Friday, 10 June 2016

American Imperialism: A Historical Materialist Perspective

Is the war on terror another “imperial” moment? 
“We wage a war to save civilisation itself” – George W. Bush, 2001 

This article  will follow the arguments of historical materialist scholars that the “ultimate objective [of U.S foreign policy since WW1] is the creation of an open and integrated international order based on the principles of democratic capitalism, with the United States as the ultimate guarantor of order and enforcer of norms” (Bacevich, 2002). This essay will argue that US foreign policy has followed a continuous pattern of imperialist policy that has been presented in alternative ways due to the differing personalities and politics of differing administrations.

The term “War on Terror” was coined in the “19th century to refer to attempts by anarchists to assassinate political leaders” (Kennedy-Pipe & Caroline, 2009); the most recent revival of the term under President George W. Bush has led to a series of neo-conservative foreign policies to be administered under the new WOT. Unlike a traditional empire, “the US neither controls nor directly administers foreign territories and people” (Colas & Saull, 2006) and has embarked upon an age of ‘New Imperialism’, characterised by the U.S’s role following the World Wars in maintaining global peace. The U.S’s position as global hegemon is reiterated through invasive ideological policies such as democracy promotion, international development programs, interventions, policies of extraordinary rendition and foreign economic policies. This is a continuation of policies and structures implemented throughout the Cold War  and are not unique to the WOT.

Bush’s Imperial War on Terror The trinity of events which made possible the retaliatory foreign policy includes the election of George W. Bush and his “little knowledge or background in foreign policy” (KennedyPipe & Caroline, 2009, p. 378), 9/11 as the event that created the platform for such neoconservative thinkers to gain influence on policy. This argument is supported by John Kingdon’s “agenda setting model for policy change” (O'Loughlin, 2006) his model suggests that a change in policy is a result of a problem that then affects policies which in turn defines politics. In the context setting foreign policy in the WOT the problem was 9/11 and the potential routes that policy could have taken were “traditional hard-line neo-realism, the assertive nationalism of Condoleezza Rice” (O'Loughlin, 2006, p. 105)or indeed the route of neo-conservative aggressive unipolarity which this essay argues foreign policy did take. Kristol, one of the major founders of neo-conservatism claims that “modern politics is fundamentally a battle over “who owns the future” (Kennedy-Pipe & Caroline, 2009) and the role of the U.S in providing transnational political structures following the first and second World Wars fundamentally shaped their role as being responsible for global discourse and owners of the future, for which I argue Bush fully encompasses.

The immediate linguistic response following 9/11 sets the context for understanding the U.S’s imperialist policy as well as providing a discourse that the war will eventually take. Initially the language adopted by government quickly changed from referring to the attack as an ‘act of war’ (Boyle, 2004) as opposed to an act of terror , which is inaccurate as war is defined as “a military attack by one nation state upon another nation state” (Boyle, 2004) which allowed the U.S. to take the focus away from Al Qaeda as the organisation responsible and focus on Afghanistan as a responsible nation and focus point for retaliation. The language the NSS 2002 report uses, “affirms the label of War on Terror” (O'Loughlin, 2006)  which as an ambiguous term [terror] has allowed the U.S to engage with the neo-conservative idea that the future needs an ‘owner’, supportive the argument that subsequent policy was imperial, characteristic of the Bush presidency. The document is strong in advocating the idea that this conflict was unique and called for an approach that was different to any other conflict. The emphasis on security is suggestive of realist intentions with security interests at the core, however this argument is undermined by the statement “the strategy will make the world not just safer, but better” (NSS, 2002), suggestive that it is the responsibility of the U.S and in their security interests to be the ‘enforcer or norms’, consistent with the historical materialist argument. The ambiguity of these statements provides scope for interpretation and manipulation of the concept of terrorism and a backdrop for eventual imperial policies that will be made in order to become a global enforcer of democratic capitalism.

The self/other dichotomy is an important feature of the NSS 2002 and offers evidence to suggest imperialist goals by using language familiar to the colonial era. It also relates back to the opening quote of this essay, which reaffirms that there are two civilisations, ‘good’ and ‘evil’ and it is the West that is good and the U.S that is responsible for saving it. This is an important document for setting the entire discourse of the WOT until the present day as it refreshes the rhetoric for interventionist policies that had already been used throughout the CW. The use of colonial language is important in defining power relations and by using organic metaphors the NSS 2002 suggests a level of evolution in the West that is superior to that of the East. By separating the American from the ‘other’ this offers an emotional distance between who is perceived as the enemy which creates fear of the unknown. This is done by using “biological metaphors and allusions to criminality” (O'Loughlin, 2006) such as “the enemy seeks fertile ground, where its cells will spawn” (NSS, 2002) The report also quotes Bush in defining what the strategy is set to achieve and the combination of both “we will defend the peace against the threats from terrorists and tyrants…” and “we will extend the 40078082 5 peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent” (NSS, 2002), the peace is expressed as a connotation of democracy and indeed American ideals. American military presence during the Bush era rose around the globe and as displayed in figure 1, was more prominent than in any other time in history.

