Village Stability Operations & the Future of the American Way of War

100828-N-6538W-076By Octavian Mannea

(Re-Published from Small Wars Journal, Feb. 6, 2014)  SWJ book discussion with Linda Robinson, senior international policy analyst at RAND Corporation, about One Hundred Victories. Special Ops and the Future of American Warfare (Public Affairs, 2013).

SWJ: Why did you choose to write a book about Village Stability Operations?

Linda Robinson: Village Stability Operations/Afghan Local Police is definitely the heart of the book. I looked at that in depth because I think it represents special operations forces going back to their roots and rescuing some of the skill-sets for working with indigenous populations that to some were lost and submerged in the last decade of heavy focus on combat and direct action. I also looked to how those initiatives worked together in Afghanistan including the development of the Afghan Special Forces and the Afghan commandos and the entire Afghan special ops structure that was a very important second mission going on at the same time. Also there was ISAF SOF—i.e., NATO and other partners—conducting a very intensive parallel effort to train and operate alongside the various police forces growing 17 different Province Response Companies, as well as the high-end Minister of Interior counter-terrorist and counter-narcotics forces. Finally the last few chapters are focused on the evolution of the US special ops command and control structure which is a little bit of an inside baseball story, but very important because for the first time, all the special ops tribes, all those stove-piped units were put together under one command. I tried to touch on all of these things that were going on and look at what the operators brought from their operational experience elsewhere and project forward where these things may be used in the future.

SWJ: Being there, on the ground and observing what the special ops were doing, how influential was the classical image of T.E. Lawrence for the operational philosophy at the core of the VSO/ALP initiatives?

Linda Robinson: Every operator, as well as the vast majority of US conventional forces sent out to these countries, have internalized, read and have been preached to about T.E. Lawrence. Of particular symbolism is the guidance about not doing so much with your own hands what they may do less perfectly with theirs. I think it is the actual insight to say that their hands are the critical hands. They in fact know their own country much better. All that the US can hope to do is to be the helping hand, the enabler. I think that is what the real T.E. Lawrence story was about: about him going over there and never pretending that he was the leader. He might be the translator back to the foreign capitals or a connector but never putting himself in the lead. That was where perhaps a wrong turn was taken in all the emphasis that developed almost unintentionally, when the US began seeing itself as the primary counterinsurgent. That is never going to be the case, never should be the case except if the US is confronted by an insurgency on its own soil. That is the optic really, to find out what it takes to operate successfully according to another countries’ standards. That is almost diametrically opposed to our process of building our own campaign plans and structuring our own approach because it has always come back to them, what they are willing to do and what they can do.

SWJ: You started the book with Sun Tzu and you ended the book with Sun Tzu. I think it is a symbolic choice especially today when we are talking so much about rebalancing. What is the broader message that you want to send by leveraging his influence including the title “One Hundred Victories”?

Linda Robinson: The key is not to win 100 victories in 100 battles, but to subdue the enemy without fighting. The interpretation or the spin that I put on without fighting means without the US taking the lead in the fighting. Of course there will likely be fighting in many of these cases, but the key is for them, the local actors, to do the fighting and for the US to enable them …

To read the complete article, click here.

Octavian Manea is pursuing, as a Fulbright student, an M.A. in International Relations with a focus on global security and post-conflict reconstruction at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University.

INSCT Invited to Join Brookings’ Islamic World Forum

The Brookings Institution’s Project on US Relations with the Islamic World has selected INSCT’s draft research paper “Justice in Postconflict Settings: Islamic Law and Muslim Communities as Stakeholders in Successful Transition” as a Working Group topic at its prestigious 2014 Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar, June 9 to 11, 2014.

Partnering with the Project on US Relations with the Islamic World as a working group convener will provide INSCT a unique opportunity to collaborate with Brookings Institution experts and to bring heightened visibility and prominence to INSCT’s research into Islamic law, postconflict justice, and transition in Muslim-majority nations that have suffered conflict.

Deliberations of INSCT’s working group will center on the draft paper. The aim is to create a product that offers specific recommendations to policymakers to address the issues the research has identified. INSCT will develop the final draft of the paper after the Forum, incorporating feedback gleaned from the 20- to 25-strong working group.

