Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Natsios blast from the past reminder

Just to remember where he is coming from, since he is such a prominent commentator.  From an article he wrote for Yale Journal Of International Affairs in summer/fall issue of 2005:
We know that resolving the situation in Darfur is essential to a sustainable transition in Sudan.  We know that there will be setbacks. But we also know that dramatic and lasting change can happen, as it has in Iraq and Afghanistan, when there is a concerted commitment to change, bold and forward-looking leadership, and a sustained effort.
Like the leadership provided by George W. Bush...I guess he was careful though in using "change" rather than "improvement"... plus ça change...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Where U.S. Sudan/Darfur policy is *really* made...

Why, over at Sojourner's of course, by people who write things like this:
Cautious Optimism on Obama’s New Sudan Policy
by Elizabeth Palmberg 10-23-2009

Activists greeted the Obama administration’s new Sudan policy with cautious optimism this week. If — and only if — it is fleshed out and put into vigorous action, the new policy could be the first step in course of putting concerted economic and other pressure on Khartoum. That would be a desperately needed change from the disastrously wrong-headed course of appeasement which Special Envoy Scott Gration has unfortunately adopted since his appointment — when a government is guilty of genocide and other war crimes, you just can’t operate on the theory that, as Gration has put it, “Kids, countries — they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements, talk, engagement.” Nor should the regime in Sudan be allowed to hire U.S. lobbyists to plead its murderous cause; the only place Khartoum officials should be allowed to plead is in the International Criminal Court.

There is no time to waste, especially given the likelihood that the NCP, the ruling party in Khartoum, is behind the current rash of village burnings in Sudan’s south — and as the clock is ticking for the all-Sudan national elections that are supposed to be held next year, and the south’s referendum on secession in 2011.

In a couple of weeks, look for John Predergast and Maggie Fick’s commentary, laying out non-military ways to pressure Khartoum, in the forthcoming issue of Sojourners. But don’t wait that long to get involved in the issue. The people of Darfur and southern Sudan need your advocacy help now.

Elizabeth Palmberg is an assistant editor of Sojourners.
Categories: Global Issues, Human Rights, War & Peace

      Truth2Power 12 hours ago
      It's very troubling to hear of the current rash of village burnings in Sudan’s south.

      I'm confident, though, that the Christain peacemaking Teams will be there shortly to confornt the forces of tyranny and restore justice. The last thing the people of Sudan need is another US military incursion.

      irish_annie 3 hours ago
      i don't necessarily agree or disagree with obama's policy. what i wonder about is why we who claim to trust in God can only be optimistic when the kingdoms of this world behave as we think they 'should'.

      Jesdisciple 9 minutes ago
      Good point... However, I do think there's a difference between "optimistic about" and just "optimistic." One implies happiness and the other joy. I don't think a joyful person should never feel happiness as a result of circumstances.
Glad to see irish_annie isn't waiting, no, she's going straight to wondering...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Criminal justice for crimes against humanity

From Le Always instructive to think about the parallels between Argentina and Sudan.
Le général argentin à la retraite Jorge Olivera Rovere a été condamné vendredi 23 octobre à la prison à perpétuité pour des crimes contre l'humanité commis pendant la dictature argentine, dont les assassinats des parlementaires uruguayens Zelmar Michelini et Hector Gutierrez Ruiz, rapporte le site du quotidien Clarin. La lecture du jugement du tribunal fédéral numéro 5 a été retransmise en direct par les chaînes de télévision d'information du câble argentin.

Olivera Rovere, 82 ans, était accusé de quatre homicides et de cent sept séquestrations et disparitions, dont celles de l'écrivain argentin Haroldo Conti et des Uruguayens Michelini et Gutierrez Ruiz, qui avaient eu un fort retentissement. Le militaire était l'adjoint de l'ancien général décédé Guillermo Suarez Mason, un des chefs militaires de la dictature, surnommé "le boucher d'Olimpo" du nom du centre de détention et de torture qu'il dirigeait pendant la dictature (1976-1983).

Michelini, ancien sénateur et un des fondateurs de la coalition de gauche du Frente Amplio ("Front élargi") et Gutierrez Ruiz, ancien président de la chambre des députés de l'Uruguay, avaient été enlevés le 18 mai 1976 dans la capitale argentine. Leurs corps avaient été retrouvés trois jours après à l'intérieur d'un véhicule dans la périphérie de Buenos Aire.

From a CSIS commentary on the new Obama policy....

