What is non-state violence? The Case of Afghan Conflict

De Baripedia

So far, we have been interested in building the state from the state's point of view. History is written by the victors. We will analyse the issue of non-state violence by opening up competition for state formation to other actors. The focal point will be non-state violence. Relations between the State and non-state actors can be approached in different ways with different relationships.

Questioning non-state violence[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The new global disorder? Proliferation of discourses on non-state violence[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

By the end of the Cold War, the counters were reset to zero. George Bush's notion of a "new world order" emerges. A series of theses put forward the idea of a new world order. The best known ideas are those of Charles Krauthammer's "unipolar moment" and the end of Francis Fukuyama's History. These theses had little success to the detriment of other theses. We are talking about different readings of the international system.

The most successful theses are the "towards global disorder" theses. The best-known theses are those of Samuel Huntington with the clash of civilizations and that of Robert Kaplan stated in The Coming Anarchy, How scarcity, crime, overpopulation, tribalism, and disease are rapidly destroying the social fabric of our planet. Both theses are based on non-state violence. The end of the Cold War is marked as the passage of the war as an inter-state affair that would become an internal civil war affair through non-state violence. The idea is to call into question the simplistic idea that with the end of the Cold War, it is the return to a form of the Middle Ages with anarchy and states that have not fulfilled their "contract" making non-state actors become the most dangerous objects for international security.

Thus, there is a proliferation of terms associated with non-state violence, which shows that state violence is no longer the most important threat:

  • insurrection;
  • terrorism;
  • piracy;
  • guerilla;
  • transnational organized crime;
  • civil war;
  • militia;
  • watchful;
  • death squadrons;
  • mafias;
  • gangs;
  • petty crime;
  • ethnic conflicts;
  • religious conflicts;
  • Illegal combatants;
  • rebellious;
  • riots;
  • Demonstrations;
  • revolt;
  • revolution;
  • privatization of the war;
  • uplift;
  • mercenaries
  • Subversion.

According to this reading of the international system, what is a matter for the State refers to law and order, and what is an issue for the inter-State would be a matter of disorder. Danger becomes failed states. These terms relate to the following concepts:"failed states" and "failed states" proposed by Richard Rotberg,"collapsed" as William Zartman uses it,"leviathan blade","near-states" as proposed by Robert H Jackson. All of these imply the proliferation of non-state violence, which is a corollary to the loss of the monopoly of violence by the state.

The restrictive definition of non-state violence[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The theses we have seen have a totalizing ambition raising the criticism that they often function as self-fulfilling prophecies is that they have no explanatory value. Literature is primarily concerned with the causes of war, but we will instead focus on the consequences of war in particular social configurations.

Contras in Nicaragua, 1987

Non-state violence as it emerged in 1989 is not a relevant starting point since, prior to the emergence of the modern state, non-state violent actors existed. We have already seen that many actors had already used armed force before the emergence of the modern state. It is precisely the competition between these players that makes it possible to achieve a Weberian monopoly that will allow the construction of centralised states in Europe. By definition, these actors can be described as "non-state". The simplistic theses on order and international disorder are anhistorical whereas in all the territories of the world, there are, at different times, political stakes with different actors trying to impose themselves on others. In fact, there is no real contradiction, at least historically, between non-state violence and the advent of the state, since the state is non-state violence.

Taking the example of mercenarism, Janice Thompson shows in Mercenaries, Pirates and Sovereigns: State-building and Extraterritorial Violence in Early Modern Europe published in 1994 how from the 16th century to the 19th century in Europe, there is the construction of a monopoly of internal violence with the accumulation of resources, but during this period which is supposed to be the period when European states are forming, one is not in a monopoly of external violence. Until the 19th century, the exercise of violence outside the borders of European states was mainly carried out by non-state violence, and therefore by private violence. The monopoly of external violence is the fact that states delegated some of these tasks to non-state actors such as mercenaries.

The sequence from the peace of Westphalia must be questioned. The nationalisation of our entire societies is a relatively recent development. The example of Janis Thompson is interesting in that it allows us to stay on top of Western states. If we apply a serious reading of these theories to civil wars, things are more complicated than the fact that non-state actors are enemies of the present state in order to bring down a state.

Max Weber defines the state as a political project that, in general, successfully asserts a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. The case of the Spanish Civil War which lasted from 1936 to 1939 shows that this project is not always successful. This conflict was triggered by a military rebellion against the elected government of the Second Spanish Republic. On both sides, Republicans and Franquists,"non-state" elements fought against anarchists, international volunteers, the POUM and the Phalange. The challenge has never been to bring about the collapse of the Spanish state.

Does this imply that the Spanish state as a political model has been questioned? Well, not necessarily. Both sides fought for state control rather than another form of political organization. Often, civil war can be a phenomenon in a specific context where the challenge is not to question the state itself. Thus, there is not necessarily a contradiction between "non-state violence" and the preponderance of the state. A civil war can be the result of internal competition to control the state.

