Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Policing and counterinsurgency

I'm reading a really interesting book right now called Cop in the Hood, by Peter Moskos. The author is a Harvard-trained sociologist who spent a year as a cop in Baltimore's Eastern District. I've never been terribly interested in the subject of urban policing, but I am a huge fan of The Wire (and, as we've seen in the past, of pretty much anything that relates to counterinsurgency theory).

Now I should go ahead and put out the disclaimer -- drilled into me by SNLII, who wrote pretty extensively on this subject on the old Abu Muqawama (and this is a good thread on that) -- that there is a huge difference between policing and COIN, and a huge difference between police and soldiers. Their methods are different, their operating environments are different, their desired endstates are different, their legal authorities are different, and so on and so on. We don't want to live in a world where we think of our police as counterinsurgents (though imagining our counterinsurgents as police is a bit more desirable, at least when we're a little further along the spectrum of conflict and into Phase 4 and 5 scenarios).

Having said that, there are some undeniable parallels when it comes to things like patrolling, presence, and the necessity for dependable, timely information/intelligence. This passage from Moskos stood out for me.
One officer complained: "Nobody here will talk to police. Half the public hates us. The other half is scared to talk to us. I would be, too. But we can't do anything without the public. They know who's dirty and who's not. They know who's shooting who. We don't know. They live here. We just drive around in big billboards..." [emphasis mine]
This is obviously the same rationale behind combat outposts (COPs) and joint security stations (JSS) in counterinsurgency: presence among the populace, access to current intelligence directly from the source, and the credible promise of protection from retaliation by those who would prefer silence.

I think there's also an interesting parallel to be drawn between the attitudes of the run-of-the-mill, generally somewhat moralistic and socially conservative police officer fighting the drug war (to the extent that we can generalize, and Moskos does) and the perhaps reluctant counterinsurgent, the specialist or lance corporal who signed up to drive tanks and shoot bad guys and instead ends up sharing a tent with a foreigner who doesn't shower very much, or building a school, or vaccinating goats. The way that the organization helps its personnel to understand the broader context of the mission, and tries to avoid stigmatizing mission-essential tasks that are often derided by the rank and file, is vitally important to relating mission performance to objective effectiveness. (Here's a great example of a senior leader trying to do exactly that, emphasizing the change in mindset that is necessary to institutionalizing security force assistance as a core mission of the U.S. Army.) A big reason that modern policing seems not to negatively impact crime rates to the extent that it could or should is a complete lack of buy-in on the part of patrol officers when it comes to concepts like community policing, foot patrol, reconciliation, or (even more out there) legalization/decriminalization of drug use.

NOTE: Don't get into drug politics here, because I'm not interested. Or crazy race-baiting. Please and thanks.

41 comments:

  1. I actually remember that thread quite well - it resonated with me because some of us spend a LOT of time nearby some violent neighborhoods.....

    "A big reason that modern policing seems not to negatively impact crime rates to the extent that it could or should is a complete lack of buy-in on the part of patrol officers when it comes to concepts like community policing, foot patrol, reconciliation, or (even more out there) legalization/decriminalization of drug use."

    Yeah, I'd love to see some of that foot patrolling around here; that never seems to happen, apparently budget-cuts prohibit it, or new fangled stuff like security cameras and greening of the PD take precedence. Well, that's my take on it. I would love to see more cop cars on the street, just see them around, but again, told that budget cuts make it impossible. It's maddening when I think of what money IS being spent on.

    Turns out information is king, huh? Who knew? :)

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  2. Starting next week work will be insane and I won't be able to comment or post much.

    Since you are all so busy, here is something interesting to make up for my lack of (we'll see, though, I always seem to find time to comment even when I say I won't) future commenting.

    "But as the experience in the Philippines suggests, there are ways to conduct a counterinsurgency campaign without a large foreign force."

    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2009/09/two-us-troops-killed-in-forgotten-filipino-counterinsurgency/

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  3. "But as the experience in the Philippines suggests, there are ways to conduct a counterinsurgency campaign without a large foreign force."

    #1 on the list of ways to conduct a counterinsurgency campaign without a large foreign force: only counter insurgencies in places with large, professional, and well-developed security apparatuses, and with capable governments.

    (Unfortunately, while we always have the choice of where to fight, we don't always choose our interests.)

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  4. I should've said "while we always have the choice of WHEN to fight, it's not always easy to choose WHERE."

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  5. Gulliver,

    First off, great blog and good post. I'm branching out a bit from SWJ.