This is reflective of traditional colonialism, and consistent with the definition of imperialism as having a military influence in a state. Figure1 depicts bases that have been established post- 9/11 representative of policy to expand these bases closer to the Middle East to aid wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. This essay suggests that this is following the doctrine of expanding ideological and capitalist influence in the region as opposed to national security concerns, as geographically the Middle East does not pose an imminent threat. The U.S’s oil interests are also a reason to understand why there is an increased military presence and this serves to follow a continuous pattern in U.S foreign policy. During the CW Russia was criticised as embarking on a “crusade to take over the world... and gain control of Europe’s oil routes, with the next target as Brazil” (Chomsky, 2003) which resulted in an increase of military bases across Latin America. By hosting these bases, the states are essentially seen as taking sides in the ideological struggle and America is able to gain political influence.

Policies of rendition and torture used by Bush also serve to further an imperialist argument as many holding centres were in states outside of the U.S and out of the control of the government which hosted it. It is claimed that “over 50 states were involved in extraordinary rendition and torture schemes” (Hersh, 2013) which involved people being captured (from states outside of the U.S) and “transferred without legal process to black sites” (Open Society Justice Initiative, 2013) to be interrogated and tortured by the CIA. It is claimed that by doing so the U.S “violated international and domestic law” (Open Society Justice Initiative, 2013) and used diplomatic pressure to even ensure the participation in the rendition process from that host state. Despite the U.S refusing to declare which governments were involved apologies have been issued from “Canada, the United Kingdom and Sweden” (Open Society Justice Initiative, 2013) , suggestive of their involvement and coercion by the U.S. By instating ‘black sites’ in other territories as well as pressuring their governments to participate in the process the U.S is evidently extending its influence in an imperial manner through its foreign policy.

 Bush’s international development agenda following the NSS of 2006 was a primary foreign policy concern and tool in the WOT. By offering aid to specific countries of interest the U.S. has been able to gain significant political influence over that particular state in order to manipulate the political arena within, which can only be argued as symptomatic of imperialism. The 2006 NSS describes USAID as “reducing long-term threats to our national security by helping to build stable, prosperous, and peaceful societies” (Myers, 2014) and this has been for two pivotal reasons, counter-terrorism and control over strategic resources. The U.S.’s foreign policy across African states is reflective of this, with the rationale that they are protecting states with “poorly governed spaces from being exploited to provide facilitating environments, recruits, and eventual targets for Islamist terrorists” (Pham, 2014), strategies that have been employed include “training over 1,000 teachers in Tanzania as well as providing 22,000 textbooks through the Africa Education Initiative” (PR Newswire , 2015) which following the “U.S. embassy attacks by Al-Qaeda in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania” (Pham, 2014) prioritize Tanzania as a country for the U.S. to observe for its capacity as a centre for recruitment and training for Al-Qaeda. One may question why the U.S. did not diplomatically liaise with Tanzania for the threat to be managed and despite education as being an arguable positive contribution, which serves only to support the idea that the U.S feels more capable of controlling the nation through other means; the involvement of the U.S. in its delivery and their visible intention of manipulating the capacity of Al-Qaeda is symptomatic of imperialism and self-interest.

Programs such as this were only expanded under Bush and furthermore under Obama as displayed in figure 2 representative of its importance in the WOT.  This essay has already justified that the US WOT has resulted in policies consistent with theories of imperialism. This essay further argues that this is not a unique moment within foreign policy as the U.S has consistently sought to increase its ideological influence around the globe from the latter end of the 18th century. Policies of influencing ‘rogue states’ are evident throughout the CW as well as the WOT, whether through covert activity, development projects or through the pushing of capitalism. The CW itself has been labelled “a clash of empires” (Munro, 2014) where the U.S’s empire was primarily based upon “transnational economic ties, military interventions, coups, bases and cultural influence” (Munro, 2014) as opposed to full sovereign control over a state. Empirical evidence for this is the pushing back of communist ideological influence throughout Latin America through policies of state sponsored violence in Guatemala. The importance of Africa as a vulnerable continent has also been evident in U.S policy throughout both eras, for example “America was keen to offset independence for the colonies due to fears that communism would take over” (Munro, 2014), the importance of having influence 40078082 9 in Africa throughout the WOT has been instated through my analysis of the Bush policies on development consistent with my argument that these imperialist policies are not unique to the WOT. Covert activity such as U.S state sponsored violence and counter-insurgency efforts are arguably imperialist policies as they undermine the sovereignty of the territorial government. They have also been policies of the U.S throughout the CW as well as the WOT serving to support the argument that these polices are not unique.