Morrison and Cooke write:
Lack of consensus within the administration has confused potential partners who have for some time seen the United States policy as hostage to zealous domestic pressures.
I feel the need to resist this narrative of U.S. policy, although I note that Morrison and Cook are careful not to say that the policy actually is hostage, but rather than it is "seen" to be hostage.  I find it very hard to think of a single real policy action (other than words) of either Bush or Obama administration that was "zealous."  There was plenty of inaction and nonaction, but that's not really what I think of when I think of zealous.  Was there any single positive policy action pushed by Save Darfur that was actually implemented?  I can't think of anything more disingenuous than saying that my exaggerated characterization of the "policy":
Calling what happened in Darfur genocide, but being very clear this had absolutely no "real" policy implications other than insisting that Pakistani troops mount firewood patrols.
is an example of what it means to be captured by zealous hardliners.  If that is the correct characterization, then Iran, North Korea, etc. policy have all been captured by zealous hardliners (i.e. the Save Baha'i movement and the save Placard-Holding Brainwashed North Koreans movement).

It seems to me pretty clear that when dealing with what Morrison and Cook call "intractable" regimes, the only policy possible is one that swings from engagement to hardline back to engagement and so on, and that is exactly what the U.S. policy review says the administration will do, swing from harder line to engagement and if nothing happens go back to hard line.  Did Save Darfur "cause" that?

A quick look at the largely agreed upon timeline:
1989 Coup. NIF takes power illegitimately, kills good number of upper military brass, hard crackdown on domestic opposition.
1990-1996 Escalation of war against SPLA, scorched earth in oilfields areas and Nuba Mountains,  lots of arbitrary detention and extrajudicial killings in Darfur etc. Assassination attempt against Hosni Mubarak, support for LRA. Riek Machar and John Garang split, SPLA seriously weakened, horrific SPLA in-fighting,
1996-1998 Intra-regime drift as oil fields look like will start producing; U.S. attacks al Shifa with cruise missiles. (still waiting for Clinton to fully explain), Massive famine in Bahr al-Ghazal, regime cares not a whit.  Regime uses Operation Lifeline for own purposes.
1999 Regime splits, al-Turabi imprisoned, abandon international Islamist agenda, try to use oil and weapons to win war in South.
2001 After 9/11 and failure to win war in South, al-Bashir decides to do to Garang what did to Riek... settle for a peace and hope that SPLA would split apart in internecine disarray.
2003 Outline of CPA agreed upon. Gosh, the same thing that SPLA wanted, basically, in 1989.  14 years of useless war.
2004 Displacement of 2.5 million in Darfur in order to defeat small disorganized rebel militia... tactic: deliberate attacks on civilian populations.
2005-08 Regime dithers over CPA, brooks little domestic opposition, works hard to obstruct assistance and repatriation of IDPs in Darfur, over-shares problems with Chad while trying to oust Deby.
2009 Regime says, "We're doing all we can, honestly, the problem is those shifty southerners and Darfuris who can't get their act together.  You should forgive the debt, really, so we won't have to divert oil money to purchasing more helicopter gunships."
Save Darfur served a useful purpose for presidents and Secretaries of State and Special Envoys who really didn't want to deal with Sudan.  They could say reasonably, to themselves, "I can't do anything or I'll get clobbered by a bunch of 18 year olds who are the new Cuba lobby." 

The thing to ask is how Sudan policy is different from Congo policy, exactly?  In other words, what are the measures of difference: aid? meetings? sanctions? investment? public sentiment? And if we think of US/Europe as a block, shouldn't "policy" be thought of as a block rather than one half in isolation of the other half?  If Europe does not have sanctions in one place, and U.S. does not in the other place, is that then the same "policy"?  Would ordinary Sudanese in the south or Darfur be better off with a Congo policy instead of the existing Sudan policy?  Would the U.S. be better off?  Any differences, please attribute to Save Darfur? 

There is one point in which I am full agreement with the so-called realists, and that is that the problems will evolve according to local dynamics, since everyone knows there is no real prospect of a big push/intervention from the outside in any of the likely scenarios.  But the realists interpret that to mean the outside powers may as well be constructive, and I interpret that to mean exactly what it means, that constructive or hardline, causality will not run from U.S. policy to Sudan outcomes.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More NYT commentary on Gration

Further down in the same article...
"“I think Gration’s understanding of the situation is pretty sound, but he has a way of appearing less smart than he is,” said Alex DeWaal, a leading scholar on Sudan at the Social Science Research Council. “He has a folksy way that makes him seem to trivialize things, and does him a disservice. But he’s not naïve.”"
Funny, that would describe George W. "Heckuva job" Bush to a T.   I wonder about people who after years and years of public service can't learn that their "folksy ways" are indeed "trivializing things"...  I guess they are like people who after years and years of Internet commentary can't learn that snarky irony "trivializes things" ;-)

Can't let it pass without comment....