  • More details on “Justice in Postconflict Settings: Islamic Law and Muslim Communities as Stakeholders in Successful Transition.”

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Israel’s Settlers: From Spoilers to Stakeholders

Israeli_SettlersBy Miriam Fendius Elman

(Re-Published from the Syracuse Post-Standard, Feb. 10, 2014) The recent spat between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett highlights Israel’s peacemaking dilemma: It has a government that cannot credibly commit to peace because its coalition members have radically different negotiating positions on every core issue at stake. A coalitional crisis was averted only by Bennett’s quick, if half-hearted, apology for what even his right-wing supporters saw as an inappropriate tirade against a sitting prime minister.

But it would be a mistake to conclude from this recent fracas that US Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace efforts are doomed. The trial balloon Netanyahu floated at Davos—that at least some settlers be given the option of remaining in their homes in a Palestinian state—could well be the game changer necessary for peace and signals a shift in Netanyahu’s thinking that is the sine qua non of any deal. Back in 1999, at the tail end of his first stint as prime minister, Netanyahu called the notion of Jews living in a Palestinian state “absurd.” Today the Netanyahu-Bennett flap demonstrates that Netanyahu is not just playing for time or making minor tactical maneuvers in response to US pressure (his evolving views were already evident in June 2009 when, for the first time, he publicly declared support for a two-state solution).

Small Middle East Icon #2Little by little, Netanyahu is opening up a new dialogue with the settlers. For decades successive Israeli peacemakers treated the settlers as a nuisance at best, or a “cancer” to be expunged at worst. The secular peace camp saw little need to reach out to the religious. Over the years, due to this ostracism and marginalization, the settlers have become exactly what they were defined to be: peace spoilers. To his credit, Netanyahu is trying to change this. In addressing the settlers’ hopes and fears, he is attempting something no other secular leader has bothered to do: bring Israel’s religious in from the cold by advancing creative solutions so that they too can become stakeholders of peace.

Netanyahu has a better understanding of the settlers than many think (which is probably why politicians like Bennett become so incensed when the prime minister floats a proposition that is likely to resonate with Israel’s religious Zionists). A new study released by the International Crisis Group in November suggests that a majority of the settlers would support a peace agreement provided there were provisions for access to, and the protection of, Jewish holy sites in the West Bank, and residency rights for those who wished to remain. Even if they opposed a plan for withdrawal, the ICG report confirms that most of the national religious will abide by a government decision, since the state has redemptive value and holds religious significance in and of itself.

Similarly, my research collaborators and I have found that while religious Zionists have been a powerful obstacle to peacemaking by infiltrating state institutions (including the bureaucracy, the education system, and the military), penetrating the Likud party, and exerting veto power in governing coalitions, the religious camp is not a monolith, and large segments of this population can be turned. The ultra-Orthodox who live in housing developments that hug the Green Line and constitute today’s largest growing settler community, up from 12% in 1996 to 40% today, do not fetishize the land (most moved to the West Bank for affordable housing) and are not ideologically adverse to territorial withdrawal. On top of this, they have other fish to fry—maintaining a hold on the rabbinate, preventing women from praying at the Western Wall, and delaying the plan to draft yeshiva students into the army. The political parties that represent these settlers could once again be harnessed to the peace cart, giving Netanyahu the cushion he needs to pursue peace …

To read the whole article, click here.

INSCT Faculty Member Miriam F. Elman is an associate professor of political science at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

Sharia Strategy: Rule of Law Replacing the State

nosraBy Corri Zoli & Emily Schneider

(Re-Published from Syria in Crisis, Feb. 4, 2014) On January 7, during the worst infighting between Syrian rebel groups to date, the head of the al-Qaeda–aligned Nusra Front, Abu Mohammad al-Golani, proposed that the rebels use an Islamic court to negotiate their differences. Calling for a ceasefire between rebel groups, Golani said the current infighting was the result of “incorrect policies” by the rival jihadi faction known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Golani’s statements echo other fighters’ complaints about the ISIL. As an official from an Islamist-led rebel coalition called the Islamic Front recently told Al Jazeera, the ISIL insists on “acting as a ‘state’ rather than one faction among others” and will “not submit to conflict resolution through impartial sharia tribunals like others do.” Another noted on Twitter: “We do not accept that the jihad is reduced to one single faction, just as we do not accept that any faction names itself a state.”