 Empirical evidence to suggest this is the CIA involvement in the Chilean coup of 1973 that saw the American manipulation of democracy in order to instate a dictator that would work in their economic interests. A realist argument would suggest that this was in the interest of state security as for Chile being in America’s ‘back yard’ it could pose an imminent geographical threat if communism was to spread there. However the historical materialist perspective follows the doctrine that the intentions of the coup was to aid American capitalist influence, this is supported by the claim that “Augusto Pinochet’s free-market capitalism came reinforced with brutal state repression” (The Red Phoenix, 2011) and is evident today through the U.S’s friendly policies towards Saudi Arabia. Despite being “107th out of 150” (World Audit, 2014) in terms of their lack of democracy and questionable human rights record. The U.S maintains friendly relations due to the economic advantages that it brings, representative of a consistent trend in the intentions of foreign policy. Covert activity has been represented in the WOT through the sponsorship of the Mujahedeen insurgency group, which undermined the sovereignty of the Afghanistan government. Reflections on U.S. covert activity in both the CW and the WOT are consistent with the historical Marxist argument that the U.S envisages itself as an enforcer of its own ideals, or in these cases has sponsored others to pursue that ability for them. 40078082 10 Obama and the future Obama started his first term as President by offering change to the people.

This essay argues that in terms of foreign policy, this change has only come about in the way that the policies have been dressed and implemented, but the imperial rhetoric remains the same. A move to multi-lateralism was arguably a shift from the unilateral policies of Bush. However this only changed the way in which traditional policies were implemented as opposed to the policies themselves, such as the support of counter insurgency groups. For example under the Obama administration NATO has been pivotal in engaging with insurgents in the Free Syrian Army, where operations consisted of “providing the FSA with vehicles fitted with heavy machine guns with rebels being sent for training in Saudi Arabia” (Global Research News, 2013), and it is even claimed that the rebels were given strategic advice from “a secret command HQ in Jordan” (Global Research News, 2013). Thus representative of continuity of the American objective as presented by historical materialism that “America is the enforcer of norms” (Bacevich, 2002). Like Bush, Obama has increased global development programs in order to gain political influence in a particular state. These programs are highly selective in where they will operate depending on the U.S’s national interest. For example in 2012 USAID gave “$335,875, 958 to Nigeria” (Inside Gov, 2012) arguably due to the rise in Boko Haram in the region and fears over their links to Al-Qaeda. Likewise in the same year “Afghanistan received over $12bn in aid” (Inside Gov, 2012) to improve stability, good governance and not allow the state to become vulnerable to extremists to convene. The case for implementing these projects in their own self-interest is supported by the fact that “many of these programs are not monitored to envisage their progress” and have been described by Human Rights Watch as “a perfect example of how not to give aid” (Dhillon, 2014) which suggest that they were not 40078082 11 delivered in the purpose of which they were intended, which was to raise socio-economic standards. As previously argued, aid allows the U.S. to manipulate the social conditions that extremism often thrives, in the name of their own national security and self-interest and represents the continuity of managing rouge states.

The theoretical aspect of Obama’s increased use of drones is explicit imperialist foreign policy as by imposing a piece of military equipment such as a drone drastically undermines diplomacy and sovereignty as did Bush’s policies of rendition. It effects the balance of power in favour of the U.S as drones are being used in nations that the U.S have not even declared war on such as Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen without the consent or control of their governments. Obama’s drone policy has vastly replaced Bush’s rendition and torture policy as displayed in figure 3 and despite claims that “drones are only getting more precise” (Shane, 2012) shows that the US has gone above and beyond in targeting states and has moved to focusing on individuals.

 Obamas policy of the increased use of drones has presented imperialism on a social level by manipulating fear which in turn has inflicted a high level of control of the daily lives of those living beneath them. On one hand the infliction of fear through drone warfare is just a contemporary version of propaganda A project set up by Stanford and NYU universities called ‘Living Under Drones’, presents the effect of using drones on the civilians living below. A quote from one of the victims reflects how the use of drones in the Peshawar region of Pakistan has shaped how people act in everyday life, “the schools are effected by drones... people are hit moving in cars, gathering with friends, going to prayer, in their homes” (Saaqib, 2012), this exhibits how the prospect of being killed is at the forefront of everyone’s subconscious when living under these operations and has forced them to become submissive to the U.S’s faceless dominance. Propaganda had a similar effect during the CW through the Red Scare, which although imposed fear of the enemy from the homeland, used fear as a tool to target the individual and manipulate psychological control of the population.

This essay has justified that the historical materialist perception is the strongest in understanding that the policies administered during the WOT are consistent with it being labelled an imperial moment. Upon analysis of policies throughout the Cold War, it is evident that the policies of the WOT have not been unique as the U.S has sought to expand its ideological, economic and political influence across the globe since the end of the Second World War where it assumed responsibility for maintaining global order.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

UK PREVENT Strategy in Countering-Terrorism: How the discourse of risk serves to undermine anti-radicalization efforts.

This article will assess how the governments discourse of risk has been counter-productive in identifying who could as well as who already is radicalized. This will be demonstrated by analyzing how the discourse of risk has been inconsistently presented in the varying editions of CONTEST, how PREVENT strategies negative reception in institutions of education has reflected a restricted learning environment and how police/community partnerships have undermined the exclusivity of a British- Muslim identity. Each assessment will be concluded by what I would offer as solutions to these weaknesses in policy in order to provide an inclusive and enhanced PREVENT strategy.