From today's NYT:
"“Military officers are realists,” said Andrew Natsios, an envoy to Sudan during the Bush administration. General Gration “didn’t come to this crisis with the emotional baggage of so many people whose education about Darfur comes from the activists, or the media,” he said. “He’s not on some holy crusade.”"
Natsios. Him again?  The guy who said reconstruction of Iraq would be $2 billion tops?  Loyal Bushie?  The guy who waits until after 100,000 people have died to criticise the way Iraq policy was going?  He's qualified to distinguish realists from holy crusaders? 

Monday, October 19, 2009

‘Brothers’ or Others: Propriety and gender for Muslim Arab Sudanese in Egypt, by Anita H. Fábos

‘Brothers’ or Others: Propriety and gender for Muslim Arab Sudanese in Egypt, by Anita H. Fábos
New York, NY and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2008

Enjoyed the overview of ethnicity construction of northern Sudanese living in Cairo.  The most important observation is one she rightly highlights, which is how a tiny minority of 'strangers' end up with a set of discussions of identity determinants (adab, in the case) that the larger population is almost unconcerned with.

Initial thoughts on the US Sudan policy

I wish I could have deep profound disagreements with the newly released Sudan policy summary (I don't see any link to the full document, guess the incentives are a secret (oatmeal raisin cookies or snickerdoodles?)).  But the document is a "satisfy most" document and so largely unobjectionable.  If you disagree it's largely because you have  some constituency that disagrees, and as a lone academic I have no constituency, so I can't disagree with perfectly reasonable policy document.

But... Foreign policy as business strategy.... ugh.
"Each quarter, the interagency at senior levels will assess a variety of indicators of progress or of deepening crisis, and that assessment will include calibrated steps to bolster support for positive change and to discourage backsliding. Progress toward achievement of the strategic objectives will trigger steps designed to strengthen the hands of those implementing the changes. Failure to improve conditions will trigger increased pressure on recalcitrant actors."
Why does this read like something my colleagues in the management department (the strategy people) would put together.... sounds like Google Labs....

And viability police APB:
"Strategic Objective II: Implementation of the CPA that results in a peaceful post-2011 Sudan or an orderly transition to two separate and viable states at peace with each other."
Then the word viability is never mentioned, so maybe I'm paranoid but did Gration insist on inserting it there just to tweak my nose?  Or is there a lengthy discussion of how to measure viability in the secret document?  Maybe Jeremy Weinstein has been working on that?

"Calling all English teachers, calling all English teachers..."

What's wrong with this statement?  And no low hanging fruit please... we already know that when you do something that the other person wants you to do, and they reward you for doing that, the reward is only an incentive if you were told about it in advance.

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                                        October 19, 2009
Statement of President Barack Obama on Sudan Strategy
Today, my Administration is releasing a comprehensive strategy to confront the serious and urgent situation in Sudan.
For years, the people of Sudan have faced enormous and unacceptable hardship. The genocide in Darfur has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and left millions more displaced. Conflict in the region has wrought more suffering, posing dangers beyond Sudan’s borders and blocking the potential of this important part of Africa. Sudan is now poised to fall further into chaos if swift action is not taken.
Our conscience and our interests in peace and security call upon the United States and the international community to act with a sense of urgency and purpose. First, we must seek a definitive end to conflict, gross human rights abuses and genocide in Darfur. Second, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the North and South in Sudan must be implemented to create the possibility of long-term peace. These two goals must both be pursued simultaneously with urgency. Achieving them requires the commitment of the United States, as well as the active participation of international partners. Concurrently, we will work aggressively to ensure that Sudan does not provide a safe-haven for international terrorists.
The United States Special Envoy has worked actively and effectively to engage all of the parties involved, and he will continue to pursue engagement that saves lives and achieves results. Later this week, I will renew the declaration of a National Emergency with respect to Sudan, which will continue tough sanctions on the Sudanese Government. If the Government of Sudan acts to improve the situation on the ground and to advance peace, there will be incentives; if it does not, then there will be increased pressure imposed by the United States and the international community. As the United States and our international partners meet our responsibility to act, the Government of Sudan must meet its responsibilities to take concrete steps in a new direction.
Over the last several years, governments, non-governmental organizations, and individuals, and from around the world have taken action to address the situation in Sudan, and to end the genocide in Darfur. Going forward, all of our efforts must be measured by the lives that are led by the people of Sudan. After so much suffering, they deserve a future that allows them to live with greater dignity, security, and opportunity. It will not be easy, and there are no simple answers to the extraordinary challenges that confront this part of the world. But now is the time for all of us to come together, and to make a strong and sustained effort on behalf of a better future for the people of Sudan.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Good news is grounds for optimism....