    As for the posts, you brought up some interesting examples. I actually worked on a project studying violence in Salinas, LA, and San Diego in Cali. One conclusion that I came to was that the police were only one solution to the problem when countering gangs and drugs- an effective whole-of-gov't approach and community involvement was needed to make significant gains. Some of the same lessons apply to small wars.

    You stated:

    "#1 on the list of ways to conduct a counterinsurgency campaign without a large foreign force: only counter insurgencies in places with large, professional, and well-developed security apparatuses, and with capable governments."

    That is not a factual statement. SF conducting FID (not COIN) has been done in many areas without a strong central gov't or security apparatuses- El Salvador, Guatemala and Colombia to name three recent examples.

    v/r

    Mike

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  6. That is not a factual statement. SF conducting FID (not COIN) has been done in many areas without a strong central gov't or security apparatuses- El Salvador, Guatemala and Colombia to name three recent examples.

    Mike -- Of course I agree with you that strong HN gov't isn't necessary, so that sentence was probably misleading. What I'm saying is that this would be the #1 Most Desirable Condition for that sort of involvement, not that it's a prerequisite.

    Thanks for the kind words. Hope you'll stick around.

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  7. "One conclusion that I came to was that the police were only one solution to the problem when countering gangs and drugs- an effective whole-of-gov't approach and community involvement was needed to make significant gains."

    Except that, as you know, there have no systematic successes on either front. And it is for the same reason that it is so difficult to stamp out insurgencies. We always talk about "draining the swamp." But neither insurgencies nor gangs requires swamps. All they require is puddles -- puddles of discontent, puddles of addiction, puddles of sociopathology, etc.

    Past insurgencies demonstrate that you don't need more than a small minority of the population supporting the insurgents. And the reality of the situation is that you can always find 5% of the population to sign up for any damn thing.

    The issue isn't community support or buy-in, the issue is the normalization of aberrant conduct. Gangs and crack houses persist, not because the community supports them, but because their existence has been normalized within a society. They are seen as illegitimate blights, but are nonetheless considered an unremarkable part of the landscape.

    And that is the key insight, I would argue, from policing, namely how significant is the impact of a dynamic as difficult to assess and address as normalization of remarkable so that it becomes not a cause for alarm and mobilization, but just a fact of life to tolerate.

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  8. And that is the key insight, I would argue, from policing, namely how significant is the impact of a dynamic as difficult to assess and address as normalization of remarkable so that it becomes not a cause for alarm and mobilization, but just a fact of life to tolerate.

    I would agree that this is a key insight about terrorism, though not so much about insurgency.

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  9. Gulliver, not sure if you meant terrorism or policing, but I think Dr. Finel makes a good point particularly in the case of A'stan.

    Where are the majority of the training camps and Bin Laden/Zawahari? Pakistan

    If we attacked into the FATA and destroyed those camps, then we would see a rapid decline in both AQ and the Taliban.

    I must admit I'm in a hostile/violent mood since my Carolina Panthers and UNC Tarheels both lost this weekend, and I'd be the first to volunteer for an airborne operation there :), but it is something to consider.

    We debate over AQ/Taliban not gaining safehavens/training camps in A'stan. How about we destroy the existing ones? I know enough Pakistani officers to know they would link up with me at the drop zone. AQ/Taliban is number three on their priority list (1. India/Kashmir, 2. Other extreme Islamist in the FATA).

    v/r

    Mike

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  10. Mike -- No, I mean that the insight that certain aberrant behaviors are essentially un-eliminate-able is particularly relevant to terrorism. No matter how many societies are wholly transformed, we will never rid the world of the man who is willing to blow himself up because he's pissed off.

    Insurgencies, on the other hand, often can't be simply tolerated as facts of life (particularly not by the government that they threaten). We have the luxury, as a third party, of slightly more discretion, but it's hard for me to accept that there will never be an insurgency or internal conflict in which we not only want, but basically need to be involved. (I'd suggest that the Iraqi insurgency/civil war was an example.)

    On the Panthers, I'm afraid as a Cowboy fan I don't have any sympathy!

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  11. Was it Clausewitz who said at the very beginning of his book that there can't possibly be a unifying theory of war (or in this case, of counterinsurgency)? And now, here, we want to draw lessons from police work in urban environments in American and apply them to counterinsurgency in Afghanistan? Maybe I don't understand all the inherent the premises... But is is getting increasingly clear that Afghanistan is a special case that would ultimately put to shame the military theorists of counterinsurgency as it is intrinsically a "singularity case" and has nothing to do with other locales where counterinsurgencies have worked...

