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THE CULTURE AND CONFLICT REVIEW Click for an RSS Feed for the Latest Articles

Issue: Vol 5, #1 - Spring 2011

The Culture & Conflict Review is an online peer-review journal produced by the Program for Culture & Conflict Studies, bringing you analysis of current events, policy, operations, and human terrain in South and Central Asia as well as other regions of the world. Premised on the belief that the United States must understand the culture and human terrain of other nations and peoples, we offer commentary and analysis on issues of current interest to policy makers, military commanders, academics, and the general public. We are particularly interested in issues addressing culture, anthropology, regional and identity politics, and the contemporary role of U.S. forces in areas of conflict. New issues of The Culture & Conflict Review are published on a quarterly basis.

Welcome to The Culture & Conflict Review

Welcome to the Spring 2011 edition of The Culture & Conflict Review. We are very pleased to present you with an engaging selection of new articles on several timely and important topics.

In this edition of the Review, we present three feature article sections. Our first section, "Insurgency, Counterinsurgency & Reality," considers some new ideas, insights and observations, from the field as well as from theoretical analysis, on current insurgencies and counterinsurgencies from the Middle East and South Asia. In this section, Major Thomas M. Ross discusses the challenges of "muscular mentoring" and of applying COIN theory as prescribed in FM 3-24 to the battlefield realities of the war in Afghanistan; George Washington University's Chris Dallas-Feeney examines Hezbollah to help understand the role of legitimated power on the resilience of insurgencies which experience external shocks, and to investigate the payoff for investments made to legitimate their power prior to such shocks; and CCS researcher Barry S. Zellen discusses the roots and dynamics of the recent wave of people-powered uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa.

Our second section, "Afghanistan: Engagement & Disengagement," examines the war in Afghanistan, and challenges associated with our potential disengagement the conflict. In this section, Dr. Andrew J. Enterline and Joseph Magagnoli, both of the Department of Political Science at the University of North Texas, examine the timing and consequences of negotiating with the Taliban; and Varun Vira, of George Washington University, considers the consequences of an early withdrawal from the conflict.

Our third feature article section looks broadly a "Conquering Chaos: From Insecurity to Security," considering various challenges to the international economic, cultural, and strategic order. In this section, Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Choo of the Singapore Armed Forces and Dr. David A. Anderson, professor of Strategic Studies and the Odom Chair of Joint, Interagency and Multinational Operations at the US Army Command and General Staff College, consider the effects of China's historic WTO ascension on regional security; USAF Col. Michael F. Welch examines the international legal challenges of disaster response, peacekeeping ops, and cultural protection efforts in the Americas; and Brazilian Navy commander Osvaldo Peçanha Caninas discusses the international legal dimensions of modern maritime piracy on the high seas.

We also present a selection of new student theses, including that of our very own Matthew C. DuPée; and an update of recent publications from CCS researchers and its director, Thomas H. Johnson.

I. Insurgency, Counterinsurgency & Reality

Looking back on my time spent as the RCAC 3-5 Intelligence Advisor and Officer-in-Charge of ETT 7-3, I see where our actions coincided with the elements of sound counterinsurgency strategy and where they diverged; a closer look at FM 3-24 also reveals some omissions, specifically in the selection and training of advisors. Throughout the deployment, the COIN principle of unity of effort continued to surface, usually from the conspicuous lack of unity. It would be something that we continued to wrestle with until re-deployment. A lack of cultural and historic understanding would likewise hamper our efforts as advisors, although it was nearly uniformly commented on by our Afghan counterparts that the Marines had a strong understanding of Afghan history. Possessing a capability to learn and adapt was one of our pillars of success. When coupled with efforts to include external units in ANA bids for success, we may not have accomplished earth-shattering achievementsbut we did avert some major catastrophes. [...]
Why are some mature insurgencies more resilient than others when subject to external shocks? This article examines the case of Hezbollah, to better understand the role of legitimated power on the resilience of insurgencies and to investigate the payoff for investments made to legitimate power prior to such shocks. As argued, due to stresses at various times in an organization’s life cycle, organizations may be unable to provide historical levels of material goods yet followers and sponsors do not defect and in some cases may even increase their market share. Thus, in the wake of the Hezbollah’s 2006 war with Israel, support for Hezbollah grew even though the organization’s ability to provide important material support was severely degraded as a result of the war. [...]
An unexpected wave of people-powered insurgencies has erupted across the Middle East and North Africa, shaking the very strategic foundation of not only the Middle East region, but of the entire world order. To understand the transformative power of the people as manifested in this cascading series of popular revolts, and their potential for success against tyrannical regimes recognized as ruthlessly Machiavellian by even their closest friends and allies, a natural starting point is the very archetype of strategic nonviolence, Mohandas K. Gandhi, and his modern interpreter, Gene Sharp, a leading theorist of strategic nonviolence. [...]

II. Afghanistan: Engagement & Disengagement

The emergence of a negotiated settlement as the goal of the American-led allied military mission in Afghanistan raises several questions: How likely is a negotiated settlement with Taliban insurgents? How long will it take to conclude negotiations with the Taliban? What is the likely long-term byproduct of negotiating with the Taliban? How close will the post-settlement “facts on the ground” be to American goals in Afghanistan? How will the recent strategy change in OEF influence negotiations and the resulting short- and long-term consequences? We investigate these questions by exploring patterns of negotiations between foreign powers and insurgents in COIN wars during the twentieth century.  Our analysis serves as a probe of the aforementioned policy questions, such that we are merely querying the historical record to gain an understanding of how counterinsurgent armies fared in negotiations with insurgents. This probe provides a foundation from which to develop a theory of COIN negotiations that we intend to pursue subsequently. [...]
The siphoning of Western blood and treasure on a deteriorating Afghan mission has revived a groundswell of support for withdrawal of coalition forces with the common misperception that coalition withdrawal will remove many of the catalysts for conflict. Unfortunately, a premature withdrawal, along the surge-and-exit paradigm that does not require a radically altered security environment, runs the real danger of failing to sate any of the coalition’s rationales for intervention. Even with significant post-withdrawal commitments, a precipitous withdrawal is likely to witness significant institutional degradation and ethno-factional fragmentation alongside an insurgent resurgence and a reinvigorated transnational terrorist sanctuary. [...]