Basing a policy on a potential risk by instating “preventative measures attempts to produce a safe future” (Ahmed, 2015, p. 553), undermines the self-acclaimed definition of the UK as “an inclusive, diverse society” (Kenan, 2015, p. 21) by subsequently targeting the Muslim community. This approach has been problematized by the inefficiency in defining radicalization as an objective term which has led to the utilization of subjective and “abstract factors” (Heath-Kelly, 2013, p. 395) as to who is a a risk and who has the potential to become a risk. This is reflective of the “global risk society” thesis presented by Beck that suggests that “the principle of deliberately exploiting the vulnerability of modern civil society replaces the principle of chance and accident” (Beck, 2006, p. 329). This is evident through the three revised editions of the CONTEST strategy, where the Home Office has consistently changed its definition of what the government defines as radicalization, and as a result politicized and securitized a broadening range of who can be considered risky. For example, the 2006 version of CONTEST defines the threat of radicalization as “individuals who are using a distorted and unrepresentative version of the Islamic faith to justify violence” (UK Home Office, July 2006, p. 1) which overtly profiles the Muslim community as being a risk and therefore allowed policy to be aimed at them. On the other hand, in 2009 it is defined as “an individual who supports terrorism and violent extremism” (UK Home Office, 2009, p. 76) which allowed the government to then securitize the general population. Most recently in 2011, despite stating that the strategy will seek to address “all forms of terrorism” the only threat that further is addressed is “that associated with Al Qaida and likeminded groups(UK Home Office, 2011, p. 9) which allows the government to maintain their approach in targeting the general population but offers an extra layer of priority to targeting the Muslim community which is a weakness through undermining the principles of Britain as a multicultural society.

Such discourse has resulted in criticism from Human Rights Watch who argue the UK governments legislation has resulted in “harassment on the basis of religious beliefs and the use of religion to incite further criminal acts” by singling out a minority. The UK has attempted to defend itself by citing “Article 103 of the U.N. Charter to argue that its obligations to the Counter Terrorism Committee under Resolution 1373 took precedence over its obligations to the Human Rights Committee”. (Human Rights Watch, 2003, p. 6), thus a response consistent with Beck’s perception of government “engaging in practices that enacted in the name of managing uncertainty within the war on terror” (Heath-Kelly, 2013, p. 395). This approach has resulted in the marginalization of the Muslim community, that PREVENT strategy has “produced as a risky community in the Post 9/11 era” (Heath-Kelly, 2013, p. 395) and undermines the concept of Britain as a multi-cultural state.

Jackson argues that “the success of a discourse can be measured by the extent to which it allows the authorities to enact their policies with significant support (or at least without significant opposition)” (Jackson, 2005, p. 159). A significant barrier to the adoption of the PREVENT discourse in educational institutions is the perception that it is an attack on education and freedom of speech, as well as unnecessary pressure on teachers to monitor and report children as young as 5 years old. PREVENT states that “there is evidence that some schools have used teaching materials which may encourage intolerance... and it is the schools responsibility to protect children from extremist views” (UK Home Office, 2011, p. 66). The result of this policy has been the perception of an attack on mechanisms of learning, reflected by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) at their annual conference where a detailed motion condemning PREVENT stated that “a key role of teachers and schools is to develop critical thinking skills in children and young people... PREVENT could worsen relationships between teachers and learners, close down space for open discussion in a safe and secure environment and smother the legitimate expression of political opinion(NUT, 2016, p. 11).

The taboo of addressing radicalization within the curriculum has also reflected negatively on the ability of staff to identify signs of it, this has resulted in a focus intent on profiling. This is accentuated through the PREVENT strategies requirement of teachers to report students to the government if they are considered risky. For example, the erroneous referral of students is evident in all age categories, from a “young 17-year-old man who merely possessed a ‘free Palestine’ leaflet” to a “four-year-old who mis-spelled cucumber to something resembling ‘cooker bomb’” (Al-Othman, 2016), both of which were British Muslims. Further to this PREVENT has even explicitly forbid teachers from ‘undermining fundamental British values” (Mayssoun & Tannock, 2016) which as anabstract requirement has not only resulted in the suppression of culture amongst the student population, but increased scaremongering of expression. In order to combat the failure of PREVENT in schools (which evidently stems from a flawed discourse of risk), this author shall present a number of recommendations.

Rather than understand radicalization as a threat, it should be understood as a key component of education, as by “seeking to uncover and uproot the roots, foundations or origins of a problem or project” (McLaughlin, 2012, p. 19) young people would then be able to approach extremist ideas with a desire to further explore their intent. This discourse is shared with Sukarieth and Stuart who also suggest that “in an era of global economic, environmental and social crises, transformational educational practices (radical thinking) is now vitally more important than ever” (Mayssoun & Tannock, 2016, p. 22). This author also believes that an alternative to undermining academic freedom is to remove the requirement of schools to administer PREVENT policy from CONTEST and even allow the somewhat taboo- radicalization discourse become a topic of debate within schools as a way of “safely addressing issues around extremism” (Batty, 2016) in the same way drug and alcohol misuse is addressed, this is opposed to restricting creative and academic freedom and attacking opportunities for students to learn from each other about different cultures and practices.