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  12. Sorry the misspellings... I meant to say, " all the inherent premises" and "But it is getting increasingly..."

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  13. Gulliver-

    Concur with the first paragraph. The suicide bomber is an interesting phenomenom. One of the things I struggled with was the rise in non-religious female suicide bombers that started in Diyala Province, Iraq a year after we dismantled the Islamic State of Iraq. I just didn't understand it.

    Second paragraph, I WANT to see the world end poverty, homelessness, illiteracy and war. I NEED to ensure that my daughter and my country prosper long after I'm gone. I WANT to drive a Porsche, but I NEED to drive my 2000 4Runner. Need versus want must be defined through cost-benefit. I think that's one thing that we're missing in the big picture of nation-building in Iraq and A'stan. We NEED a more cost-effective approach. State Dept Led/ SF led, FID/indirect method under the radar is much less costly.

    Third Paragraph- Nice stadium. I hope to visit it someday!!!

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  14. Moskos posted a good piece about this in the current issue of The American Interest.

    When I read it, I had the same thoughts about parallels to current operations.

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  15. >>Insurgencies, on the other hand, often can't be simply tolerated as facts of life (particularly not by the government that they threaten).<<

    No, but they can and are tolerated by the population in which they operate.

    Look, in my neighborhood, if a kid joins a gang, it would be a cause for neighborhood meetings, we'd be lobbying (effectively) for a massive anti-gang effort, we'd be organizing a neighborhood watch. Why? Because that is not "normalized" behavior where I live.

    I would call the cops if my kid joined a gang. I would try to counsel him personally if I thought he was engaged in some sort of white collar crime. Why? Because one is wholly outside my experience, while unfortunately I know about 10 people who have dealt with SEC investigations. So that latter is sort of "normalized" even though I consider it a crime.

    Anyway, in some communities joining a gang may be frowned upon, but is normalized sufficiently that people don't mobilize against it. Same in communities where insurgents operate. They may be opposed to the insurgency, but for many people it is just a fact of life, and they don't see it as something to actively combat.

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  16. Alex -- And now, here, we want to draw lessons from police work in urban environments in American and apply them to counterinsurgency in Afghanistan?

    I don't think I'm talking about "drawing lessons" so much as acknowledging parallels. It's not as if COIN practitioners said "you know, I bet there's something to be learned from urban policing -- let's watch how they do things for a while!" Rather, counterinsurgents have come to the same conclusions as police, which is that constant and visible presence is essential to providing the perception of security and freedom from retaliation for informers, allowing for better intelligence/information flow, which facilitates the destruction or apprehension of the enemy/criminal.

    Sure, it's fair to say "this war isn't exactly like other wars, or any other war." It's also fair to say that this war isn't exactly unlike other wars, or any other war. Theory involves generalization, and application depends on the disaggregation of endogenous and exogenous elements, which is to say that at some point you've got to get down to the specifics of the scenario you're working on. That doesn't mean that theory and doctrine are irrelevant.

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  17. Mike -- Second paragraph, I WANT to see the world end poverty, homelessness, illiteracy and war. I NEED to ensure that my daughter and my country prosper long after I'm gone. I WANT to drive a Porsche, but I NEED to drive my 2000 4Runner. Need versus want must be defined through cost-benefit. I think that's one thing that we're missing in the big picture of nation-building in Iraq and A'stan. We NEED a more cost-effective approach. State Dept Led/ SF led, FID/indirect method under the radar is much less costly.

    I completely agree. My point is that in foreign and security policy, the line between NEED and WANT is slightly blurrier. Narrow construction of "need" leads to isolationism (or certainly an ambivalence toward forward defense), and is inconsistent with close to a century of American thinking about defense. (This doesn't necessarily make it wrong, but I digress.)

    I think if Canada were threatened by an anti-American insurgency that was dedicated to revolution in the international system, the destruction of American primacy, and the eventual overrun of U.S. territory etc., and that crowd was armed with heavy weapons, we might determine that this was a COIN war we NEED to fight. (I'm using a ridiculous example, of course, but Iraq is useful here: one could make a compelling case that the U.S. NEEDED not to leave Iraq in the broken state that it was in around 2006, that it would've constituted an intolerable situation for regional and U.S. security.)

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  18. Schmedlap -- Moskos posted a good piece about this in the current issue of The American Interest.

    When I read it, I had the same thoughts about parallels to current operations.


    Yeah, that essay is actually adapted from the afterward (or the last chapter, can't remember) to the edition of the book that I just finished. Thanks for the heads-up, though.