The agreement on the referendum (50%+1) simple majority of 60% turnout of all eligible (people in south plus southerners in north) is reasonable, and to have it have been brokered by Ali Osman Taha (back from somewhere... someday the insiders will tell what happened).

U.S. policy sounds like middle of the road continuous engagement by Gration, the same kind of continuous engagement that helped broker CPA.  (Doesn't mean I can't keep making fun of his platitudes...)

Aid worker hostages released.  Maybe a good sign that there won't be a spiral of hostage taking for use as bargaining chips if relations got more acrimonious.

Salva Kiir and Riek Machar seem to be fully engaged in managing the transition at the national level.  To me that is a good sign for SPLA political leadership capabilities.  And a plus for people deciding to vote for SPLA in the north.  Imagine a situation where the southern leadership is viewed as more "competent" than the NCP leadership!

Caveats: I'm just observing this fom afar, reading news reports without special insider knowledge.... so margin for error is huge!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Nothing like a Friday announcement... U.S. to Engage Sudan Leaders

From the NY Times, ...

In an interview on Friday, President Obama’s special envoy to Sudan, Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, retired, said the policy, to be announced Monday by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, would make use of a mix of “incentives and pressure” to seek an end to the human rights abuses that have left millions of people dead or displaced while burning Darfur into the American conscience. General Gration said the administration would set strict time lines for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan to fulfill the conditions of a 2005 peace agreement that his government signed with rebels in southern Sudan.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

“There has not been any transformation or reform at the center"

Sudan Tribune often jumps the gun on stories, but if true this is pretty important public break.  Full story here...
October 14, 2009 (WASHINGTON) — The First Vice President of Sudan and president of South Sudan Salva Kiir sent a letter to US president Barack Obama asking him to keep pressure on the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), the Washington Post reported.
The letter seen by newspaper comes as US special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration is seeking a relaxation of some sanctions imposed on the East African nations and giving out some “cookies” to Khartoum as he described it.
Furthermore, Gration’s contacts with prospective lobbyists for Sudan has added to fury of Sudan advocacy groups who accused the US official of being “naïve” in dealing with Khartoum.
It appears that special envoy’s approach has also worried South Sudan’s ex-rebels.
The Washington Post said that Kiir wrote to Obama last month, saying that Bashir continues to foment violence in the region in an apparent reference to rising tribal violence in the South which he has accused Khartoum of standing behind it.
“There has not been any transformation or reform at the center," Mayardit wrote, referring to Khartoum. “The status quo prevails. . . . Significant change in policy in relation to Sudan should only come when there is change in the reality of Sudan” Kiir said in the letter.

De Waal "no sense" on Making Sense of Darfur

A discussion of debt relief for NCP regime provokes a response by Kevin Jon Heller, to which de Waal responds with this:

Is the international community “propping up” the Sudan government? I don’t think so. International players are relatively marginal in the overall Sudanese political scene. The Sudan government relies overwhelmingly on its internal base, which is a mixture of its financial/patronage power, and its security institutions, enormously assisted by the weakness and disarray of its adversaries. (And one reason, in my view, why the internal opposition is so weak is its tendency to look outside for its support.) The second point has nothing to do with blackmail. It’s not as though the Sudan government, or any other government, is a mega-version of an individual, controlled by a single will. As it happens, this government has never used this threat MK: turn to terrorism] and I don’t believe that it would do so. But what happens when the government is cut off from western and relatively transparent sources of funds? Inevitably, its institutions turn to different ways of obtaining funds. Another source, much more accessible and attractive at the moment, is Asia. (Recall that the late 1990s campaign to get Talisman Energy to withdraw from Sudan was successful, and Asian companies filled the gap.) As for “even more violent”: with the levels of violent fatalities in Darfur hovering around the 100/month mark, those of us who have seen wars rather more violent than this, are indeed worried that these are in prospect.
My comments would be that the response to Kevin makes no sense.  First de Waal says that the regime relies little on official transparent assistance, and then he says that if they are "cut off" from that assistance they may turn to Asia (is the implication that this will make them more terroristic?  Who cares if they "turn to Asia"?) and violence... huh?

