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Opinions, ideas and outright rants about international politics, military strategy and African development.



Updated: 2014-10-02T07:38:06.307+03:00

 



Defining the Enemy as an Islamic Nihilist

2006-01-08T15:19:58.746+03:00

(image) Since the very beginning of the war on terror and more recently the counter-insurgency campaign in Iraq, the US-led coalition has found it very difficult to define and understand its enemy. Why are these people attacking the beautiful peace loving liberal democracies of the West, and why is it so hard for them to embrace the freedom and democracy that is being presented to them in Iraq?

Well, I think most of us will agree that the understanding of the “enemy” has been rather limited and that this is perhaps the biggest problem in both the war on terror and the counter-insurgency campaign in Iraq. The latest pop word in the debate is “Islamic nihilist”.

A nihilist is defined as: "someone who rejects all theories of morality or religious belief”, or simply as an "anarchist". This has got to be the most comfortable definition of an enemy there is. We have no idea why they are fighting so they must be nihilists who believe in nothing. However, isn’t the term Islamic nihilist a contradiction in terms, and oxymoron? If you believe in no moral or religious system, then what on earth makes you Islamic?

The definition of the enemy in Iraq and in the war on terror as an Islamic Nihilist is a real disaster as it means giving up trying to understand the opponent. Winning the war on terror by defining every the enemy as a nihilist means that the war is essentially lost. Without understanding where terror comes from – please do not try to eradicate it! It can only get worse!

(c) Robert Egnell




Let us throw out the old ideologies!

2006-01-04T19:50:36.036+03:00

Ideologies are sometimes defined as "a more or less systematic set of ideas, values, and beliefs, which underlies the practices of a society, a class, or some other socially significant group of people." It also has a prescriptive role in a different definition: "A system of beliefs and values that explains society and prescribes the role of government." Ideologies should in other words describe as well as prescribe society. Then why on earth are we still only talking about ideologies that average 200 year anniversaries?

It seems most of European politics is struggling with party identification in relation to the old ideologies. Everyone, except a few old revolutionaries, seems to accept liberal market economy with a social twist of welfare, and an emphasis on tradition values. In other words all parties are centrist and mix between socialist, capitalist, liberal and conservative values. How on earth are we to distinguish one from the other? The only way seems to be which set of ancient rhetoric is used to describe the party: Moral values, solidarity, freedom, individual liberties, equality etc. All beautiful words, but hardly useful to distinguish and describe politics of today.

My view is that the ideologies were written by brilliant men, who were still little more than children of their time. Therefore, Locke, Burke, Marx, Hobbes, Engels, Bakunin and the lot would have written completely different stuff had they lived today. It is equally sure that it is our own inability to think outside the box that keeps us locked in a political debate that uses outdated concepts and ideologies.

Francis Fukuyama wrote that we have come to an end of history in the fact that liberalism has won. He was absolutely right! The struggle between the old ideologies are over and the disillusioned youths rioting across the globe is proof that new belief systems are necessary for political identification in the 21st Century. We have come to the end of the history of 18th and 19th century ideology, and its really about time!

It is obviously much harder to create new ideologies than complaining about the old. Where should we start? Perhaps we do not need new ideologies at all. Belief systems that create images of black and white, right and wrong are perhaps not the way forward for the post-modern generations. Economics is probably not the most important issue of the next set of political value systems. After all, what is necessary is only the fine tuning of the welfare systems of market capitalism.

A starting point for new ideologies is to remove the false barrier between national and international politics. In practice this is already taken care of through the globalisation, but theory retains old boarders.

However, it is another more cynical definition of Ideology as "a set of beliefs and ideas that justify certain interests", that gives us the best hint towards the future. In order to find new ideologies we should perhaps be looking at what interests we humans are likely to want justification for in the future. Suddenly Huntington's "Clash of civilisations" seems to make some sense if culture or moral values may are to be the new systems of identification. The last Cold War was fought over different economic systems. The next may well be about culture or moral values.

(c) Robert Egnell



Intersting views on Museveni and African leadership

2005-12-25T09:57:31.050+03:00

BBC's Fergal Keane has written an intresting analysis of theUgandan President Museveni as an example of a larger African-Western dilemma. Find the complete article right here.
It describes the problem of the Western naive belief in "the new African leader", and its dissappointment everytime it goes wrong, as in Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Uganda.
Below is an extract:

"Global business associates

For many years now President Museveni has been touted as one of a new breed of African leaders.

Of course that was said once about Robert Mugabe, too.