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  19. Bernard -- >>Insurgencies, on the other hand, often can't be simply tolerated as facts of life (particularly not by the government that they threaten).<<

    No, but they can and are tolerated by the population in which they operate.

    Look, in my neighborhood, if a kid joins a gang, it would be a cause for neighborhood meetings, we'd be lobbying (effectively) for a massive anti-gang effort, we'd be organizing a neighborhood watch. Why? Because that is not "normalized" behavior where I live.

    I would call the cops if my kid joined a gang. I would try to counsel him personally if I thought he was engaged in some sort of white collar crime. Why? Because one is wholly outside my experience, while unfortunately I know about 10 people who have dealt with SEC investigations. So that latter is sort of "normalized" even though I consider it a crime.

    Anyway, in some communities joining a gang may be frowned upon, but is normalized sufficiently that people don't mobilize against it. Same in communities where insurgents operate. They may be opposed to the insurgency, but for many people it is just a fact of life, and they don't see it as something to actively combat.


    Ok, this is where I think the parallel between crime and insurgency starts to get a little tenuous. While I certainly agree that in places where (particularly drug-related) criminality is rampant, the surrounding population often accepts it as a fact of life, the truth is that some people do not. Police get tips constantly, both anonymous and not (quite often from the elderly). There's usually little they can do with this, but that's another conversation altogether.

    When you say that gang behavior isn't tolerated in your neighborhood because it's not normalized behavior, you're being a little bit silly. Gang behavior isn't normalized, no. But more importantly, your community has the resources to bring to bear on the problem, which is to say that 1) there are alternatives to criminal behavior and 2) those who choose that route will face challenges from a well-resourced, concerned police department and a prosecutor who isn't so overwhelmed by nonviolent drug cases that he's forced to drop or reduce charges for almost anything but the most egregious and violent crimes.

    Communities don't "mobilize" against drug or gang activity not simply because such behavior is "normalized" but because it's clear that any such "mobilization" is essentially irrelevant to the continued existence of criminality. Put simply, those people can mobilize all they want and the cops still can't shut down the drug game.

    So to bring it back to the insurgency parallel, we're still talking about resources, credible deterrent, and government capacity. In a place where people realize that reporting/informing on criminals doesn't do any good, and exposes them to retaliation, they "tolerate" criminality. In places where government is not capable of asserting itself (whether due to resources or the strength of opposing forces like an insurgency), people are far less likely to take risks with their own lives by informing on insurgents or denouncing sympathizers.

    It's just plain oversimplification (and misleading, at that) to say that your neighborhood doesn't tolerate criminality because it's not "normalized" there. Your community doesn't tolerate it because it can afford not to.

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  20. Isn't law enforcement a type of COIN? {Yes, I disagree with the wise Yoda of Haiku on this.} Law enforcement tries to dismantle organized crime networks and terrorist plots; so does COIN. Central to COIN is reducing ordinary crime because:
    1) it is what locals want
    2) it helps organized crime, terrorism and resistance stick out more
    3) it boosts the local economy
    4) it encourages the locals to think about issues other than security

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  21. Isn't law enforcement a type of COIN?

    No. Policing is certainly a subset of COIN, but if you're suggesting that all law enforcement is somehow a variation on peacetime COIN, then I would absolutely disagree.

    COIN is intended not just to deter socially/normatively unacceptable behavior, but also to buttress legitimate authority against governance challenges. To counter insurgencies, not just discourage aberrant behaviors.

    Insurgency may be a crime, but crime ain't necessarily an insurgency. (Obviously.)

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  22. Geez, that didn't even make any sense. Let me try again:

    A COIN campaign obviously must include policing, so in that sense, law enforcement is a subset of all COIN. But all policing is not a subset of coin, as (obviously) law enforcement isn't always taking place amidst a (criminal) insurgency.

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  23. >>It's just plain oversimplification (and misleading, at that) to say that your neighborhood doesn't tolerate criminality because it's not "normalized" there. Your community doesn't tolerate it because it can afford not to.<<

    A fascinating claim... largely at odds with the evidence. In fact, if you look at the distribution of police resources, they are disproportionately spent in high-crime areas. One cite : ("States with high crime rates tend to have higher than average expenditures and employment devoted to criminal and civil justice -- http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/ascii/jeeus99.txt)." I'd cite others, but they are behind academic research firewalls, so it is a bit of a pain to do it... but I can if you want me to.

