New Book "Betrayed" Discusses Tools for Inclusive Statebuilding

Last week, Seth D. Kaplan spoke with Maureen Quinn, Director of Programs at the International Peace Institute, about his recent book Betrayed: Politics, Power and Prosperity, in which he discusses the dynamics of poverty and tools for inclusive development. Mr. Kaplan teaches, writes, and consults on issues related to fragile states, governance, and development.

Your book discusses building inclusive societies and how these societies often succeed. What do you mean by "inclusive?"

My definition is much more of an East Asian one–I lived in East Asia for 11 years, so obviously I'm very influenced by how East Asians view development and social progress. For me, inclusiveness is not so much the type of institutions—it's the type of society, the type of end-result of how the state behaves towards the population, how elites behave towards the population. So what I mean by inclusive–and I mean economically, politically to some extent, culturally for sure–is that the state is acting equally to all citizens. If a state can act equally for everybody, and then you have leaders, elites that, for whatever reason—whether it’s a moral obligation, an ideological necessity, or simply because they feel that everyone in their country and them are from the same group, whether it's simply incentives or some accountability—that they’re working day in and day out on behalf of all of their population.

Can MINUSMA’s Mandate Include the People of Mali?

Blue helmets from Burkina Faso on patrol in Ber, Mali. (MINUSMA/Marco Dormino)

Tomorrow, June 25, the UN Security Council will extend the mandate of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). One year after its establishment, MINUSMA is at a critical crossroad. A recent report from the UN Secretary-General concludes that the security situation in northern Mali has deteriorated since the beginning of 2014. The report observes an expansion of areas controlled by armed groups after clashes in Kidal and concludes that there is no common vision between the government and armed groups on the way forward for negotiations. With a decrease in security and no progress in negotiations, let alone in dialogue or reconciliation, MINUSMA is moving further rather than closer to the implementation of its mandate.

In order to bring MINUSMA back on track and make use of its potential, its role has to be framed more comprehensively into both local and regional perspectives. This will require much more than merely “transferring its center of gravity to the north,” as proposed by the UN Secretary-General to the Security Council.

New Book Looks Beyond Big Data Into a Naked Future

What if we could have predicted the ISIS insurgency in Iraq? Promising examples of innovations in engineering and data science technologies exist today, revealing to us the potential to predict such conflicts in the future. The Satellite Sentinel Project effectively predicted that the Sudanese Armed Forces would invade Abyei in 2011. And through Big Data analysis of hundreds of news reports, Georgetown University fellow Kalev Leetaru has been able to retroactively pinpoint the location of Osama bin Laden within a 124-mile radius of Abbottabad, Pakistan. Imagine how much shorter the war in Afghanistan could have been if we had just used the right algorithm.

How do we get it wrong? Predictions about the future can be wrong in one of two ways. Errors can range in type from false positives that erroneously assert that some event will happen (e.g., the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq) and false negatives that do not predict cases that will actually happen (e.g., the failure of many policymakers to foresee the relapse of violence in South Sudan). While the fallibility of policymakers depends on political context, all such failures are indicative of how difficult and complicated it is to foretell tomorrow.  A lot could happen, and in the end, there is a good amount of guesswork.

Are Security and Energy Concerns Moving Turkey and Israel Toward Reconciliation?

The Mavi Marmara set sail from Antalya, Turkey, in May 2010 in an attempt to break Israel's naval blockade against Gaza; the incident resulted in 9 deaths and created a rift between Turkey and Israel. (Wikipedia)

Earlier this month, about 3,000 people marched through the streets of Istanbul in memory of the eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American killed by Israeli Defense Forces when the Mavi Marmara ship, known as the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, tried to break through Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip in May 2010. The incident marked a nadir in Israel and Turkey’s strained relationship in recent years, and neither country’s ambassador has since returned to his former post.

Four years later, a possible reconciliation agreement between these former allies has fueled speculation of a normalization of relations between the two countries. The agreement would entail reparations for the Mavi Marmara victims’ families; a mechanism to rescind all legal claims against Israeli Defense Force officers implicated in the attack; and approval to facilitate Turkish civilian aid to the Gaza Strip. While the proposed agreement does not fully satisfy all of Turkey’s outstanding demands following the incident—an Israeli apology, compensation for the families of those killed on the Mavi Marmara, and a lifting of the Israeli blockade on Gaza—it gets close. During a visit with US President Barack Obama in March 2013, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and offered his apologies. Details of payment of compensation are being worked out, as stated by Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and while the blockade has not been lifted (nor is this likely anytime soon), Israel and Turkey have agreed to its easing by which Turkey would be allowed special status to deliver humanitarian assistance.

Will ISIS' Advance in Iraq Shift Dynamics of the Syrian War?