Although some may argue that this would leave children and young people vulnerable to radicalization, the safeguards that are in place to protect children from other types of dangers are deemed sufficient by the NUT. Furthermore allowing a platform for what the state considers ‘extremist views’ would also require further training for teachers which would then allow them to “better identify signs of radicalization of pupils” (Batty, 2016) as they do with cases of drugs, alcohol and physical abuse. This recommendation is in line with the NUT recommendations at their annual conference that instructs the government to “campaign for recognition of the principle that schools and colleges should ensure a safe space for children and young people to explore their relationship with the world around them” (NUT, 2016), as this motion has the support of teachers (the grassroots stakeholders in such policies), it is also envisioned as having the potential for greater success, which in turn would allow young people to safely explore ideas in the classroom as opposed to through their own online research that could potentially make them more vulnerable.

Poor PR and community engagement has developed from the introduction of PREVENT under the which initially approached forging relationships as a means of “winning hearts and minds” by “partnering and engaging” (O'Toole, et al., 2016, p. 160) with Muslim communities. However, this approach has been perceived by many in the British Muslim community “who are actively engaged in politics, as an extension of the British Security forces” (O'Toole, et al., 2016, p. 106) and led to the oxygenation of identity. As British citizens the state has a responsibility to protect as oppose to persecute them. This is accentuated through the responsibility for communities to “provide information to the police about potential plots(Heath-Kelly, 2013, p. 403). Figure 1 demonstrates how this has manifested into the Foucauldian ideal of ‘the state using populations as an instrument of governance” (Pedersen, 2001, p. 32) and to quote David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism laws has “allowed for mistrust between communities to spread and fester” (Batty, 2016).

                                                                                    Figure 1, (Metropolitican Police, 2016)

This not only bases an entire security operation one community but also serves as counter-productive in countering terrorism as oppression and trivialization of a culture can arguably contribute to processes of radicalization. This is through “processes of oxygenation which can facilitate terrorist networks” (Heath-Kelly, 2013, p. 399) as loyalty and trust in the state is lost and sought elsewere. This is also a social representation of Edward Syed’s othering were the Self is, who is privileged and has upper hand to define, reconstruct the passive, silent and weak Other”, (Moosavinia, et al., 2011, p. 103) the other being the minority Muslim community. Which, combined with the focus of Muslim communities as a prominent target (as we have discovered through experiences in education), the mistrust of the police has further ostracized communities, who for those who are British Muslims, has served to undermine their ability to see themselves as both British and Muslim the state (that is there to protect them) is treating them with such suspicion.

Therefore, when creating a viable counter-terror policy, that is aimed at preventing radicalization with the support of all communities is ensuring young people are made to feel like they are part of the solution as opposed to the problem. Stop and search policies are criticized for frequency “amongst individuals of Afghan, Pakistani and Somali background” (Choudhury & Fenwick, 2011, p. 165), which furthered by the feeling of young “Muslims who feel they are second-class citizens in Britain” (Kozbar, 2015) represents how the discourse of who is or could be a risk translates into profiling by the security services. This could be overcome by ensuring that all communities have the same opportunities to address experiences of inequality and exclusion. Trust in the police could be increased by participation and representation of young people in the decision making process which could potentially consist of youth focus groups that work with the regional Police Commissioners and have a direct input into policy as is experienced across the UK in politics (British Youth Council, 2016).

This essay has identified how the UK governments discourse on risk within the PREVENT strategy has served to be its main weakness. Through identifying the difficulties faced by educational institutions I have demonstrated how isolating the subject of radicalization and attempts to swamp debate with ‘British Values’ has increased both a climate of fear through referring young people to be interrogated, and diminished the quality of debate on offer to young people. The suspicious approach to Muslim communities taken by the police as well as use of citizens as ‘watchdogs’ on each other has served to increase the mistrust of the government as well as incite ethnic tensions. The solutions offered have included the provision of extremist views on the curriculum as a chance to challenge the taboo subject which will educate both students and teachers, a reduction in police-community programs and the creation of youth focus groups to work with regional police commissioners to have a direct input to policy and themselves become stake-holders in counter-terror policy.


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Monday, 23 May 2016

Lemonade or the LTTE? A Case for Economic Development as a strategy in post-conflict nation building.

Recently there has been mass speculation that Beyoncé only pays the labourers for her Ivy Park range 44p (GBP) an hour. Naturally, in the UK there would be outcry over such a low wage - yet the lack of understanding over financial relativity is holding a lot of these arguments back. The minimum wage for an unskilled worker in industry is 6500-7500 Sri Lankan rupees a month and the minimum wage for a skilled worker is 7500-9000 Sri Lankan Rupees a month. The 'disgraceful' 44p an hour earned by Ivy Park workers, if working for 40 hrs a week (although many work far more than that) would be earning 14987.20 Sri Lankan Rupees a month. 

