform (40), infrastructure rebuilding (44), training of law enforcement (48), prevention of human rights abuse (50), and the establishment of tribunals and truth commissions (51-52) as just a few of the additional tasks modern day PCR may involve. Obviously, this goes far beyond inserting a basic interposition force and monitoring a ceasefire line.

The coordination, planning, sequencing and funding of rebuilding an entire state is substantially more difficult and larger in scope than the traditional peacekeeping done prior to the Cold War. The sheer number of actors in multilateral approaches poses command and control, language, logistics and redundancy challenges. The difficulty of assessing the extent of what needs to be fixed, how long it will take, how much it will cost, and the potential for reconciliation illustrate the additional complexity of conflict resolution over the much easier task of conflict management. Policy-makers have a variety of tools available to engage these complicated CR and PCR tasks. With the change in context and its corresponding effect on CR and PCR approaches now covered, the specific CR and PCR tools will be analyzed beginning with the military tools.

Section Two – Military Tools

The military measures available to policy-makers range along a continuum with threats or coercive diplomacy at one end to the direct use of force on the other end. Some indirect measures like the provision of training and funding by a more powerful external state lie somewhere in the middle. Coercive diplomacy is taking place right now in Cote d’Ivoire with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) threatening to intervene militarily if necessary to oust beleaguered President Laurent Gbagbo, while the UN has told Gbagbo he may “face charges of war crimes and genocide before the International Criminal Court” if he doesn’t step down (Deen 2010).

Coercive diplomacy was used successfully in the Laos Crisis (1961) and Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), but unsuccessfully in Iraq in 1990 and 2003 (Art 375). Many European countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO) became the recipients of over $1B in military aid in 1949 in an effort to protect them from the Soviet threat (Reynolds 180), while NATO continues to provide indirect military assistance to alliance members today as well as direct intervention in places like Bosnia (Dobbins et al. 95) and Afghanistan where they protect communications and transportation routes and facilitate ammunition depot management (NATO “Role in Afghanistan”).

In CR and PCR the military tools employed may include items like traditional peacekeeping forces (Cyprus), collective enforcement (Iraq in 1990), humanitarian assistance, nation building, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR), and sanctions enforcement (Diehl 15-16). A few of these items bear further analysis beginning with DDR.

Dobbins et al. describe successful disarmament and demobilization campaigns in Germany (9-10) and Japan (34) where the opposing force was thoroughly defeated. In intrastate conflicts like Afghanistan and Kosovo, Dobbins et al. describe a more difficult process of DDR in environments where fighting continues and local law enforcement must be trained (118-120, 135-138). Reintegration is also more difficult if there are no jobs to reintegrate ex-combatants into. Jordan Ryan, a UN development expert, notes, “DDR will always be at the intersection of security, peace-building, reconciliation and long-term development projects … the key to our success lies in … linking [reintegration] … to wider recovery efforts focusing on employment opportunities, sustainable natural resource management and gender mainstreaming” (qtd. in UN DPKO 14). Such tasks are far easier said than done.

In places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC), the United Nations Organization Mission (MONUC) was only running an average of 157 combatants through DDR per month (S/2010/164 13), while widespread violence to civilians, human rights violations, recruitment of child soldiers and sexual violence were persisting unabated (S/2010/164 14-17). Clearly, trying to establish military security and perform tasks like DDR in violent environments with ongoing hostilities, weak or nonexistent political and economic structures, and limited political will and resources is far more difficult than doing the same in a Germany or Japan where many existing institutions could be co-opted and reintegration opportunities were more plentiful (Dobbins et al. 51).

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a conflict where the full continuum of military tools has been tried. The environment itself is conditioned by preeminent territorial issues, religious differences, disparity in political power, ‘illegal’ settlements, and disagreement over the right of return of Palestinian refugees (CFR 2009). Kessler notes that coercive threats played a role in Fatah’s military buildup, encouraging Hamas to seize the Gaza Strip, which ultimately split the Palestinian leadership into two competing camps (138). He also says the use of a blockade may have strengthened Hamas’s hold on the Gaza Strip (139).

War-fighting resulted in decisive Israeli victories in 1956, 1967 and 1973 and their respective acquisitions of territory in the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip and West Bank, acquisitions that are a principal source of conflict and disagreement to this day. Moreover, though some view the use of violence by Hamas as “uniformly destructive to Palestinian interests” (Shikaki 12), “two thirds [of Fatah’s congress] believe that armed confrontations have helped Palestinians achieve national rights in ways that negotiations could not” (Shikaki 7). Thus, we can conclude that there are many different military tools available, but their successful implementation will depend on situational context, and in some cases their usage may prolong or exacerbate the conflict.

