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Thread: How to build a State in a non State environment?

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Mod's Note: copied here to facilitate the discussion from another thread, which starts with Post No.3.

    Quote Originally Posted by M-A Lagrange View Post
    Two days ago, while waiting for Santa Claus to come, I had a very interresting (and very drunk) conversation about how to build a State in a non State environment.
    The question we finally came with was:
    When you try to build a state from scratch, like in Afghanistan or Sudan (different setting, context, history... all agreed in advance), is dictatorship a necessary path or just the wall we all end up hitting?
    The point was that despite using the democratic tool box, what ever the exemple you look at closely, you always end in a fake state (most of the time with a military like dictatorship or, at the best, a kleptocracy).

    Somehow, it is different from that particular threat and I leave to TheCurmudgeon the right to expel me and my question out to another threat.
    M-A,
    Here's a great site from the CGSC History Department and this particular post is short and direct regarding The problem of creating a nation state, such as Afghanistan, is not a new one.

    It however doesn't directly address Africa while comparing Afghanistan to Europe in the 16th century. I doubt the Europeans had many problems with cleptocracy to the level of The Sudan and Zaire, but I assume all have some experience with a military dictatorship.

    Tom was barely in Zaire two days when he told the Country Team to forget what was in their diplomatic tool kit because we are in a cleptocracy, and, when the Country Team decided unanimously that the FAZ (Zairian Armed Forces) had to go, Tom began to laugh hysterically with something like "the mouse trying to bell the cat" (one of those days where I wished I was somewhere else ).

    As odd as this may sound, if we didn't have a military dictatorship and/or cleptocracy, why would we need to build a State from scratch
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 12-27-2010 at 02:06 PM. Reason: Copied here and Mods Note added
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    Mod's Note: copied here to facilitate the discussion from another thread, which starts with Post No.3.

    M-A: No, I would never expel you and yes, this is exactly where I was going. It seems to me that COIN doctrine is misplaced in Afghanistan.

    Yes, I am also leaning toward the dictatorship idea, but more of a constitutional monarchy. That might even be too much.

    While I see the parallels between much of Africa and Afghanistan (in that there is no government outside the capital) I think there is a huge difference in certain areas. In many areas our colonialism was based on extracting natural resources, resources that these proto-states can still use as the foundation of a functioning state. Afghanistan and much of the HOA have no such resource. As a result, they have no influx of capital to run a government. One of the major functions of a government is to redistribute resources (taxes in, services and patronage out). Where there are no resources governments have a hard time functioning. It is even further complicated when religious institutions compete for the limited resources, redistributing tithes in accordance with their laws, and further weakening the power of the government or replacing the government in a form of one-stop-shop for social controls and services.

    All of this seems more like the business of other agencies but, as advisers to the civilian leaders we serve I think it is incumbent on us to understand these matters and advise on the limitations of what a military can and cannot do to solve these problems. Not to mention that in an interconnected world, the threat can originate from anywhere. Hence, stability becomes a security issue and therefore, our business.

    Thanks for all the comments and I will sit back and let let this one go where it may.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 12-27-2010 at 02:07 PM. Reason: Copied here and Mod's Note added
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    Default How to build a State in a non State environment?

    Slightly adapted from a post by M-A Lagrange, after a Santa Claus discussion:
    When you try to build a state from scratch, like in Afghanistan or Sudan (different setting, context, history... all agreed in advance), is dictatorship a necessary path or just the wall we all end up hitting?

    The point was that despite using the democratic tool box, what ever the example you look at closely, you always end in a fake state (most of the time with a military like dictatorship or, at the best, a kleptocracy).
    davidbfpo

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    Default (Thread split, so I'll post this here as well)

    Regardless of how one slices the problem, or names the slices, "job one" for any government is to establish and maintain the perception in the populace they seek to govern of their right, their legitimacy, to govern.
    Tactics, capabilities and capacities for the "establish" mission are going to be significantly different than those required for the "maintain" mission.

