The vain support to failing states, going back to Clausewitz
Some days ago I had the opportunity to attend to a colloquium dealing with European Defence. At this occasion, I decided to cross the Rhine (peacefully) and went to Strasbourg.
One lecture was dedicated to Mali and the three military operation taking place over there. The speaker, Mr Dupuy, chairman of a French think tank named "IPSE" (no website available), although talentuous, was facing all the contradictions of current operations in Mali, explaining that the French commitment was absolutely needed although disrupting the terrorists would not solve the problem, if they were to be disrupted. Those explanations seem to have left a large part of the audience skeptical about the French goals in Mali and the final end state.
Well, in such occasions, one should go back to the roots, I mean Clausewitz, so that one can hopefully get some help. This post will focus on one very point: the definition of war in relation with failing states. The original text, dealing with the trinitiy of war is to be found at the bottom of this post. Here comes the English translation I could find on the www.clausewitz.com :
"War is more than a true chameleon that slightly adapts its characteristics to the given case. As a total phenomenon its dominant tendencies always make war a remarkable trinity-composed of primordial violence, hatred, and enmity, which are to be regarded as a blind natural force; of the play of chance and probability within which the creative spirit is free to roam; and of its element of subordination, as an instrument of policy, which makes it subject to reason alone.
The first of these three aspects mainly concerns the people; the second the commander and his army; the third the government".
Let us know consider the situation in Mali, as a current hotspot, although the same model could apply to any failing state, like Somalia, or some other you may focus on.
First, the people.
Waging war requires a tremendous effort from a nation, as peoples are rather more willing to live peacefully than looking for war, unless some deep crisis make them move on. Such crisis occur inside, developing a strong resentment against a neighboring country or some minorities. As well, it may be imported from outside and leads the people to an unbearable feeling of danger. For instance, in the recent times, the terrorist attacks off 9.11 were at the origin of the mobilization of the whole american nation, which went to Iraq and Afghanistan.
On the contrary, although half of Mali was under the rule of the islamist terrorist, nothing, absolutely nothing occurred. Obviously the Malian Nation (let us suppose that there is one) was not able to take any measure preparing either the conquest of North, or at least the defence of South. Maybe there were some bellicist statement, but those can be looked at as mere rhetoric.
Second, the Armed forces.
The armed forces were focused on taking part to the political debate, supporting such faction, or even, fought against each others, as it occurred on 8th February, while the French troops were on the front line. What made the French president to intervene was the inability of Malian armed forces to deploy and stop the columns of jihadists heading South to the capital Bamako. Indeed, to build up a decent army, you need years of military education, training, and procurement of equipment, all this being related with your strategic objectives. What implies that the armed forces are lead by a general staff able to draw coherent lines of operations and implement a policy along the years, even if modest and limited by the lack of resources.
Third, the Government.
A key factor of a government is its will. The will is the primary trigger to the allocation of resources, to the building of a people's readiness for war, the preservation of armed forces from political conflicts and the construction of a system of alliances. Obviously, the political instability and the dissensions within the elite left the armed forces on their own. One more complex issue is the ethnical feature of the northern dissent from southern elite. This parameter dictates that the ruling auspices exert their power or at least influence exclusively on the southern populations, thus ruling out even the dream of any national surge again the terrorists.
Anyway, in many conflicts an ethnicity takes the power over another one, and then unifies the country by force. Even this did not happen in that case, as the ethnical leading classes even did not react although the North had been under jihadist rule for a while.
Therefore, I would remain skeptical as for military commitments in support of failed states refer. Giving a hand to an ally implies that some of the basic Clausewitz parameters regarding the people, the armed forces and the government are met in order the ally you support does not abandon you.
If you remember any country which integrity was fully recovered without paying the blood toll, without being fighting shoulder to shoulder with a powerful ally, without the strong and resolved involvement of the leading elite, let me know.
Clausewitz original text:
"...eine wunderliche Dreifaltigkeit, zusammengesetzt aus der ursprünglichen Gewaltsamkeit seines Elementes, dem Hass und der Feindschaft, die wie ein blinder Naturtrieb anzusehen sind, aus dem Spiel der Warscheinlichkeiten und des Zufalls, die ihn zu einer freien Seelentätigkeit machen, und aus der untergeordneten Natur eines politischen Werkzeuges, wodurch er dem blößen Verstande anheimfällt.
Die erste dieser drei Seiten ist mehr dem Volke, die zweite mehr dem Feldherrn und seinem Heer, die dritte mehr der Regierung zuwendet."