Small Middle East Icon #2While the Nusra Front is designated a terrorist group by the United States and others, its members are seen by some Syrians as “fair arbiters when dealing with corruption and social services.” Young and entrepreneurial, the Nusra Front is distinguishing itself among jihadis in pushing both for a coalitionist approach to the Syrian power vacuum and for a deceptive gradualism in enforcing strict Islamic legal, or sharia, norms over time—thereby also building a postconflict template for Syria.

The ISIL’s heavy-handed approach and claims of statehood have polarized rebels and put off local Syrians. This has given the Nusra Front a chance to redirect the conflict away from the building of an Islamic state to a more flexible approach that views the question of political order from a normative perspective. Instead of focusing on the institutions of a future Syria, the Nusra Front is trying to implement a more broadly based Islamic rule of law.

Broad Legitimacy for Sharia Principles

Our own research indicates that although Golani’s pragmatic proposal for a sharia court to handle disputes may seem far-fetched or extreme to many in the West, it’s neither unrealistic nor unprecedented. After all, employing sharia law in constitutions and state penal codes is a norm shared across many Muslim states. Even if aspirational, there is something telling—in terms of political culture and identity—about the desire of Muslim governments and groups to embed sharia norms in basic laws or operating practices …

To read the full article, click here.

Corri Zoli is a Research Assistant Professor at INSCT.

Emily Schneider (LAW ’13) is a research assistant in New America Foundation’s National Security Program. She is a graduate of INSCT’s Curricular Program in National Security and Counterterrorism Law and as an INSCT Research Assistant, she has helped build a database on Muslim state compliance with International Humanitarian Law.

Review of “Political Survival in Pakistan” (Anas Malik)

Political_Survival_in-PakistanBy Isaac Kfir

(Re-Published from Contemporary South Asia, 21:4) Anas Malik’s Political Survival in Pakistan: Beyond Ideology is a useful addition to the burgeoning literature on political survival specifically in relation to weak states. Drawing on the 2003 volume edited by Bueno de Mesquita et al. (The Logic of Political Survival. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press)), Malik’s approach is to infuse macro forces into a micro-level analysis, as a means of understanding strategic calculation by key agents among the military, civil bureaucracy, landlords and business. In doing so, Malik offers a unique interpretation of Pakistan’s political culture, leading him to argue that “interest,” as opposed to ideology, is what drives Pakistan’s political leaders and their challengers.

When interest is applied to political survival, what becomes clear is that in “certain cases, one policy option may help ensure an incumbent leader’s political survival yet be suboptimal for most citizens, while another option may provide more benefits to more citizens yet be risky for the incumbent’s political survival. In such cases, the incumbent’s policy choice is usually the latter” (p. 3).

Malik’s thesis recognizes the existence of a three-sided relationship: poor extraction keeps the state weak and governance poor; this leads to the persistence of a quasi-state where legal oversight is limited and which in turn ensures that extraction policies remain poor and governance weak. Principally, Malik’s prescription is that to help Pakistan move from weak to strong state status, it must engage in tax reform, land reform, and provincial devolution.

Focusing on leadership decisions vis-à-vis extraction and how these are affected by international shocks, such as the outbreak of war or the loss of international credit, Malik argues that leaders and challengers in Pakistan were and are able “to manipulate key rules for political survival” (p. 29). Malik in Chapter 2 explains why Pakistan is a weak state, though one with a fractured and yet “strong society” following Migdal, who concentrated on social control and the subordination of people. In the next two chapters, Malik examines extraction strategies before moving to an analysis of key political choices by challengers.

In looking at extraction policies, Malik primarily focuses on taxation. He asserts that political leaders do not seek a robust tax system because they are apprehensive about the political risks that would come should they try to implement such a system …

To access the full text, click here.

Greening in the Red Zone, with Keith Tidball


WHO: Keith Tidball, Senior Extension Associate, Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University
WHAT: Greening in the Red Zone
WHERE: Eggers Hall 060 (Global Collaboratory)
WHEN: Feb. 26, 2014 | noon


Tidball_SmallWhat role does access to green space—and the act of creating and caring for such places—play in promoting social health and well-being, especially for those suffering through traumatic events?