Section Three – Political Tools

Some of the political tools available to policy-makers include those of basic diplomacy such as negotiation, mediation, arbitration and adjudication, and preventive diplomacy. While negotiation and mediation can be done by unilateral, bilateral or multilateral actors, in modern CR and PCR these tools often face imposing challenges such as ethnic and religious barriers, spoilers, a lack of perceived legitimacy and prestige, the absence of a “hurting stalemate,” timing issues and major conflict intensity factors (Bercovitch & Jackson 28-29, 36, 42). Such challenges were not as imposing with thoroughly defeated foes in Japan and Germany as they are in scenarios like Israel/Palestine or Afghanistan.

Ehud Yaari notes that Camp David direct negotiations in 2000 and 2007 “ended in failure,” even with Olmert’s generous offer of West Bank territory (para. 8). If the two sides don’t agree on the end goal, it’s tough for negotiation to end successfully. In one of the more notable mediation efforts, the ‘Quartet’ of the United States, EU, UN and Russia delivered the “Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” aimed at gradually implementing various security measures, eliminating terrorism, building Palestinian institutions, having successful elections, and ending with a “final and comprehensive permanent status agreement” to ultimately end the borders, refugees and Jerusalem disputes by 2005 (U.S. State Dept. 4). As both parties have other priorities, the Roadmap went nowhere and all major issues remain unresolved.

Bercovitch and Jackson note that “international law is severely limited in its ability to offer solutions to … intrastate conflicts” (59), and preventive diplomacy measures are similarly limited by “a lack of political will” (99). While these measures may have limited viability in PCR, the reconstruction and development of political and judicial institutions has been a very important part of PCR efforts by the international community.

Returning President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power was a major function of the Haiti intervention (Dobbins et al. 78). The Office of the High Representative (OHR) in Bosnia and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) worked together to implement civilian aspects of the Dayton Accords to include the oversight of national elections and the democratization of political institutions (Dobbins et al. 91, 94, 103). Unfortunately, “national elections … overwhelmingly returned wartime leaders to office,” and “the identity of the Bosnian state” was not settled (Dobbins et al. 90, 101), demonstrating the hazards involved in implementing political PCR measures.

In Somalia and Afghanistan, Kaplan explains that the international community made attempts to “bring the country’s various factions together inside a national government” to facilitate nation building and reconciliation in a top-down, centralized  approach (84). The efforts in Somalia were under-funded, under-resourced, and unable to control sizable amounts of territory (Kaplan 85). In Afghanistan, similar efforts produced similar results due to “low input of civilian and military resources” and an “absence of pervasive security” (Dobbins et al. 146). Such results affirm the interconnectedness of political, economic and security issues.

Unlike Germany and Japan where the fighting had stopped, basic structures of political and civil institutions could be co-opted after purging former regime members, and some economic infrastructure was still in place, the governments and economies of Somalia and Afghanistan had to more or less be built from scratch within the context of ongoing hostilities. The latter is far more difficult than the former without the cessation of violence.

Section Four – Economic Tools

The economic tools available to policy-makers for CR and PCR may include negative sanctions and embargoes on one end of the spectrum, and humanitarian and development assistance at the other end. Commenting on PCR in Iraq, Anne Ellen Henderson maintains, “In the short term, initiatives to stabilize the economy and respond to basic needs are essential … transition from a state-controlled system to a market economy involves four broad tasks: stabilization, liberalization, privatization, and legal and regulatory reform” (2).

In the PCR environment, however, economic shortcomings do not operate independently of political and security issues. According to Henderson, “Coalition authorities were astounded by the magnitude of Iraq’s reconstruction needs” which included “preventing currency collapse, hyperinflation, and economic chaos,” “rebuilding infrastructure ravaged by war,” and “dismantling corrupt, dysfunctional state economic controls” (3).  Developing diverse export products and strong market institutions, keeping a lid on inflation, avoiding over-borrowing, stabilizing balance-of-payments disequilibria, and establishing better natural resource governance are common economic tools we find in other PCR scenarios as well.

Armstrong and Chura-Beaver warn, however, that in PCR environments, “forced economic liberalization … can have an adverse effect on social inequalities and fuel tensions” (39-40). Fukuyama affirms that implementing poorly designed aid packages in developing countries can cause local economic institutional capacity to deteriorate (39-40).