    Any time a government rides to power on the back of some greater, intervening power, it is highly unlikely to be perceived as legitimate in the eyes of the populace or the vanquished pre-existing power, either one. We ignore that messy little fact and go straight to the "maintain" mission with pop-centric COIN.

    This is the core problem with pop-centric COIN (Galula) vs threat-centric COIN (Tranquier), is that both are efforts to manage the symptoms of natural resistance to illegitimate government, coupled with little effort and no intent to ever address that base problem of illegitimacy. In fact, the primary purpose for such intervention is to create an illegitimate government that will prioritize the interests of the intervening power over those of their own people and nation.

    It like asking the populace if they would like to be punched in the balls with an Iron Fist, or a Velvet one? Would you like to live in an Iron Cage, or a Golden one? Just because one is preferred to the other, does not mean that either is going to be welcomed as an acceptable solution to the challenge of governance.

    Pop-Centric COIN is no more, and no less, than just one more chapter on tactics in how to implement Colonial COIN. How to create and sustain illegitimate government over others to serve one's own interests there.

    It is time to evolve away from Colonial COIN, and maybe we had to go through this phase to get to true change, but know that we are not there yet.
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    Bob,

    I think we try to project our concepts of governance onto societies that do have the same needs and desire. In many places and throughout much of history the Right to govern simply meant that you were more powerful than the other competitors. I don't mean power to subdue the populace but the power to provide for the populace. The description of the Khan in Jon W. Anderson's "There Are No Khāns Anymore: Economic Development and Social Change in Tribal Afghanistan" indicates a level of pre-state and even pre-monarchical society that are looking for something completely different from what we are trying to force down there throats. More of a patron-client relationship and more on a local level. We keep trying to establish a State where the concept of a State is a relatively recent development.

    Besides the problem of the level of needs of the society there is major problem we have in Afghanistan is that there is no economic base. What you really have there now is a rentier society living not off the "rents" from a natural resource like oil but from external aid. It is not sustainable. A State requires a certain level of economic development. I don't see that in Afghanistan. Unless we decide to suddenly legalize heroin.

    Without trying to go through the entire process of governance I want to propose a completely different alternative - why don't we simply establish a protectorate. We will provide protection from outside invasion; we will reserve the right to go in and attack any element that we determine is a threat to our security interests, but other than that we let the populace develop their own governance.
    Last edited by TheCurmudgeon; 12-27-2010 at 03:07 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post

    Besides the problem of the level of needs of the society there is major problem we have in Afghanistan is that there is no economic base. What you really have there now is a rentier society living not off the "rents" from a natural resource like oil but from external aid. It is not sustainable. A State requires a certain level of economic development. I don't see that in Afghanistan. Unless we decide to suddenly legalize heroin.
    Probably of minor debate herein, but didn't some USG entity or US Company consider buying-up their poppy to create bio fuel? It was in the local German newspaper for September together with a story about the Taliban destroying saffron plants and shipments, thus forcing the farmers to grow more poppy.

    The same article indicating that Afghan security is being partially funded (squandered) by aid budgets?

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    Without trying to go through the entire process of governance I want to propose a completely different alternative - why don't we simply establish a protectorate. We will provide protection from outside invasion; we will reserve the right to go in and attack any element that we determine is a threat to our security interests, but other than that we let the populace develop their own governance.
    Intriguing idea ! The arms and diamond dealers in Sub-Sahara came to the same conclusions and hired the very people out to rob them blind. On the surface it worked very well for several years, but how quickly things went Tango Uniform when there was a salary cut and further local currency devaluations.
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    Default Back to the main thread

    First, I want to reiterate that creating a state may not be what is really what we need to do. That being said, I will now try to work through what it might take to create a government where none exists.

    The foundation of governance, in my mind, is loyalty of the people in exchange for goods and services provided by the leadership. When stripped down to the basics, that is what I believe you will find. If you start there I think you can build up. Starting at the local level, building a system of patronage, you can create a federation. The federation then is the nucleolus of the government.