Political leaders in the West, and many in the media, have been so desperate to believe in a new Africa, so desperate they have fallen for every leader who has talked the language of pluralism and respect for human rights.

They especially liked these men if they followed World Bank and IMF prescribed solutions to their country's economic problems.

They were - from Mugabe in the early 1980s to President Museveni and the prime minister of Ethiopia now - the kind of people one could do business with.

And so eyes and ears were closed to the nastiness practised by the security agencies of these new African leaders.

Western naivety

The West is being defeated by the politics of wishful thinking in Africa.

After the decades of blood and famine, Western leaders wanted an end to the misery and the constant tugging at the post-colonial conscience.

Many of our leaders acted from genuinely high principles.

But I also think there is a patronising expectation that these new Africans can be managed and moulded in the same way a previous Western generation had manipulated African leaders during the Cold War.

I am afraid the manipulation has worked the other way.

They have seen the West coming with a desperate will for Africa to succeed, hands wringing over past failures and abandonments, eyes blind and ears blocked.

Now that the subtle repression of such states has become more publicly brutal - the locking up of the opposition leader in Uganda, the jailing of scores of opposition supporters in Ethiopia - countries like Britain appear shocked.

They have moved to cut aid.

It is all much, much too late."




Putting Pressure on Museveni

2005-12-23T08:07:26.126+03:00

(image) I have commented before on the worrying situation in Uganda. President Mueveni has changed the constitution and is now running for a third term in office. He has imprisoned his greatest rival Kizza Besigye and take ever increasing liberties in his pursuit of power.

The donor countires of the west have finally found his behaviour unacceptable and at least the UK, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden have frozen its developpment aid to the country. This is obviously a huge blow to a government which funds half of its budget with aid. What will the effects of these actions be?

Best case, but highly unlikely, scenario is that the actions wakes Museveni out of his dreams of eternal power, that he steps down from the presidency after his two terms and that the multipartyism and democracy in Uganda continues to develop. Most African governments today thrive upon a populistic anti Western and especially anti American consents. Whatever the problem the West can always be blamed. As Mugabe stood up against his "neo colonial oppressors" he gained enormous respect in Africa and he is looked up to by large parts of the continent. Cutting aid to Uganda will therefore morelikely push Museveni another step in the direction of his colleague in Zimbabwe.

We are therefore likely to see Museveni use the cutting of aid to his advantage. He will speak of his own strength in the face of western imperialism, and he will further stress the need for his strong leadership. To the Monitor in Uganda he has already stated: "When you listen to outsiders, you make mistakes." "Yielding to pressure from outsiders has been our big mistake in some cases. We will never do it again." Museveni further argued that he would be able to demonstrate how Africa can develop without donor aid, "especially if that aid is arrogantly mixed up with an effort to interfere in our sovereignty". Most likely the rhetoric will work and he will be re-elected stronger than ever.

If cutting of aid is not going to work than what will? Not much to be honest. With the institutionalisation of development aid, the Ugandan government has already lost the all important feature of accountability to its people. Managerial problems can always be blamed on the donors and after 19 years in power, Museveni sees himself as a semi-good without whom his country cannot survive.

I see no light at the end of the tunnel.

(c) Robert Egnell




Democracy I: What is the point?