    No, there is a much more complex dynamic at work. Crime is like disease. It becomes endemic at certain levels, and becomes tremendously difficult to root out. Part of the reason crime becomes endemic is because people become accustomed to it. They put bars on their windows, they don't go out at night, etc. It has become normalized. Same with insurgency.

    And I am not making a value judgment. It is what it is.

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  24. Question: How is a resistance movement different from gangs, warlords, or organized crime?

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  25. Question: How is a resistance movement different from gangs, warlords, or organized crime?

    Well first of all, I'd say that "gangs, warlords, and organized crime" aren't all the same thing. But that's sort of beside the point.

    An insurgency has governing aspirations, or at least the aspiration to free itself from the current governing authority. Criminals may be interested in operating without government interference, but they generally don't reject the legitimacy of the government or have any intent to overthrow or replace it.

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  26. A fascinating claim... largely at odds with the evidence. In fact, if you look at the distribution of police resources, they are disproportionately spent in high-crime areas.

    I guess I need to be more precise: when I say that "your community can afford not to [tolerate widespread criminality]," it's about more than spending money on cops. There's a certain chicken/egg thing here, too: of course more resources are devoted to high-crime areas, particularly when policing is built around rapid-response and not crime-prevention.

    Your community can afford not to tolerate widespread criminality because you live in a place where governmental authority is responsive to the concerns of citizens, and both willing to and capable of protecting people who speak out against the criminals in their midst. The courts generally provide redress to people who are wronged by criminals, and yes, criminality is viewed as aberrant behavior.

    But what of places where it's not? Is it "normalized" in certain places because of culture, or economics, or what? Is it "normalized" simply because it's been that way forever, and because people don't know how to de-normalize it?

    We all know how gentrification works: people with money and different social norms move into a poorer (and generally higher-crime, which is not coincidental) area, spend money, demand police presence and responsiveness, good government and representation, prices go up, poor people move out, crime goes down. (I used to live at 14/Q NW; that neighborhood -- and really, that corner -- is a perfect example of this.) So why does it take the new people moving in? Well, because of norms, sure. But also because people with money, political awareness, and a willingness to demand things from their government (and, again uncoincidentally, personal histories less directly informed by antagonism towards and from police officers) bring with them the sorts of things (resources and attitudes) that can legitimately impact crime rates.

    The problem is that this doesn't all happen in a vacuum. You can't go back to t=0 and understand why some places have become crime-ridden and others prosperous and safe. Nor can we snap our fingers and provide all the things to every community that will make criminals unwelcome there. But simply reducing it to culture -- which is what we do when we say "normalization" -- is dangerously simplistic, and doesn't really get us any closer to a solution. It's as silly as the people who say "there's no such thing as a neutral in this fight! If they didn't secretly support the insurgents, they'd just tell us who they were and not let them set off IEDs or shoot at troops!"

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  27. >>But simply reducing it to culture -- which is what we do when we say "normalization" -- is dangerously simplistic, and doesn't really get us any closer to a solution.<<

    But, of course, that wasn't my claim either. This isn't dichotomous variable, but rather a continuous one. I am just making the argument that in places where there is an insurgency people adapt and over time it becomes a part of the environment. What I object to is the notion that where there is an insurgency there must be a vast population just desperate to turn on the insurgents and only prevented from doing so by a lack of security. Yes, lack of security deters many, lack of responsiveness others, but also a perception that armed men operating in groups -- whether militias or insurgents -- are unremarkable.

    I don't want to turn your argument into a strawman either, but you position has much in common with the arguments that "inside each Afghan is an American hoping to get out." If you live in a community where control over the instruments of violence and coercion have historically be decentralized -- and remember Afghanistan has a young population, what percentage even remembers a time when the place was even semi-normal? -- it is not obvious to me that you are likely to be eager to wipe out insurgents.

    I am not reducing everything to culture, but I am suggesting that culture shaped by history over time is a significant factor.... just as it is in crime-ridden parts of the United States -- whether that is gang controlled parts of South Central LA, the mob-infested ports of NJ, or the moonshine/tax cheat part of Appalachia.

    Finally, your point about gentrification makes MY argument. Outsiders usually have to come in, and because they have a cultural expectation of responsive government (and money to lobby) they force changes. Gentrification rarely happens from within -- though there are some rare cases of urban renewal from inside afflicted communities.

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  28. Fascinating conversation, Gulliver and Dr. Finel.

    Culture is the most complicated, difficult thing in the world. I don't consider it a simplification to talk about normalization and culture in relation to urban 'puddles' (I love that phrase, Dr. Finel) of violence and poverty.