    I also feel you need to separate the idea of governance and rule of law. They are not the same thing. Many kings have ruled without the rule of law. That is a concept that underlies democratic governments not governments in general.

    First, you have to establish what is there. Is it an ungoverned territory, a tribal society with limited or no history of central government, an area with some history of central government (maybe a monarchy) but is currently unstable, an area with an established state government but that has failed, an area with an established and functioning central government but is involved in a civil war, or an established government that has an active insurgency. What exists that we can start with.

    Then determine what systems still exist - what is the economic base of the society; what is the level of the infrastructure; what government exists or has existed in the past; what loyalty systems exist, what patronage systems exists; what are the current threats to the society (or to our security), what is their goal and who is supporting them? All this should be determined as best as possible before the operation even starts.

    Usually security will be the first order of business when we hit the ground but this may not always be the case. Ungoverned or tribal areas may not really need security, A failed state probably will.

    With the base concept that governance is based on loyalty in exchange for goods and services provided, the next step is to determine what the people want and need. Do they need security from the threat of death. Do they need a place to live. Do they need food. Do they need a job and economic security. Do they need to feel like they are part of something bigger and pride in who they are. Do they need a say in their government. Do they need freedom. Everyone in the society may not need the same thing and giving someone the right to vote may not mean much if they have no job. I remember a quote once that was something like "Freedom of the press means nothing when your belly is empty."

    Everything beyond security is beyond what the military is historically trained to do. What is will take to go down this road will be an organization that does not exist with a doctrine that has not been developed.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stan View Post
    Intriguing idea ! The arms and diamond dealers in Sub-Sahara came to the same conclusions and hired the very people out to rob them blind. On the surface it worked very well for several years, but how quickly things went Tango Uniform when there was a salary cut and further local currency devaluations.
    I am not as certain that the protectorate idea works as well where there is an economic resource available. If an economic base is available its development has to be part of solution, but each situation is different.

    I don't necessarily have a problem of paying people not to attack you. It worked for me while building a road in Afghanistan. The problem is exactly what you described - what happens when you take that money away. As long as you are paying them, pay them for something that builds the infrastructure or the economic base. I know that sounds simplistic but it is what I think needs to happen.
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    Default Counterpoint

    Posted by Bob's World,

    This is the core problem with pop-centric COIN (Galula) vs threat-centric COIN (Tranquier), is that both are efforts to manage the symptoms of natural resistance to illegitimate government, coupled with little effort and no intent to ever address that base problem of illegitimacy. In fact, the primary purpose for such intervention is to create an illegitimate government that will prioritize the interests of the intervening power over those of their own people and nation.
    Bob's post provoked some rather old thoughts. First we're terribly concerned about legitimacy and related ideas, as though there existed somewhere in history a legitimate government that was never opposed by its people or neighbors. We tend to imply in our remarks that all illegitimacy is imposed by the modern West on the developing world. Yet history tells us that in all these lands (even before they were states) people were in nearly continuous states of conflict. We didn't introduce violence and conflict into these lands, it already existed, why? It wasn't to oust an occupier. It wasn't to oust a form of illegitimate government. They were conflicts about power, greed and identity (fear).

    Democracy as practiced today is an advanced form of governance that attempts to mitigate the forces of power, greed and identity, but it only appears to work in countries where the masses are educated and share what can probably be called Judeo-Christian values.

    Getting back to the topic of the post, there may well be times when it is appropriate to be cruel to be kind by establishing a dictatorship to bring some level of order (predictability) to society so it can begin to develop. In my view our attempts to force our form of government on other nations has generally backfired and resulted in several needless deaths to no discernable end. Germany was a democracy before we occupied it, so we just returned it to its previous state after eradicating the Nazi influence.

    I really don't know if a dictatorship is required as a first step to develop a state from a non-state, but the evidence is pretty clear that imposing democracy on developing nations or non-states doesn't tend to work out too well.