2005-12-21T18:34:35.840+03:00

A number of thoughts on democracy were sparked while conducting a seminar on democratic peace theory at the University of Dar es Salaam. Among the questions from the students was why democracy should be introduced if the people were already happy? Is democracy something worth striving for in itself? Does democracy really create peace and prosperity? These are difficult questions that deserve much space, and I thought I would present some ideas as a series on the Open Forum. Democracy is in the West one of those holy concepts that we seek to achieve without asking why. It is therefore seen as an end good enough to strive for without asking too many questions. It has for a long time been considered an end worth spending billions of dollars a year in development aid for, and more recently it is also considered worth starting wars for. But perhaps we are making a mistake by not questioning the concept of democracy once in a while. I would therefore like to start the democracy debate by presenting an alternative interpretation of democratisation not as an end in itself but as a means to a different end. First, we must ask why the process of democratisation took place in Europe and North America, later in Asia, and now to a limited extent in Africa and South America? Was it because everyone suddenly realised the importance of the democratic ideals? No really! It seems to me that true democracy is something that slowly grew as previously sidelined classes and genders gained in economic importance and power. The middle classes were allowed into the political process as the agricultural societies started to change and early industrialisation essentially made them responsible for the welfare of the state. The working classes and women were of course allowed into the political process even later, but the importance of a large workforce in industrialised countries in combination with political education made these groups not only vital to the welfare of the state, but aware of that position, and thereby empowered. As such, democracy has a place within the history of liberal market capitalism, as a means to keep the productive citizens happy, involved and thus in order. Democratisation is thus a way to ensure effective management of economic development – the result of early economic development and a catalyst for the final stages of economic development into effective market economy. I sound frightfully much like a Marxists who would argue that democracy is simply a way to keep the proletariat under control in order to increase the profits of the bourgeoisie. Although I share some of Marx’s historical views of capitalism I see it as a force for good rather than as a tool of exploitation. A large happy middle class is good for society and its citizens, and not a sign of oppression. What is the point of this argument? Again, I seem to push for pragmatism rather than humanitarianism. When seeking to spread democracy around the globe, which has been the main aim over the last 50 odd years, the moral arguments are compelling but not enough. It must be made clear that the purpose of democracy is to maintain a well-oiled societal machinery and economic development by providing for a happy hardworking citizenry. Thus, when promoting democracy it is therefore important to understand its mechanisms and to be pragmatic rather than idealistic. Human beings are no good hearted idealists who really want the best for everyone – we are pragmatic survivalists and will agree to change if we can see the personal benefit of it! How was the West democratised? How has the Far East been democratised? How will China finally open up? Through market demands! Next time - Democracy II: A must for economic development? (c) Robert Egnell[...]



An NGO Advertising Campaign!?

2005-12-21T14:25:33.420+03:00

(image) On public demand this post is republished with a picture of one of the billboards!

There is currently a massive advertising campaign across Tanzania. Everywhere you look the billboards are depicting happy Tanzanians with the accompanying texts:

“NGO's: The voice of the voiceless”

“NGO's: Caring for your community”

And my favourite: “NGOs are creative and innovative"

Being a rather cynical man when it comes to NGOs, I cannot stop my curiosity when the aid community launches such a massive information campaign. What is the purpose of the campaign, who funds it, and who are the targets?

A closer look at the posters reveales the text “Celebrate/Shangalia”. A quick search on the internet further reveals that the campaign is launched by USAID Tanzania’s largest democracy and governance program, Tanzania Advocacy Partnership Programme (TAPP). So this is in other words a donor funded campaign and not an attempt by the NGOs themselves to further their cause.

In the words of TAPP: “The Shangalia/Celebrate NGOs campaign promotes the positive work and messages of Tanzanian NGOs, and was also developed after conducting focus groups to discern the public’s opinion about NGOs”. So there we have the purpose! The donor community is worried about the receiving public's opinions about NGOs and feel that a good old-fashioned information campaign should solve the problem.

This matter is really starting to stink in my opinion. Instead of looking into the causes of the bad reputation of NGOs among the public, the donor community assumes that it is a problem of perception. No inquiries into the output of NGOs and no long-term assessments of the effects created by NGOs. The reason for this is perhaps easy enough to figure out anyway...

It is, however, not until I look up the word “Shangalia” in the Kiswahili dictionary that my stomach begins to turn.. Shangalia means to “receive (with joy and enthusiasm)”. Humanitarian and civil society organisations are non-profit, and their purpose is to make life better for people. If you need to launch a massive advertising campaign to get this message across to the receiving public, you are doing something seriously wrong! But damned are those who question the good heart of the humanitarians!

No - shut up and receive with joy and enthusiasm!




