Monday, June 25, 2007
# Posted 8:12 PM by Taylor Owen
3D IN AFGHANISTAN: I have a couple of articles out on the concept of 3D peacebuilding currently being used in Afghanistan. Both are co-authored with a friend, Patrick Travers. The idea that defense, development and diplomatic initiatives must coordinate in fundamentally new ways is seen by many as the future of peacebuilding. This, however, brings with it a host of challenges that are not easily reconciled.(5) opinions -- Add your opinion
The focus of these pieces is on the Canadian mission, but the argument is applicable to other nations participating in Afghanistan, and increasingly, elsewhere. I was recently at a NATO conference where the very themes were discussed by US Army participants. Though different countries use different terminology, all are struggling with the same questions: How to achieve multiple objectives (counter-terrorism, reconstruction, development, humanitarian assistance, etc.) when tactics are often counterproductive? How to change strategic cultures used to full independence, to collaborate with other actors in a conflict zone? How to peacebuild when military tactics are driving people to the enemy, and a situation is deemed too insecure for development workers? How to collaborate with nations who have varying tactics, objectives and operating procedures?
The first article is in the Walrus Magazine and available here. The second, more academic piece is published as a CIR Working Paper, here. As the latter is a work in progress, I would be very appreciative of thoughts.
The lead of the Walrus piece is below.
A hundred and twenty years before Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan, a British prime minister identified the issue at the heart of current attempts to defeat the Taliban and reconstruct the country. In the midst of the “Great Game” between the British Empire and Tsarist Russia over influence in Central Asia, William Gladstone urged his fellow citizens to “remember that the sanctity of life in the hill villages of Afghanistan, among the winter snows, is as inviolable in the eye of Almighty God, as can be your own.”
In the UK the attempt to interweave different lines of operation and different agencies in COIN is called the 'Comprehensive Approach.'
Although personally I think the critical problem lies over the border. Historically, insurgencies that maintain external support and sanctuary generally succeed. Even if we coordinate everything beautifully, this problem exists.
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It seems to me that you think of the problem as "lack of coordination", and if only the different agencies communicate more, things will be better. Sure, up to a point, but I think that if more coordination is a goal then that point will be reached too soon for the coordination to be effective. My feeling as a programmer and as a former academic, participant in many meetings, is that communication is in itself a heavy cost; as Brooks' Mythical Man-Month (published just when I was starting in compsci grad school) revealed [phrasing by wikipedia]:
"When N people have to communicate among themselves (without a hierarchy), as N increases, their output M decreases and can even become negative (i.e. the total work remaining at the end of a day is greater than the total work that had been remaining at the beginning of that day, such as when many bugs are created)."
All I guess I'm saying is, I don't think communication in itself is a positive; it's a cost we bear in the hopes of minimizing other specific costs within a specific plan (such as civilians getting mad at us and supporting the enemy.) So I'm uncomfortable with my current perception of your article. I would want the communication (and the article) to be built around an explicit set of goals and subgoals, rather than around an abstract-sounding observation that everybody's "struggling with the same questions...when tactics are often counterproductive". Sure, I agree that development and even diplomacy have to be mingled with defense, and given large shares of the budget, but I would expect that almost every way of mingling them will be even worse than not mingling them at all.
So? How would I "peacebuild"? Well, that would be an even longer comment, and I've probably made it before. (It would resemble Barnett's SysAdmin, but it would be geekier.) :-)
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