Capitalist investment into a post-conflict society is a key element of nation-building, especially in a society that has experienced over 25 years of civil war. Again, 44p a month from a UK perspective is disgraceful, but we need to get out of the privileged and idealist Western mindset that we often push onto others (as we also do ideals of democracy etc.. but that's another argument). I have been lucky to visit Sri Lanka, as a beautiful and diverse country it is coming on strength to strength following bloody years of conflict, economic development from outside industries has been key to the creation of sustainable peace and could be damaged by criticism. If Beyoncé were to pull her business out of Sri Lanka, it would be detrimental to the livelihoods of many that depend on it. I invite you to think carefully before you take to social media to spark outrage before understanding a situation fully and the impacts that could have on people. 

I will now outline the importance of economic development in nation-building and Beyoncé... this one's for you. 


The assumption that “economic development inoculates a nation against a relapse of civil war by making the opportunity costs of conflict higher” (Quinn, et al., 2007, p. 182) captures the importance of economic development in a post-conflict nation-building strategy. This author presents the argument that it is the responsibility of domestic institutions to stimulate it, as they are responsible for “providing public goods such as security and safety of people and property and implements industrial and agricultural development policies and macroeconomic policies” (Otsuka & Shiraishi, 2014, p. 3). This paper shall explore the idea that delivering institutions must have an interdependent relationship with the communities they are serving in order to contribute to nation building. This is opposed to international institutions that do not require the level of rapport and interdependency with communities, nor do they have a long term stake in them in the period following the conflict.

This essay will identify the key determinants of economic development as adequate opportunities for education and employment, reformed government administration and an absence of corruption following ethnic conflict/civil war. The main argument will maintain that domestic institutions are the most important influencers in maintaining economic development for sustainable peace and nation-building due to their interdependent relationship with society, this is based on the theory presented by Joel Migdal who rejects Marxist and Structuralist claims that “the states actions are a reflection of social power” and presents the argument that “states may help mold, but they are also continually molded by, the societies within which they are embedded” (Lambach, 2004). We shall conclude by challenging the premise that it is international involvement alone that is pivotal in post-conflict economic development.

For the purposes of this essay, nation building shall be defined as “the creation of an integrated society with functioning state apparatus” (Hippler, 2002) that is driven by “state-society relations” (Otsuka & Shiraishi, 2014, p. 3) and the term ‘economic development’ refers to the improvement of a variety of indicators such as “literacy rates, life expectancy, education, employment and poverty rates” (SVBIC, 2011) and their contribution to economic productivity. Institutions shall refer to the “political and economic institutions including market and non-market institutions, centralized and decentralized institutions, democratic and non-democratic amongst others” (Otsuka & Shiraishi, 2014, p. 3). These definitions are important in this essay as the state apparatus referred to has the potential to boost the integration of society by reflecting the values of reconciliation and inclusion that it wishes its citizens to also develop under a single, multi-ethnic state.

It is argued that both “nation building and economic growth have been the main goals of Southeast Asian countries as well as the foundation to their leaders’ rule given the countries’ distinct historical backgrounds” (Hsueh, 2015, p. 27) as tools to maintain peace and political stability, for most following bloody colonial wars.  The main case study that shall be explored is that of economic state building in Sri Lanka, which is a state that has successfully “met a target of the millennium development goals to abolish extreme poverty” despite “a quarter of a century in a long, bloody and seemingly intractable separatist war” (Athukorala, 2013, p. 1). What presents a unique challenge to our understanding of the Sri Lankan case is that the Sinhalese political elite won a “decisive military victory” (Samarasinghe, 2009, p. 437) over the Tamil Tigers of Tamil Elam, whose aim was to “establish an independent state” (Coakley, 2012, p. 214),  yet decided to use accommodation as a primary form of state-building following the conflict. By including the Tamil community in their post-conflict strategy, both ethnic communities will require a complete reconstruction of their political and economic institutions in order to re-create a state that can be a shared space for both communities to co-exist and contribute to, which will prove difficult to garner loyalty following an end of violence marked by a military defeat as opposed to negotiations.

Inclusive educational institutions are a crucial element of economic development as a tool in state building. This is because participation in education is a mechanism for integration and requires an interdependent relationship between the state and citizens.  Schools, colleges and universities are also crucial forums for the development of citizens and their beliefs, which in a post-conflict context is installing the importance of reconciliation for the next generation, resonate of our primary theory presented by Migdal. In the case of a post-conflict society, if an educational institution is exclusive to one community in terms of access or opportunity, they increase the risk of excluding another (or several) in the process of state building, as that community is then restricted not only in terms of professional employment (another key contributing factor to economic development), “but will restrict successive generations understand the violent conflict that took place within their own society and potentially contribute towards future peacebuilding” (Smith, 2010, p. 3). The sense of community, belonging and ownership that is felt by attending educational institutions is also important when mustering support for a transformed state or society as such feelings can increase social responsibility and trust within the establishments provided by the state.  