Torture in the War on Terror and in Iraq

2005-12-12T15:14:12.880+03:00

The use of torture, or “abuse” of prisoners is easily condemned on moral grounds. It violates the very basic rights of being human and therefore disgusts most of us. However, torture as an information gathering method is as ancient as it is nasty, and have on many occations proved useful in times of war and crisis – even by the good guys! To simply denounce it is therefore a mistake as it fails to address a harsh reality as well as the moral fact that the ends will sometimes always justify the means. If the survival of mankind, or an entire state, is at stake, there are many of us who would be willing to look away while our national security agencies are “roughing up” potential information holders. However, the almost impossible question is where the line should be drawn. What ends are important enough to justify crimes against humans rights? The answer is, and always will be, a completely subjective interpretation. Let us bring this difficult debate to the current war on terrorism and the ongoing campaign in Iraq. From an international perspective, it seems clear that the US government has crossed the line. But within the US it seems as if public opinion is at least divided on the issue. A decision based on morals alone is therefore perhaps too subjective to be useful. With the risk of being called a cold hearted bastard, I would therefore like to add the purely pragmatic variable of strategy to the debate on torture. A problem of the War on terrorism and the campaign in Iraq is that these campaigns are supposed to protect liberal democratic ideals. The use of torture is therefore seems to contradict the very purpose of the wars. How undemocratic and disrespectful of human rights can you be in a campaign that serves to protect the very same ideals? With this problem in mind, we should ask ourselves, to what extent does the methods used in the campaign support or obstruct the achievement of the aims of the campaign? In Iraq the US-led coalition seems to shoot itself in the foot by employing rough methods. It is virtually impossible to convince the Iraqi people and world opinion of your good intentions when employing certain methods. The effects of these methods are therefore loss of strategic credibility and lost battles for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people – something that is hugely important for success. Considering that the use of torture as a method is a crime against human rights, as well as a cause of enormous losses in terms of strategic aims, one can only wonder what type of information could be obtained from the tortured detainees. Could an insurgent ever hold information that would be important enough to employ torture as a method? It seems unlikely! In the war on terrorism it seems theoretically possible, although quite unlikely, that a detainee might have information important enough to justify torture. In this case we are of course talking about information such as direct knowledge of where and when weapons of mass destruction would be used by terrorists. However, the enormous loss of credibility as a force for good that the US is experiencing at the moment should be evidence enough that torture will never be justifiable in a cost-benefit analysis. Since the moral arguments against torture do not seem to be enough to stop even the most liberal democracies from employing it as a method in war and crisis, I hereby present strategy as an equally potent reason to abolish the use of torture. From a pure cost benefit perspective I would therefore strongly recommend the governments employing these methods to stop. Torture is a sure way to lose the war in Iraq as well as the war on terrorism. (c) Robert Egnell[...]



Finally a Strategy for Iraq!

2005-12-02T16:03:17.720+03:00

The White house has recently published a 35 page "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq", and Bush is now touring the country selling the new plan. The debate about its content is already raging and many of Bush's critics argue that it still contains no major course change, or a clear "exit strategy". However, most comments from the political opposition are filled with political opportunism and disregard the strategic and tactical realities on the ground in Iraq and in the international arena. The fact is that the Strategy displays most of the features that strategists have been asking for. The big problem is obviously that the document is nearly three years late. The Strategy for Victory in Iraq is precisely the type of open and clear strategy that should have been created and published before the invasion of Iraq. Not only would such a document have given direction for the coalition forces on the ground - thereby forcing them to train and prepare for the post-conflict phase that was largely ignored. It would also have assured the sceptical world about US intentions in Iraq. Finally, and more importantly, it would have given the Iraqi people a clear indication of coalition intentions in Iraq. Although it is clearly too late to undo two and a half years of serious mismanagement of Iraq it is never too late to improve and adapt!The aims in the new Strategy is to "help the Iraqi people build a new Iraq with a constitutional, representative government that respects civil rights and has security forces sufficient to maintain domestic order and keep Iraq from becoming a safe haven for terrorists." To achieve this end, the strategy outlines three tracks of political, security and economic strategies to pursue. Each track contains a number of objectives and directives. It therefore seems like the coalition finally has a list of clear objectives accompanied with a strategy on how to achieve them! The Strategy also displays an unprecedented candidness by stating that achieving the objectives in Iraq will take a long time, but that the coalition will not leave until the conditions allow so. Interestingly the Strategy argues that "It is not realistic to expect a fully functioning democracy, able to defeat its enemies and peacefully reconcile generational grievances, to be in place less than three years after Saddam was finally removed from power." This begs the question what the coalition strategists were thinking three years ago?There have been countless mistakes made in Iraq and undoing them is impossible. However, as the Strategy acknowledges, not succeeding is not an option. Too much is at stake! The Strategy for Victory in Iraq therefore serves as an important step in the right direction. Hopefully we will also see some changes on the ground in tactical behaviour that reflects this new Strategy. However, the military establishment is not as "fickle" as the strategic leadership and to learn, understand, and conform to tactical lessons after "only" three years may unfortunately be asking too much of the US military establishment. To be continued of course... Find the complete strategy in pdf format here.(c) Robert Egnell [...]