    We do tolerate and normalize a lot that is simply indefensible as a society and as an entire culture. You have to broaden the focus, Gulliver, to AT LEAST the entire city and its surrounding suburbs - at least, that's how I look at Chicago. So, as a pathology resident in the late 90s, I had to rotate through the Cook County Medical Examiner's office. The things I saw!

    We have normalized pockets of extreme dysfunction in this country - Dr. Finel makes an astute point. The entire society doesn't mobilize to do much of anything; it is normalized and we all accept it. We just tacitly do, and perhaps its because it is so very complicated, that thing of culture (and, I'm talking about the larger culture and its acceptance, too, not just the behaviors of inhabitanats of a specific neighborhood). It's horrifying that this is so, actually. Part of the problems is that the larger culture cannot agree on solutions because the larger culture has different theories for the existence of such puddles.

    Does any of this make sense?

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  29. One aspect you all overlook, law-abiding citizens that you are, is the paralel between cops and occupying forces in various neighbourhoods. In the "criminal"/outlaw communities I have visited, one of the few common denominators is a view of the Law as basically brutal power. For every minor weed-dealer put behind bars, for every kid beaten up in the holding cells, resistance stems and becomes a common story that keeps the community together. This is necessary not because of any natural inclination, but because poverty demands a black economy for survival. While my experiences are from Europe, in the immigrant "banlieus", I would assume that this is the same in any hood in the world, including the lumberjacks of Korengal etc. For every prisoner that returns tortured and abused from Bangram, for every attempt at imposing taxes and other regulations, resistance rises.

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  30. Correction: "While my experiences with *muslim "outlaws"* is from the immigrant Banlieus...". Ive also done some comparative research in "white" crime circles, and the results are much the same. It seems to be a constant in outlaw culture all over the world in various degrees.

    Another aspect of many countries is the extent that the police is seen as competition and/or "sucker-fish" to criminal cartels by the population.

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  31. Writing from Italy: in several cases (southern italy, china, maybe caucasus and kossovo?)the origin of mafia-type extended-clan crime organisations has historical links to local hostility to foreign/quasi-foreign rule with remote, corrupt and/or negligent government: in Italy's case the combination of remote-negligent -predatory administration of the South by French and Spanish ruling houses + brutal repression of the "brigand wars" peasant insurgencies by Piedmontese forces following the reunification of Italy has a lot to answer for: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brigandage_in_the_Two_Sicilies

    In particular, it explains the local perception of the "State" as an alien entity hostile to local needs and rights - often viewed as better served by the local mafia/camorra/n'drangheta etc ="omertà" = mafia-or-whatever as local "state-within-a-state". And I seem to remember reading somewhere that the origin of many Chinese mafia-societies is linked to hostility to Manchu rule?

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  32. You may find some more food-for-thought parallels here?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mafia#History
    http://www.romeartlover.it/Pinelli1.html

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  33. I visited Sardinia a while ago. Talked to Berlusconi fans. They like a strong leader who decides. Its very strange.

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  34. Apart from the TV-control aspects, I have two "cultural type" suspicions re why-the-heck Italy is susceptible to such a jerk:

    1) same-old-same-old historical pattern: every time we set up a republic, city-state or otherwise, after a while it gets itself into such a fractious mess it/we end up swooning into the outstretched arms of some "charismatic" tyrant or other... grrrr

    2) deep-rooted superstition that both bad-luck influences and good-luck influences are contagious: Berlusconi's rise from penniless nobody to plutocratic mega-tycoon "proves" he was "born under a lucky star"; ergo, putting him at the helm of the country can be expected to "bring Italy/Italians good luck"???

    Re the second: when Berlusconi first appeared on the political scene here, I discovered with horror that a theoretically atheistic far-left "progressive" type I knew had secreted a wee pic of Berlusca in his wallet... the way the religious-minded carry or wear an image of their patron saint... rest follows from there. Never underestimate the enduring power of magical thinking!

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  35. fnord, I couldn't agree more. This is why I asked what the difference between resistance, insurgence, organized crime, militias, and warlords was.

    One of the best examples of counter insurgency was New York in the 1990s, when violent deaths per day fell from 10-12/day to about 1/day.

    Across regions and time, security seems closely correlated with economic growth. Security acts as a kind of positive technological supply shock in the economy, by lowering risk premiums, facilitating trade/investment/technological collaboration. This, in addition to fewer deaths, is an important reason by security (in every part of the world) is so important.

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  36. One of the best examples of counter insurgency was New York in the 1990s, when violent deaths per day fell from 10-12/day to about 1/day.