What is unique about educational institutions in the case of Sri Lanka is that the Tamil community, prior to 1970, statistically thrived in education. This allows us to view in full circle the impact of how educational institutions can fail the maintenance of societal cohesion and the ability of the state to actively create policy that excludes a particular community, which in the Sri Lankan case saw the militarization of young Tamils in the mid 1970’s. Prior to 1970 “university admissions were based solely on academic qualifications” and this resulted in “50 percent of the students in the country's faculties of medicine and 48 percent of all engineering in 1969 as Tamil” (U.S Library of Congress, 2016). However, this was detrimentally affected by the introduction of the “policy of standardization” that altered university admissions to be based on “standardization according to language” (of which Sinhala was the only official language) and “district based quotas” (Mel & Pathmalal, 2009, p. 3), which was received by young Tamils as active discrimination against them. This resulted in a decrease of Tamil enrolment which in 1980 saw “22 percent of medical students and 28 percent of engineering students were Tamils” (U.S Library of Congress, 2016). Just five years later the military campaign of the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Elam was mobilized starting the bloody 25-year civil war that raged Sri Lanka until most recently. It also became increasingly difficult for Tamils to find employment – particularly in public administration. Thus representative of this author’s argument that education is a key mobiliser in nation building, as when communities are ethnically discriminated against it contributes to reducing their faith in educational institutions which deprives them of opportunities to then contribute to the economy, integrate with the dominant ethnic community and results in them losing faith in the institutions and essentially the state.

Following the end of a violent conflict, particularly one that has seen ethnic divides and segregation, a state can either be left with institutions that “by definition have ceased to exist” (Ottaway, 2003, p. 257) as a result of total destruction through war, or institutions that discriminated against a minority community during the civil war[1]. This author argues that new institutions are essential as they need to operate with new values that represent society, and by putting Migdal’s theory into practice – when society is undergoing a period of reconciliation those within the institutions are essentially facilitating the transition and need to be strong advocates for it. Re-building these institutions with inclusion as a means of integration as a sentiment is therefore a crucial element of post-conflict state building.

Constructing a new and carefully crafted civil service is a pivotal strategy in economic development in a post-conflict society. The “reconstruction of institutions that existed beforehand” (Caplan, 2005, p. 136) must be avoided to evade the inequality and economic elements that contributed to the conflict in the first place, which if replicated could become a source of “civil strife, especially in societies where economic disparities coincide with ethnic, religious, tribal or other kinds of social differentiation” (Caplan, 2005, p. 136). What is evident when complete reform does not occur can be attempts to offer tokenistic gestures of inclusion that are unsustainable and economically inefficient.
A classic example of this are the poorly executed attempts to alter the civil service following the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord in 1988 which resulted in Tamil gaining equal status with Sinhala as a national language. This provided the Tamil community with increased opportunities to work in government where a lack of Tamil speakers was evident. However, despite the only discrepancy being identified as linguistic, this author concedes that the lack of cultural or structural participation of Tamils in governance also proved to discredit the process of inclusion. Such inequality was initially established as a result of not only Sinhala being the ‘only official language’ but also to the expanding role of patronage politics throughout the 1950’s and 60’s that the Jayewardene government made increasingly overt through the creation of “job banks” (U.S Library of Congress, 2016) which allowed legislators to allocate a number of ‘low level’ positions amongst their followers. This resulted in two specific implications for Tamils seeking civil service roles, “first, merit qualifications that would have benefited educated Tamils were sacrificed to patron-client politics; second, the patronage system provided Tamils with little or no access to public employment because their political representatives” (U.S Library of Congress, 2016). This inequality was not only representative of bad governance, but shaped the political structures towards the exclusion of the Tamil community in the work of the civil service.

This author argues that the lack of Tamil participation prior to the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord meant that the civil service structures that were already in place were based on rhetoric of Sinhalese dominance in the political sphere. Therefore, even by opening up the opportunities of employment to Tamils the structures of governance were still favoring another community through the service structures they were administering. A distinct lack of reform was evident during the early 2000’s in Sri Lanka, where the civil service was branded extremely ineffective and inefficient. A report conducted by the United National Front government in 2002 stated that the Sri Lankan civil service was experiencing “terrific problems such as over-staffing, an excessive number of institutions, and an undue reliance on administrative procedures, weak institutional control mechanisms and unnecessary and too great political interferences” (Government of Sri Lanka, 2002, p. 86).  The re-development of these institutions is therefore the only solution to these inefficiencies, this must be done in consultation with all parties that the institutions are there to serve, which in turn will generate loyalty through a sense of ownership of the new civil service institutions.