In Afghanistan the U.S. military has adopted a new economic tool and strategy that utilizes humanitarian aid and conducts development projects to enhance security and “promote stability” in the form of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) (Dobbins et al. 136). PRTs are able to bring aid to places NGOs can’t get to because of either security or logistics issues, but Dobbins et al. note that PRTs may also undermine NGO’s impartiality (141). On the other hand, although NGOs do plenty of great humanitarian work, they have inadvertently contributed “to the financing and prolongation of the conflict” in CR efforts in Somalia and Sudan (Debiel & Sticht 23, 32).

Another economic tool that does not always work as planned is negative economic sanctions meant to deprive warring factions of financial resources that sustain the war effort. In Sierra Leone the government and military were unable to control and secure the mining sector in its state, so corruption ruled the day and external states were able to siphon off diamonds for the black market and finance rebel movements like the RUF (Chege 152). “Although diamond sanctions had been put into effect in three countries before (Angola, Sierra Leone and Liberia), monitoring and enforcement has not been very successful” (Guesnet, Muller, & Schure 55).

When there are no jobs, no security, and no credible political institutions to enforce sanctions, the “illegal” parallel economy surpasses the legitimate economy in opportunity, its economic importance becomes entrenched, and participants find creative ways around the sanctions to support the economic livelihood, human security and political survival the failed state is incapable of providing. Sanctions are also difficult to apply against sub-state actors. Moreover, external groups and states that benefit from the illegal trade may act to preserve it. Economic tools, including sanctions, depend on context and do not always work as planned.


Section Five – Interconnectedness of Military, Political and Economic Tools

The PCR scenarios discussed in this essay such as Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq clearly do not suffer from weakness in only one area, but from a combination of all three. Academic studies by well-respected organizations affirm this. Susan Rice and Patrick Stewart’s Index of State Weakness in the Developing World, for example, reveals that weak states score low in all three areas (10). They observe, “Among the stronger relationships is that between poverty and overall weakness,” and assert, “The weakest countries on the Index tend to be the least democratic” (10).  This seems to be strong pattern in similar analyses.

A cursory review of Foreign Policy’s Failed State Index reveals that the 37 states in “Alert” status score extremely low in all three categories, not just one (Fund for Peace). Their analysts note, “Every failing state is failing in its own way … Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are failing because their governments are chronically weak to nonexistent; Zimbabwe and Burma are failing because their governments are strong enough to choke the life out of their societies” (Foreign Policy 81).

In analyzing Somalia, the CIA adds, “Due to armed attacks on and threats to humanitarian aid workers, the World Food Programme partially suspended its operations in southern Somalia in early January 2010 pending improvement in the security situation. Somalia’s arrears to the IMF have continued to grow” (World Fact Book “Somalia”). So Somalia is not merely dealing with a weak government. Military and human security, a lack of food and basic social services, and enormous debts further the state’s deterioration and fuel the ongoing conflict.

Schwarz adds, “The majority of the ten most at risk countries in the Failed State Index are characterized by economic reliance on a single natural resource” (182). This puts the social contract between states and citizens on very shaky ground. As Schwarz explains, stable security is a necessary precondition for thriving economic welfare and good governance; strong economic conditions are needed to reduce violence and increase democratic governance and participation; and participatory (democratic) governance is needed to resolve conflicts in non-violent ways and encourage economic growth (192-193).  Indeed, all three factors are very much interconnected.

Section Six – Conclusion

Today’s complex intrastate PCR environments require that policy-makers address all three components of state failure to achieve some modicum of success. Henderson notes, “Postconflict reconstruction depends upon adequate security; yet security depends upon successful reconstruction. Reconstructing the economy and restoring security are so interconnected that strategies to achieve these two goals must be fully integrated to be successful” (2). Coordinating these strategies among multiple actors often in hostile environments is very difficult.

Multilateral engagement, the pooling of resources and strategic task-sharing have become preferred strategies to maximize an efficient division of labor and leverage comparative advantage of actor skills to “fill gaps in current capabilities” and diminish the problem of organizations like the UN being “overextended in too many places” (Hamre & Sullivan 90, 96). Regional task-sharing can be cost-effective and provide additional legitimacy and local knowledge of the situation. However, every actor and every configuration of actors – whether it be unilateral or multilateral, an international or regional organization, a military or civilian unit, or an NGO – all have their strengths and weaknesses.

Each individual CR and PCR scenario will dictate the right mix of actors and type of strategy that will work best. There is no one-size-fits-all model. In a broad sense, success will depend on who and what is available, the intensity and context of the conflict, the time and resources provided, and most importantly the political will of the parties involved.

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