Post-Conflict, Peace / Nation Building in Iraq and Afghanistan

Post-Conflict, Peace/Nation Building in Iraq and Afghanistan

Somehow, within a forty year span of time, the United States has found itself ensnared in multiple wars in Asia at the same time. Again, unless we can influence the postwar nation building process, powers that are inimical to United States interests (in the present Iran) will fill the vacuum upon the American withdrawal. In this short essay, this author will list two lessons learned from our wars apply it to the defacto American raj in Afghanistan and Iraq. First is not to become too closely associated with present unpopular regimes as it is doing with the present administrations in the countries in which we are "nation-building." Also, staying engaged in a never ending guerrilla war that has no foreseeable end is an obvious lesson, something we have had the odious distinction of doing in both cases. Unfortunately, for all involved, the deed has been done. In the case of Afghanistan, the deed has been done twice (if one counts the CIA effort against the Soviets). In that case, it is a question of whether or not round two will also comprise a failure in nation-building.

What is disturbing about the war in Afghanistan and Iraq as is that the comparisons to Vietnam end at the energy question. For all of its problems that conflagration did not include oil and natural gas. Obviously, energy is at the heart of these wars, if not in their origin, then in their duration. After all, nation states (especially hegemonic unipolar super powers like America) do not spend trillions of dollars defending nonessentials. Americans have died for many years at the hands of terrorists, yet we had no widespread war against it before 2001. By plumbing the depths of what is different between the present conflicts about why the present is different and why our Afghan and Iraqi efforts have failed can find out how not to repeat such mistakes in places such as Libya. By examining the depleted state of the United States economy, we certainly know that the present course is definitely not the way to go. Unless we engage the people of all these countries on all levels on a civil affairs basis, including culturally, economically and democratically, we will lose the wars of hearts of minds to the Iranians.

For the above reasons, this author proposes an out of the "out of the box" solution that can be added onto U.N. conventions that have been part and partial of international law since the early 1990's in the wake of the first Gulf War and the humanitarian intervention in Somalia. This is an old solution with a number of notable, yet little know successes and it has complemented U.N. Efforts admirably in the difficult cause of peacekeeping: international arbitration under the auspices of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague. The efforts of the Hague conventions of 1899 and 1907 have given us long-lasting international institutions that promote peace and understanding among nations. These conventions, were among the first formal international statements concerning the laws of war and war crimes in international law.1 In order to defeat the psychological assaults of radicals in the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and to counter Iranian propaganda, we will need to examine this option as a way of engaging the people of these countries to get their acquiescence in the nation building efforts.

2-Post Conflict and Peace-building -- the Took Kit

In this section of the essay, we will define what post conflict strategies and peace building operations entail and why this all is important in the rebuilding of nations that have been destroyed by War. Before we even speak about peacekeeping or nation building, we need to define the state a country is in. In a 2002 Foreign Affairs article, Robert Rotberg defines rogue states and failed states and explains that sometimes these are, but are not always the same thing. In such an estimation, a failed state is one where the central government has completely collapsed. These can include countries such as Afghanistan where the government was not fully in control or Somalia where there was no central government. Certainly, Afghanistan could have been considered a rogue state due to its sponsorship of Osama bin Laden. While Iraq had a working central government, it would be considered a rogue state.2

Certainly, the original organization that comes to mind when post conflict and peace-building are mentioned is the United Nations. After the first Iraq War and the U.N. sanctioned intervention, specific U.N. policy guidelines were promulgated in order to make sure that their member states got it right on peacekeeping missions. As then U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Ghali defined it:

Post-conflict peace-building seeks to prevent the resurgence of conflict and to create the conditions necessary for a sustainable peace in war-torn societies. It is a holistic process involving broad-based inter-agency cooperation across a wide range of issues. It encompasses activities as diverse as traditional peacekeeping and electoral assistance.3

As will be examined in this section of the essay, the then Secretary General laid out structural prevention/strategies to address the root causes of deadly conflict so that wars do not happen in a region again. This includes meeting peoples' basic economic, social, cultural and humanitarian needs by rebuilding societies that have been shattered by war or major crises. He emphasized that this new peacekeeping will be based upon information and fact-finding.4 For this, there would need to be an unprecedented sharing of information among U.N. departments to inform the Secretary General and the Security Council as to options. He points to Articles 36 and 37 of the Charter that give the Secretary-General "to recommend to the U.N. Member States the submission of a dispute to the International Court of Justice, arbitration or other dispute-settlement mechanisms."5 This would then determine the type of peacekeeping mission that the U.N. Or its constituent states would be involved in. Peace-building and options short of war need to be considered first. Peace-building strategies are of two broad types: 1)The development by governments acting cooperatively, or alternately by international regimes in order to manage the interactions of states (this idea will be developed further in the case of international arbitration). 2) the development by individual states (with the help of outsiders if necessary) of political mechanisms to ensure bedrock security, well-being and justice for their citizens) 6 Basically, the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) of the U.N. does this.7 The PBC is an intergovernmental advisory body of the U.N. that supports peace efforts in countries that are emerging from conflict. It is a key addition to coordinating the capacities of the International Community to promote the broad peace agenda (coordination of troops, finances, governments, etc.)8

Robert C. Orr reflects upon the effectiveness of the U.N. As an instrument for peacekeeping by looking at the effectiveness of its chief provider of forces for peacekeeping missions, the United States.

For Orr, there is not question bu that the United States is a force in the world for stability. It is simply a question of how that stability is to be best achieved. For Orr, there are three fundamental questions to answer with regard to this issue. These questions can be listed as follows: 1) What is needed to rebuild countries after war? 2) How can the United States improve its capacity to succeed at post-conflict reconstruction? 3) When and how should the United States use this capacity?9 Orr posits further that weak or failed states engaged in war and revolution are a threat to the United States and the entire world because of the threat that they present to the world in general and the United States in particular due to destabilization of world order. This is due to the operation of criminal and terrorist networks from such countries.10

In James Dobbins book regarding America's nation-building efforts since World War 2.

While there have been armed United States interventions, the focus is upon political peacebuilding. These include structural peace-building, such as activities that create middle-level peace structures such as in Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo11 The United States addresses all aspects of public safety, especially with regard to the establishment of a safe and secure environment and development of legitimate and stable security institutions. This includes the provision of individual and collective security.12 However, the United States is not doing this on its own, but is turning to multilateral partners as well.

James Notter and Louise Diamond call for a different strategy that they label structural prevention or peace building. According to Notter and Diamond, peace-building comprises strategies that address the root causes of wars. They call it conflict transformation to imply the deep, foundational types of changes that need to be made in order to prevent war.13 Notter and Diamond however differ considerably Ghali's approach. They feel his emphasis is based upon his concentration upon the violence and military conflict. They further feel that prevention is also the key here so as that crises do not happen in theā€¦