Strategy in Iraq: A Problem of Social Engineering

2005-11-25T09:06:19.940+03:00

Expeditionary operations are about achieving complex political aims, like democracy, respect for human rights and international law, through the application of both military and civilian means. As such, the operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq are essentially tasks of social engineering within the field of international politics. This means that the operational planning will take the form of a predictive, or even a grand theory, of social science. Through the application of variables x and y, the outcome will be z. However, despite a long tradition of positivist, predictive theory within the academic fields of political science and international relations, the empirical tests of such theory have often proved disappointing. Even the greatest historical changes in recent times, like the end of the Cold War and the democratisation of Eastern Europe, have been missed by predictive theory. The reason is simple. Human relations and politics are incredibly complex and include too many variables to create predictive theory. Even with the empirical facts of history on the table, social scientists cannot agree upon explanations for past events, which results in the multitude of theories within the social sciences. Does this mean that expeditionary operations involving nation building or reconstruction is a futile attempt to shake life into the grand theories of social science? Yes and No! Without proper respect for the difficulty in engineering complex outcomes like democracy and respect for human rights, these operations may well turn out to be rather dangerous endeavours. However, with enough respect for the complexities involved, there may be a way to operate with the greater understanding that is clearly needed within international responses to complex emergencies. It will always be extremely difficult to plan campaigns and actions by military and civilian agencies that will create specific social outcomes or effects. Not only is it very hard to create the intended effects, but the possible unintentional and cascading effects also have to be included in the equation. With stability and democracy as the end state of the post-conflict operation, what types of operations should be involved and who should perform them? The complexity seems staggering. The effects sought after in Iraq are complex and highly political, and the activities required to achieve them were, and still are, equally complex. A problem that is often discussed in relation to this is the risk of information overload and the need for effective databases that can handle large amounts of information without drowning the most important pieces. The concept of Effects-Based Operations is closely connected to modern developments within command and control technology and especially the idea of Network Centric Warfare (NCW) or Network Enabled Capabilities (NEC).However, the technological challenges of expeditionary operations are relatively minor compared to the challenge of understanding effects at a human and political level. It is also of great importance to understand that the human and political challenges of the effects-based approach can never be solved by technical means. The effects of body searching female Muslims, or of organising a barbecue for the local leadership during Ramadan, are not something that will come out of technological advances and improved networks and databases, but out of human understanding. This type of understanding requires experts in local politics, history and culture, that can provide estimates on reactions at the strategic centre of gravity - the hearts and minds of the local population. (c) Robert Egnell[...]



Thoughts on the Referendum in Kenya

2005-11-23T11:22:48.246+03:00

The Kenyan people have with resounding clarity rejected Kenya's draft constitution and thereby caused the leader of the "Yes" campaign, President Mwai Kibaki, a humiliating defeat. The new constitution would have introduced the post of a prime minister and provided greater rights for women, devolution and land reform. The president has therefore argued that the new constitution would be a modernising measure. In the eyes of an outsider there were, nevertheless, also number of not so modern reforms like banning same-sex marriages, and outlawing abortion - unless permitted by parliament. However, the key issue in the constitution is according to most analysts the introduction of the post of a prime minister. Although this was originally a move to devolve the powers of the presidency it was by the opposition seen as quite the opposite - an attempt to strengthen Kibaki's own position as president. Mr Kibaki came to power in 2002 by promising to introduce free primary education, to deliver a new constitution and to end corruption. Although Kibaki has introduced free primary education, corruption is widely held to be widespread, also within the government. A voter, Yonah Opiyo, told Reuters "We were voting to show our frustrations, we were rebelling against the government's empty promises". Not everyone voted with the difficult technical structures of the executive powers in mind. A Maasai man interviewed by the Citizen argued that the question of granting equal rights to women was enough to vote no. “No real man takes an order from a woman”. It therefore seems as if President Kibaki had the rather impossible task of facing his normal political opposition, a disillusioned electorate, as well as the conservative forces in the country. So what is next? Can Kibaki remain in power after splitting the cabinet over the referendum and being humiliated by the defeat? The referendum was not a vote of confidence on the president’s three year-old administration. However, it is obvious that many Kenyans voted "No" as a vote of dissatisfaction with the work of the government. This surely means trouble for Kibaki, but there may be an even bigger problem for the ruling elite – that of true democracy! Kenyan political analyst, Martin Kimani, argued before the election that “whatever the answer, what I am taking out of the situation is the extent to which Kenyans have become increasingly comfortable with the idea of competitive politics being decided at the ballot box.” Violence and reports of irregularities surrounding the referendum were very limited, and there have been no jailing of opposition politicians like in Uganda. President Kibaki therefore rightly argued that the referendum was a big step in the democracy of Kenya and even in defeat stated that "I would like to congratulate all of you for participating peacefully in this historic occasion". This neverthless means that the political genie of democracy has been let out of the bottle. The Kenyan people are getting used to the democratic form of expression and they are likely to demand compliance. As Kimani argues, “the overwhelming sense is that politicians must fight to convince us of their case.” The people have now moreover tasted the sweetness of victory in the face of the ruling powers and are likely to want more. This is a new and very healthy reality that has been added to the game of Kenyan politics – and the old guard of Kenyan politics better watch their backs! (c) Robert Egnell[...]