More importantly, for someone to argument that human development in Sudan  (i.e. the well being of people in Darfur, Kordofan, and southern Sudan, outside of the Khartoum megalopilis) is dependent on unilateral creditor debt forgiveness, as the country continues to export several billion dollars a year of oil and spend (both sides) a big chunk of that on military-security apparatus and deny many basic freedoms and rights... well... I guess there is always room for wishful thinking.  Gee, maybe people in Nigeria will get ponies too.

Finally, irresistible snarky aside, classic De Waal..."those of us who have seen wars rather more violent than this, are indeed worried that these are in prospect"... IN YOUR FACE readers... how many wars have YOU seen?  Oh yeah, alright... Let's count... still waiting... NONE?  Come on readers... come on... have you seen maybe a little tiny lightly violent war?  No?  Heard gunfire?  SHUT UP then! 

I am curious in a serious way about why Gration and de Waal always seem to insist that it is the national government that needs cookies and carrot, and rarely argue with any vigor that more cookies and carrots for ordinary southern Sudanese and Darfuris are important.  Oh wait, I just remembered... if they did that, they'd have to be *angry* at Khartoum for expelling agencies doing precisely that in the IDP camps!!!!  But... not unless those IDP camp enablers were making poor people in Sudan worse off by making them lazy and dependent.  You see, debt relief doesn't do that, instead, it allows Coca Cola and Pepsico to invest in more bottling facilities in Khartoum, to sell more soft drinks, so that people will work harder to earn money to buy soft drinks.  And maybe by importing more "large equipment" from Caterpillar the Military industrial Corporation can make a bigger tank facility too.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Urbanization in Sudan.... reflections from Burkina Faso

I've just finished reading a nice article by Ernest Harsch, in African Affairs, 2009, Vol 108, "Urban Protest in Burkina Faso."  Since the press liberalized over the latter part of the 1990s, it became possible for someone to do a count of all the urban protest events in the major Burkinabe cities and towns.  Obviously there are some biases in the reporting and publication, but it is a really useful exercise, and I am glad someone has done it.  What do we learn from the exercise?  Something that is common sense, but important to raise in tems of salience, and espcially relevant for Sudan.  Urbanization is proceeding quickly in Burkina, Sudan, and other African countries.  The skills of managing large urban centers are very different from those of managing rural hinterlands.  Indirect rule through tribal chiefs just isn't possible, and instead a political leader has to manage an enormous bureaucracy, a bureacracy prone to commiting many acts of commision (bulldozing a residential area for "improvement") and omission (letting a marketplace become a chaotic fire hazard). 

The political leader becomes responsible for all of these flashpoints that generate urban protest movements that have the capacity to snowball.  Burkina's experience offers a good lesson for dictators like al-Bashir.... get on the decentralization bandwagon quickly and effectively.  What Harsch seems to suggest is that a lot of the urban protests are local- they are directed indeed at the local municipal officials.  The national government then gets to play the role of mediator/fixer, which adds to its legitimacy.  That's a good place to be for a regime with little legitimacy. 

Why doesn't every dictator do this?  Presumably because the more decentralization, the more a city official might become a threat to the President's clique.  Here's where another paper I've been reading Lindsay Whitfield "‘Change for a Better Ghana’: Party Competition, Institutionalization and Alternation in Ghana’s 2008 Elections", also in African Affairs 2009 "(detecting a pattern here?) comes in... She discusses the successful national election in Ghana in 2008, and attributes the largely peaceful alternance that has greatly strengthened Ghanaian institutional legitimacy as due to an ever-stronger coalescing around a two-party system that cuts across ethnic, regional and class lines. 

So the right thing for a national dictator to do seems to me to replicate as much as possible two-party competition at the city and town level, so that city politicians have to keep their eyes on working for the city, and it becomes harder for them to challenge the president- the distraction of national politics will cause them to lose the next city election.

Side note: Maybe there is more democracy in English-speaking Africa because the word change is so easy to use in English, and bores deep into the brains of English speakers, while in French the word alternance is a plate of soggy frites.... I mean freedom fries....