Three levels of understanding must be considered, raising three questions:

  • control: what is controlled by the government and what is outside government control. In a civil war, the first question that arises is: is there a disappearance of the central authority?
  • Strategic objective - "State-making/ state-breaking": Is the objective to build the State or to dissolve the State? The question that emerges is to what extent does the conflict always lie within the territorial boundaries of a State or within a separate entity.
  • effect: construction of the State/state bankruptcy. Depending on different contingencies, one can have a strengthened or collapsing state. When one looks at civil wars, one has to ask oneself what the effects will be, wondering to what extent, is there fragmentation, regionalization, polarization, or monopolization?

This sequencing of civil wars is an interesting way to approach the subject.

Définition restrictive de la violence non étatique 1.png

One case of regionalisation is Somalia. At the end of the Cold War, Somalia went through a number of conflicts. In this apparent anarchy, Somalia has been fragmented into more or less coherent entities such as Somaliland and Puntland. After a fragmentation of the country, some actors have recreated fairly coherent territories and the Somali conflict has become regionalized. At the same time, it is a precarious balance.

Définition restrictive de la violence non étatique 2.jpg

The Spanish case is a polarization case, i. e. we are fighting around a centre. It is a political field where the aim is to take power in Spain. The escalation of violence leads to polarization within a given state. The civil war in the United States was a polarization case with two different visions of what the United States was and what came out of it is a strengthened American state. These are civil wars that have contributed to the accumulation of resources within these states, allowing them to build these states through the classic mechanisms of "war making/state making".

When we talk about civil war, we are faced with potentially very different dynamics in terms of the relationship between war and state building.

Définition restrictive de la violence non étatique 3.png

This map raises the issue of fragmentation with different mechanisms and effects. What is certain is that it would be reductive to understand what is happening in Syria today from the perspective of a failed state. Fragmentation is an issue. At the origin of the conflict, there was a polarization with the question of the seizure of power in Syria.

For some actors in Syria, socio-economic issues meant that there could be a sense of dispossession in favour of the Assad family. This is followed by a case of regionalisation with certain territories which are more than simply controlled by some actors setting up a system through the monopoly of domestic violence. The logic of monopolisation shows that this is a form of monopolisation of resources, since the Islamic State, in the occupied areas, has begun to develop characteristics similar to those of a State.

With this case, we are faced with various logics where the relationship to the State is not at all clear with fragmentation, regionalization and even monopolization. The relationship in state building is not one-way.

The Case of Afghan Conflict[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Afghanistan is a country that emerged from a fragile constitutional process, marked by many wars, many external interventions and fragmented power between different clans. Different phases follow one another in the relationship with the construction of the State. This reading will allow us to approach the Afghan conflicts in a new way. Taylor and Botea in Tilly: War-Making and State-Making in the Contemporary Third World published in 2008 will compare Vietnam and Afghanistan showing that the relationship to state building is different. In Vietnam, the civil war helped build a state, while in Afghanistan, civil wars prevented the Afghan state from achieving a monopoly on domestic violence.

A never-ending monopoly or fragile formation of the Afghan state: 1747 - 1979[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Monopole fragile état afghan 1.png

Afghanistan is a fragile state from its birth, dependent on foreign aid from Britain, the USSR and the United States. It is a construction of the State through war with a certain proximity to Charles Tilly's thesis. A defensive war brought tribes together in 1838,1878 and 1919.

The construction of the Afghan state is representative of the difficulties in building a state outside the western framework. It is a fragile state: the Ahmed Shah Empire was torn apart in the 18th century by dynastic wars that did not lead to change at the head of state. The State derives its resources more from outside than from within, in particular through external financing of the monopoly rather than internal financing, thus moving away from the European model. Thus, the Afghan state is dependent on external support. There was no direct colonization, but indirect domination. This logic will be systematically maintained by foreign invasions. Similarly, the departure of the Soviets in 1989 led to civil war and political fragmentation.

As early as the 1830s, Afghanistan was based only on an external monopoly of violence. We can see that the only form of monopoly that the Afghan state had was a common foreign policy in the sense that local leaders were not going to wage war outside Afghanistan. Indeed, the Afghan state is in no way in a position to claim a monopoly on domestic violence, which is shared with other traditional authorities such as the Khans and local chiefs. This is a great divergence from the European trajectory. When the central authority is able to impose itself, it never succeeds in doing so effectively, leading to a blockage in the accumulation of resources that would lead to a monopoly on violence.

Traditional local authorities are only temporarily subjected to the central authority by giving it money, despite the king's monopoly on the importation of Indian rifles. The idea of state building remains implicit. The idea of building the State through the creation of a monopoly remains present with the constitution of a central power, but which cannot impose its monopoly. Local leaders benefit from the instability of central government. This gives them broad autonomy. This situation persisted during the Mujahedeen-led war against the USSR. It is questionable whether this means that Norbert Elias is wrong when he asserts that competition leads to a monopoly on domestic violence.

It would be easy to say that this does not only apply to Afghanistan because there have been several attempts to establish a central power. The international context prevents this sequence from being implemented. According to Gilles Dorronsoro, at least until Soviet retirement in 1989, the violent competition and civil war between Mudjahedeen commanders led to the elimination of one another until the creation of a relative monopoly on domestic violence, the Taliban state. We enter into a very elesian logic with the rise of the Taliban, who will get rid of their opponents to impose a monopoly on domestic violence.