Museveni - A New Robert Mugabe in the Making

2005-11-17T07:50:08.583+03:00

Uganda is heading towards national elections again next year. At the centre of attention is the incumbent President Yoweri Museveni. After 19 years in power, of which the last 9 have been part of his two presidential terms, the old man is desperately trying to cling on to power. He has amended the constitution to allow him to run for another term in office, and is now spending most of his time campaigning around the country on populist issues. On an even more serious note, he has recently arrested the popular opposition politician Dr Kizza Besigye, charged with treason and rape. Dr Besigye, who since his return from four years in exile after the previous election, is the biggest political threat to Musevenis power. Does anyone recognize these methods? So why are we not hearing more about this dictator in the making? Museveni is, just like Mugabe once was, one of the sweethearts of western governments. He is following the orders by the IMF and the economic development in Uganda seems to move steadily in the right direction. However, the almost 19 years in power have certainly changed Museveni, as being at the centre of power for that amount of time would change any man or woman. The BBC reports that the signs are not good, and that he has become less tolerant of opposing views. Some examples provided by the BBC: “When in June 2004, the government lost a ruling in the Constitutional Court, the president appeared on state television and lambasted the judges. And when he used the presidential jet to fly his daughter to Germany to give birth, he stated that some Ugandan doctors could not be trusted. Museveni's former friend Eriya Kategaya - with whom he began the struggle together against Idi Amin in 1971 - openly opposed the campaign to amend the constitution. When he did so, he was booted out of cabinet along with two other colleagues - despite the fact the two had been in power together for 17 years.” "I don't know what all the fuss is about," Janat Mukwaya, Uganda's minister of justice, told BBC’s Focus On Africa. "He is a very patient man with a big heart. He is still intelligent and capable and he will know when to quit." The justice minister also insisted that "anybody who has served his country should not be fettered just because of the term limits". This show of complete disrespect for the constitution by the minister of justice of course shows that the rule of law is a long way away for the young “democracy” of Uganda. Some of the worst plagues of Africa are the “revolutionary heroes”. Maddened by revolutionary wars and years at the pinnacle of power they take whatever liberties they can. Their status as heroes means that the peoples of Africa do not intervene again them until it is too late. Of course, the more wazungus like me detest him, the more he is liked by his own people, fuelled by the populist anti-western notions. Again Robert Mugabe provides a good example. Say what you want about the courage and charisma of Robert Mugabe - he is still a terribly power hungry man who would rather let his entire people die than personally step down from power. We do not want another African leader like him.[...]



A New Logo for the Swedish Defence Forces

2005-11-18T15:40:35.286+03:00

(image) It was today revealed by a major Swedish newspaper (SvD) that the Swedish Defence Forces are changing their logo. The traditional shield, including the royal crown and a sword has been removed in exchange for a more acceptable civilian variant. The new logo looks like the three crowns of the Swedish ice hockey team. In other words, all the terrible connotations towards the use of weaponry in the old logo is gone and now replaced with this business type logo. It is according to military HQ supposed to “better reflect the new tasks of the Swedish military”. Sure it was a long time since the defence used swords, but removing all military connotations from the logo… Come on!

(image) Yes, it is true that the Swedish defence is going through a process of adjustment in order to better deal with the threats of the contemporary strategic context. This includes more of international peace operations, and assisting civil society in times of crisis. The Swedish Defence Research Institute is moreover supposed to start competing with civilian institutions and think tanks for civilian clients who may need a security or risk analysis. These changes take the Swedish defence a very long way from the traditional core function of large scale warfare in case of a Russian invasion, but let us not forget that defending the territorial integrity of Sweden is still part of the defence’s list of tasks. The changes are all important and necessary to keep the modern military up to date. But changing the logo really seems like taking things a bit too far.

Rather than a useful adjustment to a changing context, this is evidence of an enormously oversized military HQ, filled with officers with nothing better to do than come up with new populist schemes. That they also broke the law by not consulting with the National Herald , or the officer corps for that matter, hardly makes thing better. The defence is still very much a military organisation, and its professionals are trained to apply deadly force for the benefit of Swedish and international security. Let us therefore keep a logo that reflects this reality.