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Why do young men go fight....

The two important questions for Sudan...

1) What makes leaders decide to fight... to escalate...?
2) What makes young men follow leaders who are likely to fire the first shot.?

These questions have different answers in the beginnings of wartime, and different answers once war is full-on. Sudan right now back in the "beginnings" stage... there is no military commander making tactical decisions on the battlefield, which creates a dynamic of its own (i.e. Obama and McChrystal and Taliban commanders are in a different logic now than they were three years ago). So the decisions of political leaders are whether to initiate or escalate a battle. Or to create the conditions where a spark (an accidental rifle discharge, a deliberate attack by provocateurs) will result in a battle and full-on war.

What would make Salva Kiir order SPLA to take the offensive against SAF? What would make Omar al-Bashir order SAF to take offensive against SPLA?

These questions were prompted by reading Cherry Leonardi's 2007 article in African Affairs, "‘Liberation’ or capture: Youth in between ‘hakuma’, and ‘home’ during civil war and its aftermath in Southern Sudan" which deals with the other question of what makes young men fight when there is an ongoing conflict, namely the conflict in southern Sudan through the 1990s and early 2000s.

She nicely makes the distinction that young men in southern Sudan (she is careful not to overgeneralize, and treat her interpretation of numerous interviews and narratives of events as preliminary and tentative) are not gong to fight because their are angry at their oppressive parents (the generational conflict hypothesis) but in some sense quite the opposite- they are scared of being "abducted" into the SPLA, or they want to join in order to protect their parents and families.  In Leonardi's interpretation, joining the SPLA is like a diversification strategy of the family, to acquire a foothold into the hakuma world.  The treatment of home versus hakuma mirrors the old "two publics" interpretation of Peter Ekeh, and of course is subject to many of the same critiques... reifying hakuma, etc.  But still, it is a worthwhile distinction, I think, and gives considerable nuance to the question of why young men were joining.

A line at the end of the article (p. 412) echoes some of the survey work on demobilized youth done by others in other conflict areas: "Despite the negative depictions being made of traumatized young generations, the many years of war have not eradicated, and have perhaps contributed to, a moral continuity as evidenced in the deeper aspirations of many youth to become 'responsible'."

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Getting fractionalized rebel groups to agree

The New York Times has an op-ed by Robert Frank on how to deal with violent crime, suggesting police view the problem as a dynamic game, where if they announce and credibly target one gang for crackdown, they can quickly achieve success, and then move on to the next gang, all the while credibly threatening to revert to the first gang if they act up, and thus quickly bring about a general reduction in crime as long as the "order" is public knowledge... turtles all the way down kind of thing.  And then over in The New Yorker Jon Anderson deals with a similar problem- ethnographic understanding of the favela gang lords in Rio de Janeiro.

And this reading about warlords and gangsters got me thinking about the opposite problem, which is Special Envoy Gration's problem, of how to sequentially get a bunch of small fractured rebel groups to agree to something.  Of course, the something that they have to agree to is one thing, and then how to get them to agree is the other thing.  Suppose we knew what the something was; say it was that they would publicly announce a chain of command and a structure of allegiances... i.e., who is to be king, and who sub-king, and so on.  Moreover, simultaneously, the king would announce what the conditions were for serious negotiations with Khartoum.  Finally, the whole group would commit to some costly action to show their credibility (like abandoning their positions and massing in some area protected temporarily by UNAMID).  So how to get the fractured groups to agree?  Do you start with the largest group and then work down to smaller and smaller groups?  Or start with the smaller groups, form a coalition, and then approach the larger groups.

In these kinds of problems, it is usually "garbage in, garbage out" style theorizing, in that certain assumptions will get you one direction and other assumptions will get you the other direction, largely because in strategic situations like this modeling the outcome depends on what you assume about the behavior of the actors, and for sure the assumption that they are "rational" present-discounted risk-averting calculators with infinite horizons blah blah is not a good assumption, but that means that there is little basis to choose from alternative assumptions.  But I still wonder whether they might not be some robust (i.e., unable to argue with the logic) result out there.  Or some codification of common sense- maybe something like, "there is no robust algorithm, so just keep experimenting patiently with various formulas until you hit paydirt."

Friday, October 2, 2009

Aftermath of fighting couple months ago in Malakal

From UNMIS video... they could do  better job of adding context to their videos, but don;t let perfection be the enemy of the good- post more videos!