After reading Squandered Victory, Larry Diamond’s excellent book about his experience as an advisor to the CPA during the early days after the invasion I’ve found the topic of how American’s can work together effectively with the Iraqi administration very interesting. The book both strongly condemns many of the planning and strategic mistakes that were made both before (much discussed) and after the invasion (less well known) but also shows the efforts of people on the ground who are trying to bootstrap democracy in an unfamiliar and increasingly hostile environment. I recently found a great (and very short) article in the Small Wars Journal with advice to new Advisors in Iraq and wanted to link it here (click on the Apture link to read the Document).
Many of the lessons are relevant to working with any foreign government, especially the first one:
Since my first time in Iraq, in 2005, one essential fact on the ground has completely changed. While Coalition troops are still the most powerful fighting force in the country, the Coalition is no longer in control. The Iraqi Government is now exercising its sovereignty, and does not wish to be dictated to. This attitude filters down to the lowest levels and will color your interaction with Iraqis. You will only be able to perform your role as an advisor if you accept this fact and work with it. You are there to offer help, not to dictate, and your advice should be offered subtly and without appearing to be a demand.
Nicholas Kristof of the The International Herold Tribune tried to register a protest for the Beijing Olympics and made a video about the procedure. He talks about the difficulty of his endeavor and comes to the conclusion that there was no actual process for allowing protests (as mirrored in the Economist excerpt below) but then goes on to talk about Freedom in China today and about how China has made real progress in given its people more freedom – allowing them to move more freely, marry more easily, switch jobs, and generally live their lives more like they want to. This is not to ignore many of the very real issues it still very much faces but an important thing to be aware of and keep in mind. Nothing new here but an interesting video nonetheless.
The Economist on the lack of protests:
For all the good cheer generated by the gold medals, the party is clearly nervous of the slightest challenge to its authority. Having named three Beijing parks where protests would be allowed during the Olympics, the police turned down all of at least 77 applications for permission to hold demonstrations. Among those who applied were two women in their 70s who wanted to complain about inadequate compensation for being relocated from their homes. The authorities responded to their request by sentencing both to a year in labour camp, though the sentences are suspended as long as they behave well.
Here’s another interesting article I found through Chris Blattman’s blog, this time on Zimbabwe (I swear I’m going to switch to articles from elsewhere soon, I’m just catching up on the week’s reading and posting things as I find them). I’ve always been very skeptical about these kinds of power sharing agreements that are forced upon opposition parties that have a legitimate claim to an actual election victory, but I haven’t read any formal studies. Are these compromises better than continued post election violence or will they only lead to even less effective government and therefore make things worse in the future? Can actors resolve their disagreements and work together effectively?
Power sharing certainly works in many European governments (though it is often very unstable as recent events in my native Austria show) but I think it is virtually impossible in a situation like Zimbabwe where the ruling party is willing to try virtually anything to undermine its new ‘partner’. The article cites many reasons as to why power sharing wont work but I think the most important is the point below:
Even if a power-sharing arrangement was a viable option and could prevent more violence in the shorter or longer term, it is not necessarily a strategy worth pursuing. Allowing a small number of elites to determine outcomes is inherently undemocratic, and manifestly ignores voters’ choices. It would make more sense to hold new elections as soon as possible, preferably under a caretaker government. Otherwise, a terrible precedent is set, encouraging politicians who are not committed to democracy to attempt to steal elections and then, through power-sharing agreements, secure a much stronger position than they otherwise would have held. The Zimbabwean opposition and international actors would be well advised to consider this before supporting further negotiations.
I have been feeling ambivalent about the effectiveness of sanctions for longer than I can remember but have spend very little time reading about this topic. This is partially why two articles about the effect of sanctions on Sudan linked by Chris Blattman particularly struck my interest this week. While I’ve read Prunier’s book on Darfur I don’t spend too much time following the conflict but these are worth a read to anyone who is interested in whether sanctions can affect positive change in a country (e.g. Cuba, Myanmar, Iraq, …) though – sorry to disappoint – you won’t find any definite answer here.