III. Conquering Chaos: From Insecurity to Security

On 11 December 2001, China was formally accepted as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), an event hailed as “a defining moment in the history of the multilateral trading system;” in the years since, China’s rise as a political and economic power has been nothing short of meteoric, eclipsing Germany and Japan to become the world’s second largest economy. The purpose of this article is to assess the impact of China’s accession to the WTO on its overall growth momentum as well as its economic interdependency with other East Asian states, and establish a link, if any, with the evolving security environment in the region. By extension, the analysis will address the relevance of economic liberalism in the East Asian context and to what degree it enhances peace in the region. [...]
One of the lessons learned from the last year's earthquake in Haiti was that external responders did not have general knowledge of Haitian cultural sites, including Jacmel, which has been on Haiti’s Tentative List for World Heritage nomination since 2004. Yet, protection of cultural sites is a need identified both through International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, and is also important for religious significance, economic development, and many other reasons. The following article describes cultural property initiatives developed as part of a program to help meet the need for protecting these sites through coordination with governmental and non-governmental organizations, particularly with military and security officials of and Latin American States, through December 2010.  [...]
Piracy is shrouded by misunderstanding and myth, fostered in part by Hollywood films that depict piracy in a romanticized fashion.  But the activity is alive and well in our own time, and in recent years the number of attacks has grown, and drawn increasing attention of media and governments. This article is divided in two sections; the first explores the definition of the crime under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The second deals with maritime issues that are particularly overlooked due to their technical nature, notwithstanding their importance in fighting piracy. [...]

IV. Student Theses

We are also pleased to share with you the following student theses:

The production of illicit narcotics in low-intensity conflict environments remains a serious concern for U.S. policymakers. Afghanistan is a solid example where the intersection of crime, narcotics production and insurgency has successfully thwarted U.S. stabilization and security efforts despite a 10-year military engagement there. This study explores political, economic and conflict related factors that facilitate the narcotics industry and forges cooperation between drug trafficking organizations and insurgent movements. A key argument is that nontraditional participants in narcotics production, such as insurgent groups or state representatives and institutions, acquire more than just profit and resources. Participants stand to gain political leverage, the social and political legitimacy derived from “protecting” the livelihoods of rural farmers, as well as “freedom of action;” the ability to operate unimpeded within a given territory or space because of public support. This study also suggests that one additional factor, social control, is a key motivator for an actor’s participation in the narcotics industry. [...]
This research introduces and adapts the 25 techniques of Situational Crime Prevention for use in counterinsurgency operations. These techniques are based on a set of powerful theories within the fields of Environmental and Situational Criminology. Situational Prevention is a strategy that addresses specific crimes, or insurgent activity, by managing, designing, and manipulating the environment in a manner that seeks to increase the risk to the insurgent, while reducing the insurgent’s potential reward for committing the act. The 25 techniques offer a practical means to apply these theories to the reality of counterinsurgency operations. Use of the 25 techniques would expand the repertoire of preventive countermeasures, and enable a security force to intervene in the causal chain events to prevent or reduce the occurrence of insurgent violence and crime. These techniques originate from five core principles: increasing effort, increasing risk, reducing rewards, removing excuses, and reducing provocations. [...]

V. CCS Publications

Lastly, we are pleased to share some new publications from CCS researchers and its director, Thomas H. Johnson:

This article describes and analyzes a little understood Afghan Taliban propaganda tool: chants or taranas. These melodic refrains effectively use historical narratives, symbology, and iconic portraits. The chants are engendered in emotions of sorrow, pride, desperation, hope, and complaints to mobilize and convince the Afghan population of the Taliban’s worldview. The chants represent culturally relevant and simple messages that are communicated in a narrative and poetic form that is familiar to and resonates with the local people. They are virtually impossible for the United States and NATO to counter because of Western sensitivities concerning religious themes that dominate the Taliban narrative space, not to mention the lack of Western linguistic capabilities, including the understanding and mastering the poetic nature of local dialects. [...]
  • The Taliban, by Matthew C. DuPée, The American Foreign Policy Council’s World Almanac of Islamism, January 10, 2011
After decades of intra-state conflict, social and economic crisis, and external meddling, Afghanistan resembled a broken skeleton of its former self by the early 1990s. The ensuing chaos and banditry led to public demand for law and order. In response, a little known former resistance fighter named Mullah Mohammad Omar, and his Taliban (religious students) led a brief but well received campaign to rid southern Afghanistan's Kandahar region of its predatory commanders and bandits in the spring of 1994. [...]
Southwest Asia's robust illicit-narcotics industry is usually associated with Afghanistan, a narco-producing empire responsible for supplying 90 percent of the global supply of illegal opiates. However, the spillover effect from Afghanistan's booming drug industry is having a profound impact on Afghanistan's regional neighbors. [...]

On behalf of all of us at the Program for Culture and Conflict Studies (CCS), please enjoy our latest edition of the The Culture and Conflict Review.

As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions as well as submissions of articles and op-eds for our future editions.

Look for our special Earth Day 2011 issue on climate security, coming the week of April 22nd. We'll see you then!

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