Is ”Military Strategy” Becoming an Oxymoron?

2005-10-31T16:15:06.596+03:00

In the contemporary strategic context the most likely operations involving the military are responses to complex emergencies in one form or the other. Although complex emergency is a terribly wide term involving everything from natural disasters to civil wars, the responses to them all have in common highly complex political objectives. Military operations are therefore no longer about defeating the enemy or "winning", it is about introducing democracy, assisting humanitarian relief operations, and to restore security in failing states. Such operations require the use of all instruments of power – economic, diplomatic and military.

The problem is that military strategists by tradition are not very good at planning military operations in order to achieve political effects. Instead, the traditional notion is that where diplomacy and politics end, wars begin. When the war is over diplomats and the politicians are welcomed back to negotiate peace agreements and to clean up the mess. However, the results of these traditional ways of war in a new context can be seen in the US operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Both were great military victories followed up by weak and rather incompetent post-conflict operations. This would obviously be fine if the objectives did not stretch further than toppling the regimes, but in both cases the aims of the operations involved introducing stability and democracy – something that has hardly been successful in either case despite recent elections.

The question is how one plans for intended political effect rather than victory. It certainly requires politicians with an understanding of how to use all instruments of power - including the military. Sending peacekeepers in order to give the impression of “doing something” is not fair to anyone involved. It also requires enormous understanding of how military operations affects foreign leaders and populations. It moreover requires deep political understanding on the level of each individual soldier. Everyone involved must understand the consequences of his/her actions, especially since evertything is done under the watchful eyes of global media. Perhaps must planning for political effect requires a new breed of civilians strategists and operatives with and understanding of military affairs. At this point in time there simply are no such people.

Strategy will always have to involve all instruments of power and planning the operations of one instrument in isolation is like a carpenter using a hammer without nails. The complex political objectives will never be accomplished. The highest level where military operations can be executed in isolation from the other instruments of power is the tactical level of up to battalion size units. The term military strategy is therefore useless as strategic level planning and execution must always include all instruments of power. The consequences of this argument are that not only must civilian and military strategists work together on the highests levels, they should also form joint staffs in the operational and perhaps even tactical level command centres. Not a very popular idea in an organisation that argues that the divide between political decisions and military implementation is the very foundation of their professionalism.

(c) Robert Egnell




Election Safari on Zanzibar

2005-11-01T09:23:51.986+03:00

(image) Yesterday saw the politically charged paradise island of Zanzibar going to the polls for the third time since multiparty system democracy was introduced in Tanzania. The last two elections on the island were marred by extreme violence and election manipulation, and many commentators feared that this would be the case again. However, despite some minor incidents involving opposition supporters and the police, and despite a few accusations of minor manipulation, the elections on Zanzibar seem to have been a relative democratic success. It nevertheless remains to be seen how the parties will react to the results that are expected within three days of the poll.

There were some rather ridiculous scenes played out on the island as 35,000 security forces in combination with international observers, journalists, and tourists were all trying to get a piece of the action. As soon as there were reports on problems at a polling station it was flooded by observers. Every organisation apparently needed several representatives at the sight and at the same time buses were passing by with tourists waving and taking photos of the queuing voters.

Despite the relative calm and despite very few accusations of irregularities, the debriefings are currently all about violence and possible election manipulation. One of the basic features of a good election observer is the starting-point that he/she wants the election to go well and no have. This does not seem to be the case here where every little incident is blown up to enormous proportions with every new “expert” on Zanzibar smirking to the words “I told you so”.