Keith Tidball asserts that creating and accessing green spaces confers resilience and recovery in systems disrupted by conflict or disaster. Tidball is the co-editor of Greening in the Red Zone, a volume that provides evidence for this assertion through cases studies from Afghanistan, Soweto, New Orleans, Kenya, Cameroon, Cyprus, and Bosnia-Herzegovina

Tidball is Senior Extension Associate in Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources, where he serves as Associate Director of the Civic Ecology Lab and Program Leader for the Nature and Human Security Program. He also is State Coordinator for the New York Extension Disaster Education Network. His research focuses on interactions between humans and nature in the context of disasters and war and how these interactions are related to a system`s ability to bounce back after disturbance.

Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here, with Karima Bennoune

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WHO: Karima Bennoune, Professor of International Law, UC-Davis School of Law
WHAT: Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism*
WHERE: Eggers Hall 060 (Global Collaboratory)
WHEN: April 10, 2014 | noon
CO-SPONSOR: Middle East Studies Program

*Copies of Bennoune’s book will be on sale at the SU Bookstore, with a 20% discount. Signed copies will be available while stock lasts after April 10, 2014.

[/infobox] Karima_BennouneKarima Bennoune is a professor of international law at the University of California-Davis School of Law.

The author of Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here, she writes about Mahfoud Bennoune, her father, who was an outspoken professor at the University of Algiers. He faced death threats during the 1990s but continued speaking out against fundamentalism and terrorism. Bennoune set out to meet people who are today doing what her father did, to try to garner for them greater international support than Algerian democrats received during the 1990s.

Bennoune has served as a Center for Women’s Global Leadership delegate to the NGO Forum at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China; as a legal adviser at Amnesty International; and as a visiting professor at the University of Michigan Law School, where she won the L. Hart Wright Award for Excellence in teaching.

Your Fatwa Does Not Apply HereBennoune also has been a consultant on human rights issues for the International Council on Human Rights Policy, the Soros Foundation, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, and for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Her human rights field missions have included Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Fiji, Lebanon, Pakistan, South Korea, southern Thailand, and Tunisia. In 2009-2010, she was one of a group of international experts assembled by Leiden University, under the auspices of the Dutch Foreign Ministry, to develop policy recommendations on counterterrorism and international law.

In February 2011 she traveled to Algeria to serve as an observer at pro-democracy protests with the support of the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights, and in October 2011, she volunteered as an election observer during the Tunisian constituent assembly elections with Gender Concerns International.

Her publications have appeared in many leading academic journals, including the American Journal of International Law, the Berkeley Journal of International Law, the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, the European Journal of International Law, and the Michigan Journal of International Law. Her article, “Terror/Torture,” was designated one of the top 10 global security law review articles of 2008 by Oxford University Press.

In 2007, Bennoune became the first Arab-American to win the Derrick Bell Award from the Association of American Law Schools Section on Minority Groups. She has served as a member of the Executive Council of the American Society of International Law and on the board of directors of Amnesty International USA. Currently, she sits on the Board of the Network of Women Living Under Muslim Laws.

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David M. Crane Discusses Syrian War Crimes with Italian Media

Syria: Victims of Conventional Weapons on the Rise

Head of Team Documenting War Crimes Speaks About Project

By Lorenzo Trombetta

[pullquoteright]What’s important is that sooner or later justice is served for the victims.”[/pullquoteright](Re-published from ANSAmed) BEIRUT, Dec. 11, 2013—Since the chemical attack in the Damascus region four months ago, crimes committed with conventional weapons in Syria against civilians–particularly women and children–are on the rise. The findings were revealed in an ongoing survey of war violence being conducted by an international team of legal experts and investigators led by David Crane, professor at Syracuse University’s College of Law, and former Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, a war crimes tribunal.

In a telephone interview with ANSA, Crane said, “Up until now we’ve documented crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Syria by both sides. Compared to 2011, the country is now a blood swamp that many are a part of, and the bloodiness continues to get worse.”