    No, I'm sorry, but this is wrong. In order to be "one of the best examples" of COIN, one would think it would first need to be COIN. And it wasn't, because there was no insurgency.

    What it was was one of the best crime-reduction campaigns, or one of the biggest short-timescale improvements in public safety. But it wasn't counterinsurgency.

    This is why I asked what the difference between resistance, insurgence, organized crime, militias, and warlords was.

    I think I spoke to this before, but here's Kalyvas for more clarity:

    Insurgency can best be understood as a process of competitive state building rather than simply an instance of collective action or social contention. Insurgents seek to develop elaborate "counter-states" via "political consolidation." State building is the insurgents' central goal and renders organized and sustained rebellion of the kind that takes place in civil wars fundamentally distinct from phenomena such as banditry, mafias, or social movements."

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  37. Bernard -- Sorry, I forgot about this exchange. Think I read your last post on my BlackBerry on the way to rugby training, so it's likely I just had the thoughts knocked right out of my skull.

    But, of course, that wasn't my claim either. This isn't dichotomous variable, but rather a continuous one. I am just making the argument that in places where there is an insurgency people adapt and over time it becomes a part of the environment. What I object to is the notion that where there is an insurgency there must be a vast population just desperate to turn on the insurgents and only prevented from doing so by a lack of security. Yes, lack of security deters many, lack of responsiveness others, but also a perception that armed men operating in groups -- whether militias or insurgents -- are unremarkable.

    I don't want to turn your argument into a strawman either, but you position has much in common with the arguments that "inside each Afghan is an American hoping to get out." If you live in a community where control over the instruments of violence and coercion have historically be decentralized -- and remember Afghanistan has a young population, what percentage even remembers a time when the place was even semi-normal? -- it is not obvious to me that you are likely to be eager to wipe out insurgents.


    You won't be surprised to learn that I very much disagree with you here. Do I think that "inside every Afghan is an American hoping to get out"? Yes. Only if you define "American" as "someone who prefers not to be killed, or to be compelled to behave in certain specific ways by violent actors," though.

    You'll have to forgive me if I don't accept the assertion that there are individuals who are indifferent to their personal security because of long-time exposure to violence -- it's just not compelling. People do not want to be killed, terrorized, tortured, threatened, intimidated, or otherwise forced to behave in certain ways by the threat of death or pain. Organizations, institutions, and individuals who can offer them protection from and/or recourse against those who threaten them will always be favored.

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  38. I am not reducing everything to culture, but I am suggesting that culture shaped by history over time is a significant factor.... just as it is in crime-ridden parts of the United States -- whether that is gang controlled parts of South Central LA, the mob-infested ports of NJ, or the moonshine/tax cheat part of Appalachia.

    I hate to keep harping on this, but you really are being reductionist (and reducing the issue to culture). It doesn't matter that you're talking about some sort of evolved or adaptive culture rather than "native culture" (or some other basically racist conception -- and let me make it clear that I don't think you are), but you're putting out what I think is a totally unprecedented argument: that there are groups of people who are susceptible to control by violent actors not out of ideological or ethnic sympathy (which, to be fair, Kalyvas and several others have mostly already debunked) but because of some sort of social programming that makes them singularly unconcerned with the prospect of death or suffering. I find this incomprehensible.

    Finally, your point about gentrification makes MY argument. Outsiders usually have to come in, and because they have a cultural expectation of responsive government (and money to lobby) they force changes. Gentrification rarely happens from within -- though there are some rare cases of urban renewal from inside afflicted communities.

    As I said before, I don't discount the influence of "cultural expectation" in this example. But it seems like you're discounting the fact that those gentrifiers who come from outside a poor community not only have elevated expectations but the means to ensure that they're realized! They vote, they pay taxes, they spend money in the community, they communicate with their councilmen and representatives and neighborhood commissioners. It's not as simple as people moving in and deciding they won't tolerate violence anymore. The culture doesn't just have to change, the circumstances do!

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  39. >>You'll have to forgive me if I don't accept the assertion that there are individuals who are indifferent to their personal security because of long-time exposure to violence -- it's just not compelling.<<

    I NEVER said they were indifferent. I said, they adapt. And having adapted -- by say, paying protection money, or staying indoors at night, or whatever else -- the imperative to ensure change becomes muted.

    In every insurgency, 90% of the population is largely indifferent to the outcome. It is not because they are all scared. It is because they have adapted to the circumstances, and the circumstances have become normalized.