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    Default From Yemen to Kenja many years ago - back to the thread

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post

    First, you have to establish what is there. Is it an ungoverned territory, a tribal society with limited or no history of central government, an area with some history of central government (maybe a monarchy) but is currently unstable, an area with an established state government but that has failed, an area with an established and functioning central government but is involved in a civil war, or an established government that has an active insurgency. What exists that we can start with.

    Then determine what systems still exist - what is the economic base of the society; what is the level of the infrastructure; what government exists or has existed in the past; what loyalty systems exist, what patronage systems exists; what are the current threats to the society (or to our security), what is their goal and who is supporting them? All this should be determined as best as possible before the operation even starts.
    Very well written. I think you'll find that very same guidance has been around for quite a while. Suffices to say, that with proper resources and the expertise in that area most categories will be easy to ascertain. However and on to your last, probably better to bet on the fact you (the US Military) will be at it alone for a lot longer than estimated, and better to count on no help in the interim.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    Everything beyond security is beyond what the military is historically trained to do. What is will take to go down this road will be an organization that does not exist with a doctrine that has not been developed.
    Concur. But, historically speaking (my time) we were always first to arrive and normally without support from DART and AID agencies that tend to deal with disaster-size problems. Don't sell us short just yet. We have plenty of talented soldiers from every walk of life with a wealth of backgrounds and experience. Doctrine sadly ends up being developed and fielded based on failures. At the very least, doctrine ends up being developed from lessons learned in the field... Not a bad start and certainly better that some politician's dream of what the military should now be responsible for !
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    Default The concept of Government Purgatory

    I was doodling some thoughts this morning on this dynamic, and this is an effort to organize them visually. The idea being that there is a zone of "purgatory" that occurs between the time that old forms of governance are "defeated" (that could be a Genghis-like effort to consolidate governance over a state-less region of tribal centers of governance or it could be an intervention such as the US most recently in Iraq or Afghanistan) and such time as the new government comes to be accepted by their own populace (and similarly by neighboring governments and populaces as well). This acceptance being broadly described as "Legitimacy."

    I think one major handicap to current US operations is that we don't fully recognize or appreciate this zone of Purgatory, or how the very fact of our intervention makes such a purgatory even stronger and more difficult to overcome.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stan View Post
    Concur. But, historically speaking (my time) we were always first to arrive and normally without support from DART and AID agencies that tend to deal with disaster-size problems. Don't sell us short just yet. We have plenty of talented soldiers from every walk of life with a wealth of backgrounds and experience. Doctrine sadly ends up being developed and fielded based on failures. At the very least, doctrine ends up being developed from lessons learned in the field... Not a bad start and certainly better that some politician's dream of what the military should now be responsible for !
    I realize that we are capable of this. We (the military) may be the ONLY organization capable of this, but not with the current mindset. I remember seeing a piece on TED by Thomas Barnett about forming a Department of Everything Else. I have come to agree with that assessment. But even with that force you need a doctrine that understands how to build a functioning government out of what exists on the ground - not try to create little western democracies everywhere. (I have always found it fascinating that the organization called upon to export democracy is non-democratic).

    A large part of the current military seems torn between embracing the idea of Establishing Stable States as a mission and those that feel that fighting and winning the nation's high intensity conflicts is where our mission ends. Even those who embrace the idea are hamstrung by limited doctrine beyond COIN.

    I am not an old SF soldier, but my understanding of the old SF mission was to help insurgencies and train fledgling foreign paramilitaries. I did not think it included the more recent addition of Civil Affairs. I could be wrong. In any case, even current Civil Affairs seems to have no clear doctrine beyond an attempt to replicate the governance systems and infrastructure of a western democracy. Again, I could be wrong.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    I am not an old SF soldier, but my understanding of the old SF mission was to help insurgencies and train fledgling foreign paramilitaries. I did not think it included the more recent addition of Civil Affairs. I could be wrong. In any case, even current Civil Affairs seems to have no clear doctrine beyond an attempt to replicate the governance systems and infrastructure of a western democracy. Again, I could be wrong.
    Don't know for sure when it started but for a long time they were organized along with PSYOPS, and Civil Affairs. Capturing radio stations and use of Propaganda was critical.