Private business investment into a post-conflict society is key to providing opportunities for employment, especially following institutional reform of the education sector. It is also important to creating trustful relationships between the state and society. This is because successful investment is essential in providing the “revenue necessary to finance state institutions” (Caplan, 2005, p. 136) through tax and employment. It is not only the reform of economic institutions that will contribute to the economic development of a post-conflict society but the domestic political and social institutions, representative of their importance in state/nation building. Where domestic institutions become incapacitated so does “public security and the rule of law” (Caplan, 2005, p. 135) which can allow organized crime, bureaucratic predation, cronyism and corruption to flourish. This not only increases the chances of a relapse into violent conflict but has the potential to “curb private investment to the region” (Caplan, 2005, p. 135) which is counterproductive to our understanding of state institutions as ‘functioning’ as a result of successful nation building. Evidence of this occurring took place in Bosnia-Herzegovina where corruption and crime combined with high taxes resulted in only “$90million of foreign investment, compared with the $1.4billion received in neighboring Croatia” (Caplan, 2005, p. 136). Such evidence of reform in Sri Lanka is currently limited given the recent timeframe of the conflict having ended, however we are able to see the effects of corruption hindering the economic development of the country and the recommendations that have been put forward.

Corruption serves to hinder nation building by “exacerbating inequality, generating mistrust between different social groups and making development less sustainable” (Lindberg & Orjuela, 2014, p. 723) and as we have discovered, trust is a fundamental element in creating interdependent relationships between institutions and civil society. Such sentiments are evident through the UK governments Overseas Business Risk Assessment on Sri Lanka, that states that “allegations of corruption plague many government deals, the police, the inland revenue, customs and indeed almost every public body that businesses rely on to function fairly” (UK Trade and Investment, 2015) and warns investors of these risks. Such problems need to be addressed in order for private businesses to add to the efforts of the state to create employment opportunities. This was recognized as a crucial issue prior to the 2015 presidential election in Sri Lanka and resulted in strong public demand for reforms. ‘Good governance’ was a key feature of the reforms that were called for, by both the public and national policy research institutes. Specifies included “combatting corruption” and “enhancing transparency and accountability” (IPS, 2015). Although there has been little progress made since these reforms were called for, there has been significant downsizing of the civil service and a review into the efficacy of provincial council. What is significant about the political lobby that has led to this is the recognition of discrepancies in governance as opposed to falling into the easy trap of blaming one community for the failings. Although corruption is still an issue, the approach of civil society lobby groups in calling for reform politically represents their faith that the system can be reformed and that they have influence within it. This reflects the interdependence of state/society relations and how society is lobbying for this aspect of the state to change.

As this essay is arguing for economic development as a means to support nation-building, it is important to note solutions to the issue of corruption in public administration, even if Sri Lanka is unable to provide us with concrete examples of overcoming it. Theoretically, in order to overcome corruption when re-building institutions, the state must focus on “ideology as opposed to efficiency”, as efficiency tends to be a result of international pressure for results of their aid, whereas ideology accounts for the “political question of who gets what” (Boyce, 2003, p. 283), which, when combined with “transparency and accountability” (Boyce, 2003, p. 285), can prevent corruption becoming an issue at the outset. This leads us to our final argument that shall critique the idea that international institutions are essential in post-conflict economic nation-building

In order to understand the pivotal importance of domestic institutions as the main drivers in shaping economic development, it is essential to challenge the preconception within the field that internationally managed projects are the key drivers. This author wishes to challenge the argument presented by the World Bank that “to have a positive impact on peace, aid given to countries emerging from civil wars should be massive” (Suhrke & Buckmaster, 2006, p. 338) and that international institutions are the deal breakers in financing successful state-building. What is actually apparent when working in a ‘top down approach’ is a “CNN effect” amongst international institutions that results in the “frontloading of aid in a dysfunctional manner” (Suhrke & Buckmaster, 2006, p. 338) to appease politicians who wish to see an immediate peace or improvement in the functionality of the state as opposed to effective institutions that local people feel add to the economic development of the state and in turn their sense of nationhood.

This author argues that the administration of economic development projects by international institutions is not only inefficient to the concept of state building but is dangerous to the entire concept of economic development as a means of nation-building. This is primarily due to the flawed rationale of neo-liberal institutions such as the EU/UN/World Bank whose “frameworks are externally designed with a European or northern, developed, rational and individualistic context in mind” (Richmond, 2013) and as these projects are often coordinated from New York, Geneva or Paris without an experienced understanding of the relationships between ethnicities within the communities they are aimed at, they can end up re-igniting conflict, or deeming such projects tokenistic. This argument has been proven in Sri Lanka where “large irrigation projects involved landless Sinhalese people being resettled in traditional Tamil areas” (Orjuela, 2005) and consistently throughout history.

In conclusion, this author has based this paper on the “state in society” theory presented by Joe Migdal, yet has further presented the argument that stresses the importance of the interdependence of domestic institution and civil society relationships in the process of state-building. Domestic institutions have been argued to be primary stakeholders in sustainable peace and this has what has distinguished their role in state-building as not only more critical, but influential in shaping the process, which distinguishes them from their international counter-parts. This author has gone further to argue that progressive economic development is an essential by-product of successful interdependent state-society relations and that collective prosperity shaped by inclusive and integrated domestic institutions have a high chance to contributing to sustainable peace through creating trust.  These theoretical arguments have been displayed through an analysis of civil service reform, educational and employment opportunities, private sector investment and corruption as well as a minor critique of the role of international institutions.











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[1] Such discrimination was experienced by the Tamil community in Sri Lanka in the civil service recruitment process due to Sinhala being declared the only official language.