In the northern province of Raqqa, Syria, female students wear full face veils (niqabs) in accordance with sharia law enforced by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which  took control of the area last fall. (March 31, 2014/© Stringer/Reuters/Corbis)

The swift and destructive advance of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) into Iraq could affect the ongoing conflict in neighboring Syria, as ISIS’ seizure of Iraqi military equipment and financial resources is likely to give the group a comparative advantage over other rebels in Syria, said Dr. Thomas Pierret, a lecturer in contemporary Islam at the University of Edinburgh.

Dr. Pierret, who has advised US, British, and other Western governments on the Syrian crisis, spoke to me by telephone on Monday, June 16 about ISIS’ advance in Iraq and its implications for the Assad regime, Syrian rebels, and the response of key regional players.

In the eastern Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor, ISIS has been fighting against other rebels in an effort to gain full control of Syria’s eastern flank. According to Dr. Pierret, ISIS’ seizure of Iraqi armored vehicles and of over $400 million during its advance toward Baghdad could tilt the balance, both materially and psychologically, in favor of the terrorist group.

“There is also a symbolic dimension here,” he said. “ISIS victories in Iraq have provided the group with some prestige,” which, he said, ISIS could use to render other rebel groups like al-Nusra Front and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) more hesitant about fighting against it.

With Baghdad in ISIS' Sights, Maliki Struggles to Lead, Leaving Allies With Tough Choices

Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki in May 2008. (Staff Sgt. Jessica J. Wilkes/US Air Force)

Dr. Charles Tripp, professor of politics at SOAS University of London, spoke to the Global Observatory’s Ramy Srour yesterday on recent developments in Iraq and if support for Maliki is waning among his allies, and what the US, Iran, and other regional players might do about the militant group ISIS’ growing insurgency, which some believe is threatening to divide the region.

Dr. Tripp has researched extensively on the Middle East and on the nature of autocracy, state, and resistance in the region.

Given ISIS’ extensive gains in the majority Sunni areas and reports that Kurdish fighters have now seized the town of Kirkuk, do you think Iraq is disintegrating into three de facto states, a Sunni, a Kurdish, and a Shia state?

I don't think it's got to that stage yet. I think that since 2003, there have been two de facto states in Iraq–one is ruled from Baghdad, and the other from Irbil in the north, in the Kurdish area. When you look at the solidity of the Kurdish area, it certainly looks like a state to me. It has its own economy, armed forces, sovereignty, Parliament, and so on.

I think the situation in the northwest of Iraq, the so-called Sunni areas of Iraq, is far more fluid and, despite the claims that it is going to establish the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS), it's still a very uncertain situation and I don't think one could talk about three states at all, no.

In Spite of Himself, Santos Wins in Colombia, But End to War Not a Done Deal

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (in white) participates in a march to support the peace process, April 9, 2013.  (EPA/Mauricio Duenas Castaneda)

President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia was re-elected this past Sunday with a 5-point difference over Oscar Iván Zuluaga, the political heir of ex-president Álvaro Uribe. While Santos’ supporters were relieved to see him win by a wider margin than recent polls had indicated—and this guarantees the continuation of the peace process with the guerrillas—the political polarization that became evident in recent months, and the strong presence of Uribe and his followers in Congress and other important sectors of the state means that Santos should not expect a smooth ride during his second administration, and that a negotiated end to the war is not, by any means, a done deal.

The elections were seen as a referendum on the peace negotiations that the Colombian government and the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), the country’s largest guerilla group, are conducting in Havana, and which aim to end a 50-year civil conflict. The announcement last week that the second largest guerrilla group—the ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional)—is also about to engage in peace negotiations added to this perception. Zuluaga, for most of his campaign, promised that he would end the dialogue if he was elected. Only in the last couple of weeks, as a trade-off to gain the support of the Conservative Party, did he tone down his discourse and state a list of conditions under which he would remain at the table (it was unlikely these would have been accepted by the FARC anyway, as they included a unilateral ceasefire). So, while the expectation that the re-election of Santos would bring peace to Colombia might be an overstatement, Sunday’s results did represent the desire of many to bring a negotiated end to the conflict with the guerrillas.

Pervasive Disconnect Between State and Citizen Offers Two Paths: Promise or Peril

A mass demonstration in Bangkok, Thailand, organized by the Red Shirts (UDD) at the Ratchaprasong intersection, April 8, 2010; the protest lasted for over 6 weeks and ended violently.

It is a self-evident fact that around the world, the relationship between citizens and the institutions that affect their lives is experiencing a growing crisis of legitimacy. In neglected rural and outlying areas where government institutions are weak, corrupt, or non-existent, citizens have turned to non-state actors for social services. This has been dramatically the case of the population living in the otherwise-governed territories of northern Mali.

In many established and emerging democracies, citizen participation in conventional electoral politics is in steady decline, and public trust in elected elites is eroding. In some contexts, this disillusionment with government and organized politics by some demographics and support by other demographics have resulted in polarization and exacerbated social divisions.

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