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    Default People Centric

    Slapout,

    I understand that SF is now people centric, but I am not clear what their doctrine is beyond influencing the people. We spout slogans, we bribe, we threaten, and we kill, but I don't know if we know how to build a government in the variety of potential situations nor do we have a variety of potential government types we can chose from. We are a one-size-fits-all organization.

    Also, the SF guys usually end up working for the conventional guys who may see only their ability to support the conventional fight.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    I remember seeing a piece on TED by Thomas Barnett about forming a Department of Everything Else. I have come to agree with that assessment. But even with that force you need a doctrine that understands how to build a functioning government out of what exists on the ground - not try to create little western democracies everywhere. (I have always found it fascinating that the organization called upon to export democracy is non-democratic).
    I was once OK reading his articles (he looks like Spock and that gives me the ibee jeebies) until he declared that once per-capita rises above three grand, war becomes less likely. There's just too many examples that blow this theory like Russia scarfing up tiny prosperous countries. He forgot about greed being my point.

    I need to borrow a recent and great statement from member Slapout to better comment:

    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    I think the world sees us as a bunch of white boys with guns trying to tell everybody else what to do, and they don't like it. However if you can find a local (indigenous group) that you can align with because you have the same objectives (reason to fight) things are a lot easier. And if you are really smart and leave personal ideologies and beliefs out of it and just concentrate on common goals you might just make a few friends.
    We shouldn't be trying to create little American democracies and we know it won't fly. Much like you opined, when the cash is gone, so is any semblance of cooperation, or worse, new enemies. When we do that we've forgotten the very basic element that often kept us off the "ugly American" list. I've been teaching indigenous forces and civilians for more than 25 years now, and there has always been that gray area and they have no problem cornering you into submission. Doesn't mean we're soft, just means "we get where you come from and that's cool" sort of attitude.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    I am not an old SF soldier, but my understanding of the old SF mission was to help insurgencies and train fledgling foreign paramilitaries. I did not think it included the more recent addition of Civil Affairs. I could be wrong. In any case, even current Civil Affairs seems to have no clear doctrine beyond an attempt to replicate the governance systems and infrastructure of a western democracy. Again, I could be wrong.
    I might be old but I don't have that much time with SF. You'll need to check with Bob on that one

    The missions both in Africa and Eastern Europe almost always included some strange folks tagging along. It's only clear later just how significant PSYOPS and CA are to the overall strategy (that doesn't mean we liked hangin' with them). They become the missing element especially when there's no war to be fought. We weren't replicating governance then, rather trying to get the public behind the band wagon. We even went out with the COS to folks homes and reassured them that their son would be safe joining the military and fighting the Russians (they liked that part the best !). Too hard to pin down their significant contributions and I have no clue just how hamstrung they are since I deal with the working class folks most.

    EDIT:
    Too hard to pin down their significant contributions and I have no clue just how hamstrung they are since I deal with the working class folks most.
    I know that's a cop out for an answer, but I enjoy working level relationships free of politics and Bravo Sierra. Let's get the job done and drink beer !
    Last edited by Stan; 12-27-2010 at 06:51 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    Slapout,

    I understand that SF is now people centric, but I am not clear what their doctrine is beyond influencing the people. We spout slogans, we bribe, we threaten, and we kill, but I don't know if we know how to build a government in the variety of potential situations nor do we have a variety of potential government types we can chose from. We are a one-size-fits-all organization.