    Again, same with crime. It is less common now, but in years past it was common for people coming from rural communities to bristle at the necessity to lock their doors when they moved to the "big city." But I lock my doors every night. I don't consider it an imposition. And I certainly would not go out of my way to eliminate the risk the crime to the point where I could leave my doors unlocked.

    In a sense, when I lock my door, I am being compelled to do by the threat of violence. But because I have adapted and it has become normalized, I just don't consider myself as acting under threat, although I guess intellectually I know I am.

    >>but you're putting out what I think is a totally unprecedented argument: that there are groups of people who are susceptible to control by violent actors not out of ideological or ethnic sympathy (which, to be fair, Kalyvas and several others have mostly already debunked) but because of some sort of social programming that makes them singularly unconcerned with the prospect of death or suffering. I find this incomprehensible.<<

    Yeah, I am not sure I said this. I said, instead, that people were indifferent to who is "in control" if they can find ways to normalize the situation -- which in practice means finding ways to mitigate the risks and introduce predictability into their lives.

    Your problem is that you are positing a dichotomy between violent oppressors on one hand and self-actualizing liberty on the other. For a rural Afghan, I doubt that is ever the choice. Whether it is the Taliban, corrupt government officials, tribal/clan/familial elites, or the general grind of a subsistence existence, you are dealing with people who are just on an on-going basis to mitigate the consequences of their lot in life -- a lot that includes violence, lack of access to medicine, high levels of infant mortality, lack of social mobility, etc. etc. etc.

    On a more general note... I think you are reading too much into Kalyvas' argument about "control." It is a big book, but actually quite narrow in its argumentation. I don't actually think he speaks to the issues we're discussing in this thread much if at all.

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  40. In every insurgency, 90% of the population is largely indifferent to the outcome. It is not because they are all scared. It is because they have adapted to the circumstances, and the circumstances have become normalized.

    No, it's because they are generally indifferent to the policy differences that can be expected from the parties vying for power, but prefer stable rule to the constant insecurity of living on contested ground. In a contested area, civilians must fear both sides. Better that one win and protect you at the very least from the other than 1) that you side one way and lose, or 2) that the conflict continues and both sides see utility in terrorizing you.

    Again, same with crime. It is less common now, but in years past it was common for people coming from rural communities to bristle at the necessity to lock their doors when they moved to the "big city." But I lock my doors every night. I don't consider it an imposition. And I certainly would not go out of my way to eliminate the risk the crime to the point where I could leave my doors unlocked.

    In a sense, when I lock my door, I am being compelled to do by the threat of violence. But because I have adapted and it has become normalized, I just don't consider myself as acting under threat, although I guess intellectually I know I am.


    You lock your doors not as a protection against the reasonable worry that you'll be the victim of violence if you don't, but because it's an unbelievably low-effort, no-cost means to insure yourself. This is a pretty silly comparison.

    I said, instead, that people were indifferent to who is "in control" if they can find ways to normalize the situation -- which in practice means finding ways to mitigate the risks and introduce predictability into their lives.

    I agree with this latter statement. The problem is that this is one of the ways that a high-crime neighborhood differs dramatically from territory gripped by insurgency or civil war: in this case, it is nearly impossible for individuals to assert control or ensure predictability -- particularly in a place where control shifts repeatedly and often from one party to another.

    Your problem is that you are positing a dichotomy between violent oppressors on one hand and self-actualizing liberty on the other.

    I'm doing no such thing. The point I'm making has nothing to do with value judgments, with good or bad, with who offers a better standard of living or self-actualization or anything like that. I'm not sure where you're getting that idea.

    Given the choice, people will often choose to live in peaceful unfreedom over threatening freedom. (They'll also probably choose peaceful freedom over peaceful unfreedom, but I digress. Part of the problem, of course, is that they're not often given a choice about any of this. Victory for either side offers the prospect of peace, so people will most often simply do whatever they can not to get killed.)

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  41. Again, same with crime. It is less common now, but in years past it was common for people coming from rural communities to bristle at the necessity to lock their doors when they moved to the "big city." But I lock my doors every night. I don't consider it an imposition. And I certainly would not go out of my way to eliminate the risk the crime to the point where I could leave my doors unlocked.

    Completely aside from the topic of insurgency, I find it interesting that you'd choose this example. Country folks who complain about locking their doors when they move to the city aren't doing so because of the tremendous imposition, but as a way to lament urban culture. They ignore the structural factors that encourage a higher crime rate in cities (like population density and so on) and attribute the difference in behavior to something about city people that prevents them from just doing the right thing.

    Which is sort of ironic, considering your line of argumentation in this thread.

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