Since autumn 2011 the team led by the American law professor and made up of experts of “the highest profile,” has been collecting proof as part of the Syrian Accountability Project (SAP), which Crane describes as “a group project that forms a bridge between collection of evidence and creation of a tribunal,” and which will serve as the basis for a special tribunal for crimes committed in the Syrian war.

SAP came about just a few months after the start in spring 2011 of the bloody military repression in Syria conducted by forces loyal to Syrian president Bashar al Assad and undertaken as a response to the massive, and at the time unseen, popular anti-regime demonstrations that exploded on the wave of other revolts in North Africa and the Middle East.

“At the time we were prompted by the National Syrian Council,” said Crane, referring to the first group of Syrian opposition exiles, formed in November 2011 and merged one year later into a larger but still fragmented and delegitimized platform of opposition groups based in Turkey. “We coordinate with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and we’re in contact with the International Criminal Court, as well as members of the US Congress and the US administration,” Crane added. “Several foreign NGOs work with us as well, such as No Peace Without Justice,” he said, referring to the Italian non-profit founded by Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Emma Bonino.

Crane specified that the team collects evidence of crimes committed not only by Assad and his associates, but by all those involved, including rebels and non-Syrian forces. “We work on the principle of impartiality,” he said.

When asked about the sources drawn upon for proof, Crane said, “We track on a daily basis the events of the war while it’s happening. We map the conflict and follow various leads at all possible levels. We verify witness testimonials by cross-checking them with other reports we receive from various sources. It’s an ongoing challenge because there’s an overwhelming quantity of information.”

Crane also said, “At this stage I can’t reveal names of those presumed responsible for crimes or indicate specific episodes, but I can say that compared to when we started work, the situation has changed. First there was the regime and the rebels. Now the forces involved have multiplied.”

Crane said that he couldn’t commit on the exact type of tribunal that might be created, and added, “In any case, we’ll have to wait for the hostilities to end in order to start the procedures of creating a court.”

When asked whether Assad or the rebels could be accused of crimes while at the same time considered legitimate partners for finding a political solution to the conflict, Crane said, “The fact of coming to a political solution before justice is served isn’t negative in and of itself. What’s important is that sooner or later justice is served for the victims. Behind the creation of every tribunal there is always a political decision. If this should turn out to be the case, we could offer the material that we’re working on.”

For the original story in Italian, click here.

Video: Making Stability Operations Smarter: Innovations for Fragile Environments

Morgan Courtney is the Burma (Myanmar) Engagement Lead at the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations at the US Department of State (DOS), where she manages a team of conflict specialists in the field and in Washington who focus on peace, conflict, and reconciliation in Burma.

This presentation is part of the David F. Everett Postconflict Reconstruction Speaker Series.

Sen. Mitchell Visits with INSCT, Remembrance Scholars

Sen. George J. Mitchell returned to Syracuse University on Nov. 12, 2013 to discuss prospects for global peace and how (or if) the world has changed in the 25 years since the bombing of Pan Am 103. Before his University Lecture on the subject, he sat down with INSCT Director William C. Banks and SU Remembrance Scholars in the Maxwell School. A highly respected senator, Mitchell became Senate Majority Leader on Jan. 3, 1989, two weeks after the Pan Am 103 tragedy. He also was a special envoy for Middle East peace (2009-11) and for peace in Northern Ireland. In early October 2001, less than a month after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Mitchell gave the first University Lecture, calmly and honestly addressing the terrorist attacks during his talk.
Sen. George J. Mitchell returned to Syracuse University on Nov. 12, 2013 to discuss prospects for global peace and how (or if) the world has changed in the 25 years since the bombing of Pan Am 103. Before his University Lecture on the subject, he sat down with INSCT Director William C. Banks, law students, honors students, and current and former SU Remembrance Scholars in the Maxwell School. A highly respected senator, Mitchell became Senate Majority Leader on Jan. 3, 1989, two weeks after the Pan Am 103 tragedy. He also was a special envoy for Middle East peace (2009-2011) and for peace in Northern Ireland. In early October 2001, less than a month after Sept. 11, 2001, Mitchell gave the first University Lecture, calmly and honestly addressing the terrorist attacks during his talk.
Senator George Mitchell University Lecturer
(L to R) Sen. George J. Mitchell and INSCT Director William C. Banks.