High Time to Lift Sanctions by Ibrahim Adam (which I read first) makes some interesting points but left me unconvinced. The most immediately questionable claim is that removing sanctions would allow President Bashir the resources (financial and political) to affect change in Sudan:
So, what’s in it for either John McCain or Barack Obama to lift the sanctions from Sudan? Big dividends. It would give President Bashir political space to hasten changing Sudan to an equitable, democratic country, as specified by the landmark 2005 north-south Sudan peace agreement – the policy anchor of US government.
I don’t think that affecting change is in Bashir’s interest and it certainly does not seem to be a priority and it doesn’t seem to be a good assumption to base an argument upon. The following section was, however, far more interesting:
Removing sanctions would help Sudan’s political institutions mature, too. The deafening criticism of Khartoum by Washington accompanying US sanctions often crowds out civil society and government discourse on other important, but ‘normal’, policy issues. Agriculture reforms, for example. US private investment into southern Sudan, thus far stifled by reputation risk fears, would also surely grow strongly following the abolition of the sanctions.
While Daniel Millenson’s rebuttal (more on it below) questions the causality of the war, I do think that the argument below played a role in escalating some of the underlying issues:
US-led isolation meant the Sudanese government got, for example, just $56 million in foreign budgetary support during 1994-1998 according to IMF data. At roughly forty cents per person per year, that’s hardly enough for the government to build some roads and a couple of schools in Darfur, never mind cater for all Sudan. Protracted, severe constraints on public finances in one of the world’s largest (10th), but poorest countries (141 out of 176 in the 2006 UN Human Development Index) could only ever lead to one outcome. Crystallizing or, in the case of Darfur, reviving older badges of identification (kinship, religious, locality and ethnic ties), due to the collapse of public investment and welfare spending over most of the last two decades.
Millenson’s explanation for the immediate causes of the war seems more accurate, but I was more interested in the exceptions to the sanction regime that he points out – I think that details like this are extremely important to understanding the impact of sanctions.
Darfur reached its staggering death toll primarily because al Bashir escalated the conflict, arming janjaweed militias to attack civilian populations. In a relationship exactly inverse to that described by Mr. Adam’s thesis, the war in Darfur was bankrolled by the very oil-driven foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows he praises.
While US sanctions have caused myriad headaches and missed business opportunities for the NIF/NCP regime, contrary to Mr. Adam’s claims, they have done little to further the plight of ordinary Sudanese. Then and now, US sanctions provide generous exemptions for food (which apparently even includes Coca-Cola’s syrup) and medical products to enter the country. It is hard to take seriously Ibrahim Adam’s claim that “‘excess’ deaths from US sanctions… probably runs into the hundreds of thousands.” Surely the government of Sudan, which provided the small arms and air force behind the initial and most violent 2003-2004 stage of the war (not to mention the North-South civil war), bears more direct responsibility for “excess” deaths.
The central question is still if and when sanctions are an effective instrument for affecting change in countries with bad leaders and if not, what would more effective alternatives be? I hope to have better answers at some point in the future.
An excellent short interview with Chris Blattman on travelling on economic development as well as a more general point on development. I really liked the following bit on what it will take to lift more African countries out of poverty:
The difference between a poor country (say, $2000 per head) and a middle income one (say, $12000 per head) is simple: one has a manufacturing sector and one does not. Something like forty percent of Kenya’s GDP comes from the 5 percent of the workforce: those in light and medium industry. That sector is crucial. Most African nations won’t have a self-sustaining education and health system until they build some sort of industrial tax base. What’s needed to get there? Reliable roads and electricity are a start. Reducing the red tape faced by business can help too. But realistically, I believe real wages in Asia will probably have to rise before it becomes profitable to produce in Africa. The faster China and India get rich, the sooner we’ll see a transformation in Africa. In the meantime, preferential trade and tax treatment by the US and Europe for African goods could help foster industry and technology transfer.