    Also, the SF guys usually end up working for the conventional guys who may see only their ability to support the conventional fight.
    I am not sure what they do now either,(I am truly amazed at how much they have changed) but I can tell you what it used to be. The selection of the Guerrilla force leaders was absolutely critical(often selected from what might be called a government/population group in exile) because out of the Guerrilla force would emerge the first leaders of the New Government (part of step seven demobilization of the Guerrilla force). In short win the revolution first then...........win the election, you don't do it while you are in the middle of the war, and the government HAS to be built by them,we can assist or advise but it must be theirs or we will be seen as just another foreign occupier, or so the theory went.

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    I guess that is as close to the protectorate model I mentioned earlier as you are going to get. But is assumes that there is someone there we are supporting. What happens when there is no one there, do you create them?

    Once they win, do you hand them off to State? What promises of support can you make?

    All this also seems to assume a level of infrastructure that may not exist elsewhere - something to fight over that we have an interest in. What if our only interest is stability?

    I like the principle, its the details that are not working out so well.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    I was doodling some thoughts this morning on this dynamic, and this is an effort to organize them visually. The idea being that there is a zone of "purgatory" that occurs between the time that old forms of governance are "defeated" (that could be a Genghis-like effort to consolidate governance over a state-less region of tribal centers of governance or it could be an intervention such as the US most recently in Iraq or Afghanistan) and such time as the new government comes to be accepted by their own populace (and similarly by neighboring governments and populaces as well). This acceptance being broadly described as "Legitimacy."
    Is this part of a larger presentation or a stand alone document?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stan View Post
    Here's a great site from the CGSC History Department and this particular post is short and direct regarding The problem of creating a nation state, such as Afghanistan, is not a new one.

    It however doesn't directly address Africa while comparing Afghanistan to Europe in the 16th century. I doubt the Europeans had many problems with cleptocracy to the level of The Sudan and Zaire, but I assume all have some experience with a military dictatorship.
    Had to note the first statement of the cited post...

    The process of creating a nation state begins with an increase in the ability of the state to provide security and stability through an increase in the size of the army and police. This increase required the creation, almost from scratch, of a centralized bureaucracy to collect taxes.
    That suggests that the first experience of the citizen with the new "state" is likely to be exposure to men with guns demanding money. Not hard to see how the citizen might see this as a less than welcome development.

    I suspect that European governments of the 16th century were every bit as kleptocratic as African governments today. The folks who built those palaces were not earning their own money.

    If we're now talking about building states, or building nations, I'd say that's something we can't do. States and nations aren't built, they grow. We may be able to assist their growth with a bit of judicious cultivation (just as we may be able to derail their growth with injudicious attempts at cultivation), but we can't construct a state, any more than we can construct an oak tree.

    The metaphor of choice may not be all that relevant, but I suspect that our preference for engineering metaphors (build/fix) might reflect a mindset that's causing us some problems, and that we might do better to draw our metaphors from an agricultural context emphasizing state growth as an organic process, not something that one "builds" or "fixes".

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    I guess that is as close to the protectorate model I mentioned earlier as you are going to get. But is assumes that there is someone there we are supporting. What happens when there is no one there, do you create them?

    Once they win, do you hand them off to State? What promises of support can you make?

    All this also seems to assume a level of infrastructure that may not exist elsewhere - something to fight over that we have an interest in. What if our only interest is stability?

    I like the principle, its the details that are not working out so well.

    It all dependsyour success or failure is going to hinge on the initial and accurate analysis of the social structure of the area in question (old school geography, who owns the land and what do they do with it). How it really is, not how you wish it to be. Special Warfare is an option not a panacea. If your analysis does indicate it is possible then I would say don't do it. That is one of the big problems IMO we keep looking for some master template that we can apply over and over again.

    Finding a cause that people are willing to not just fight for but are willing to die for is the real question. If you can find a group like that and support them quietly you may just end up making a few friends instead of a lot of enemies.


    You should really watch the series I posted called "More Deadly Than War" to get an overview of the mobilzation process.
    Last edited by slapout9; 12-28-2010 at 12:00 AM. Reason: stuff

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