Afghan Wars (1989 to the Present) and Paradoxes of Non-State Violence[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Guerre afghane 1.png

The emergence of Afghanistan's Mullah Omar is approaching a form of competition between actors with the Taliban, who will impose themselves on others and establish a monopoly on domestic violence. We are far from a strong state, but it must be pointed out that, at the level of the monopoly on domestic violence, the process was advanced.

Contrary to previous regimes, the Taliban, despite an apparent greater interest in religion than in politics, have managed to impose a relative monopoly on domestic violence. But it was their loss of control over external violence that led to their downfall after 9/11. The Taliban relied heavily on foreign fighters to impose the monopoly of domestic violence with the onset of resource accumulation and at the same time, these non-state actors committed attacks outside Afghanistan's borders. Since then, the cycle of violence in Afghanistan has resumed a sequence as after 1989 with an invasion, insurgencies, counter-insurgency in the context of a civil war. These are elements that can refer to Charles Tilly and Norbert Elias.

Monopole fragile état afghan 1.png

The "Herat warlord" challenged the central government of Harmid Kharzai. It has its own security forces, raised its own taxes, had its own social services and a justice system. All this outside the competence of the central power. One could then say that Amir Ismail Khan controls his own state if there were not strong competition between him and the central government. In 2004, the Afghan army and Khan forces clashed. Khan lost and he was appointed Energy Minister becoming a member of a government he had fought against until then.

Ismail Khan asks a question about the state's definition of Maw Weber, which is that the monopoly of legitimate violence claimed by the state is always territorialized. It is a monopoly on legitimate violence in a given territory. By varying the play of scales, perhaps the so-called "collapsing state" situations are actually the constitution of several states. If we look at the scale of a neighbourhood or a street, there is a monopoly on violence and there can be a state. Networks of interdependencies make it impossible in the long term to impose a monopoly of legitimate violence that is not contested by a central power or an actor who wants to take over the central power. The territorial dimension is very important and the territory is not simply a spatial scale that we want to vary. The territory is also defined by chains of interdependencies.

After the intervention in 2011, first with an American-British coalition enlarged to NATO in 2003, there was a regionalization of power on the scale of Afghanistan, as well as a regionalization of power between 1993 and 1996. Since 2001, warlords have been controlling the big cities. Warlords control the security, fiscal and political apparatus of an entire province by exercising power from one of Afghanistan's major cities. For example, Amir Ismail Khan has a private army, he levies taxes, provides a number of public services and legitimately administers justice with the consent of the parties to the dispute and relies on his security forces. It can be said that he has his own state, there is a monopoly of legitimate violence on the province of Herat. It is interesting to note that the term "warlord" refers to medieval lords.

The reason why it is better to talk about fragmentation of the monopoly of legitimate violence at the Afghan level is that the interdependency networks linking warlords together are never called into question. There are very important commercial exchanges on the Afghan scale, communications networks are dense and material interdependencies, there are also very strong symbolic interdependencies networks linked to the fact that Amir Ismail Khan can never challenge his Afghan identity and cannot define an identity specific to the province of Erat. Although he strongly contests and criticizes the central government in Kabul, this challenge is part of a strategic opposition between Amir Ismail Khan and Harmid Kharzai showing that he is not thinking as a sovereign on his territory. Its ultimate goal is to strengthen its power in Erat province to take over the capital and take control of the entire Afghan territory. One is not simply in a configuration where there are several monopolies of legitimate violence, but warlords are in constant struggle for central power, distinguishing it from a classical inter-state configuration. In 2004, the Afghan army and Ismail Khan's forces confronted each other and Ismail Khan lost. In 2004, the central government of Kharzai tried to consolidate its monopoly of legitimate power and took control of the Erat region. In the Afghan context of the time, losing to central power meant losing political autonomy from central power and being incorporated into central power. Ismail Khan's integration into the Afghan government after his military defeat marks his defeat in terms of autonomy and independence.

The question is what will happen to Afghanistan in the short or medium term, because at the end of 2014, NATO's mission will withdraw from the country, but there will still be a force of 30,000 American and Alliance troops in another mission. At the same time, military forces are being reduced, while American support for the Afghan police and army is gradually being reduced. The question is whether the new president will succeed in consolidating his monopoly of legitimate violence on the Afghan territory, or whether we will have a return to fragmentation dynamics or even regionalization around the big cities, or whether there will be a regime change that would overthrow power in Kabul. Today, many actors in Afghanistan intend to continue to play a role and ensure that the current post-2001 post-construction remige remains in place. The question is whether there will be a continuation of the civil war or fragmentation dynamics. There are two scenarios, i. e. the same as the one in which Ahmed Shah's Empire was in the 18th century with non-state violence and fragmentation, or the one observed after the soviets left with a civil war between several competitors until the last one was imposed.

Annexes[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

References[modifier | modifier le wikicode]