(c) Robert Egnell




The Developmental Brain Drain of Africa

2005-10-30T15:27:02.956+03:00

Much has been written about the so called brain drain of third world countries, especially in Africa. The idea is that young professionals who have been costly to train move to, and thereby benefit, western countries by pursuing careers away abroad. Valuable intellectual capital and tax revenue is supposedly lost in this manner. That young well-trained professionals are leaving may at first sight seem as a big problem, but very seldom you hear about serious lacks of professionals in the third world. Instead there is a job market filled with overqualified professionals, competing for whatever low-paid and over-taxed existences they can get their hands on. Financially, the argument is also dodgy as the diasporas in the world provide enormous revenue for their home countries through official and unofficial remittances. For a very compelling argument against the brain drain theory, please read fellow writer Martin Kimani’s excellent article "If You Think Africa is Suffering From a Brain Drain, Your Brain is Drained", on http://bulletsandhoney.blogspot.com. However, there is a brain drain of Africa that is very real, but is a local one. As a lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam I see bright young student graduate and start looking for meaningful and most preferably well-paid occupations. Tanzania unfortunately does not provide large numbers of interesting jobs for highly qualified young professionals, and education in Tanzania does not have the reputation that would make you an obvious choice in the traditional brain drain move to the west. So how do these young professionals make a living for themselves? Obviously, like all entrepreneurial young people they look for the place where the money is at. And that, my friends, is within the development aid business. Instead of spending their intellectual capital on creating a small business, or improving local farming methods, they spend their lives coming up with development projects proposals that might catch the donor community. Obviously, such proposals rarely reflect real needs of the country, but instead reflects the latest trends in development support. Does anyone seriously think that Tanzanians feel very strongly about “democratisation through youth participation in local councils”, just to name an example? I may sound very cynical, but it is frustrating to see a bright student come in to your office asking for an idea to a development project that I think the donor community would support. There are obviously some real idealists with a mission out there – it’s just that I have not really met them yet! How do these projects, run by local and international NGOs benefit Africa? In my opinion 40 years of development aid without any development is evidence as strong as any, that aid should have been scrapped as a development concept long ago. However, that is a different a much larger debate. This time it is about the brain drain, and it just makes me sad to see such effort and such talent going into what are most often useless projects, for everyone but those lucky enough to have received funding for their NGO and for desk officers in international organisations and development agencies who obviously make their living in this manner. I do not for a second blame young Africans for pursuing this track. The amount of money available for a relatively little effort should be incentive enough for anyone, regardless if you are African, British or Swedish. Instead, the international development community is to blame. Through a relentless belief in the benefit of funding corrupt African governments who have learned to talk the talk, and to more or less useful and always short-term NG[...]



Elections in Tanzania postponed

2005-10-29T13:20:14.166+03:00

Tomorrow, on October 30, Tanzania was scheduled to hold national elections for the third time since multiparty democracy was introduced in 1992. The last week has seen the final sprints in the election campaigns of the political parties, the arrival of national and international observers, and final practical preparations of the election by the National Electoral Commission (NEC). However, in the middle of Thursday's intense preparations the news arrived that the vice-presidential candidate, Rajabu Jumbe of the opposition party, Chadema, had passed away after a short period of illness. The election laws thereby required the NEC to postpone the elections by a minimum of 21 days in order to allow Chadema to nominate and introduce a new candidate. After long deliberations the NEC finally decided to postpone all national elections until December 18, including the parliamentary and local council elections scheduled for the same day.The decision is an anti-climax for the political parties and the Tanzanian voters. It is also an economic problem as many of the processes will have to be redone in 6 weeks time. However, on the tourist paradise, yet painfully poor and politically charged, islands of Zanzibar, the election preparations continue under intense monitoring by the national and international observers. As a federal union, the elections for Zanzibari presidential post and parliament were also scheduled this weekend. These election are to be held as planned according to the Zanzibari Electoral Commission (ZEC).In the pervious election in 1995 and 2000, Zanzibar was the only real problem for the newly created democratic system. Reports of straightforward manipulation of the results by the ruling party, CCM, led to violent demonstrations and deadly clashes with the police. The run-up to this year’s election has in many ways imitated the previous ones with similar violent incidents around election rallies and clashes with the police. There have also been reports of manipulation in the process of voter registration.The political tension on Zanzibar stems from an almost exact split of the voters in half along ethnic and social lines stemming from the colonial days. Since the 1964 revolution the parties have been divided and the ruling party has in an obvious manner supported its own group. This has led to a deeply rooted resentment and mistrust among the population. As the opposition now are in a position to challenge the position of the ruling party, threats are made in all directions. Zanzibar's President, Amani Abeid Karume, argued during the election campaign that his party (CCM) will always be a revolutionary party unafraid of using the military. "If necessary, we are prepared to repeat the revolution from 1964." The statement was watered down the following day by the party secretary, but it still provides a good example of the intimidation tactics that are used in Zanzibar. On the other side, the main opposition party, CUF, has early in the campaign argued that they will not accept an election result that shows defeat and have threatened with riots in case this happens. The last week before the election some of the tensions have nevertheless eased a bit and the voters register has finally been verified. The opposition has encouraged its voters to peacefully leave the polling stations and go home after casting their votes, and thereby not give the police an excuse to intervene. However, it is impossible to predict the events on election Sunday and after the presentation of the election results. The big question is how far the incumbent government is willing to go in order to remain in power, and how the opposition[...]