You are on page 1of 71

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Autumn 2014


The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

The Journal of Politics
and International Affairs
Volume VIII, Issue I
Fall 2014
The Ohio State University

Rosie Izzi

Todd Ives

Allison Gorman
Managing Editor for Content

Sam Whipple
Marketing Director

Marcus Andrews
Communications Director

Holly Yanai
Recruitment Chair
Adrienne Michelson
Layout Editor
JPIA Editorial Staff

Cormac Bloomfield - Senior Editor
Gabe Giddens
Wesley Swanson


David Nield
Caroline Kinnen

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

A special thanks to our faculty advisors, Dr. Paul A. Beck and Ms. Christina Murphy, and The
Ohio State Department of Political Science Chair, Dr. Richard Herrmann, for guiding us and
making this journal possible.


The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

The Journal of Politics


and International Affiars
Volume VII | Issue I | Fall 2015 | Print Edition

Not for Sale: Assessing the Socio-Political Implications of
Water Privatization in Developing Nations


Agrarian Change in Egypt: Dispossession and disarticulation
in the 19th century


The US Intelligence Community and Polygraph Testing:
Examining an exercise in futility


Myung Eun , New York University

Karam Sheban, The Ohio State University

Eric Hazoury, Carleton College

The Legality of the Raid on Usama bin Laden
Maura Guyler, Duke University



The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

The Journal of Politics and Internaltional Affairs at The Ohio State University is published biannually through the Ohio State
Department of Political Science at 2140 Derby Hall, 154 North Oval Mall, Columbus, OH 43210.
The JPIA was founded in the autumn of 2006 and reestablished in Winter 2011. For further information, or to submit questions or
comments, please contact us at
All rights reserved. No part of the publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrival system, or transmitted, in any form or by any
means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written permission of the Editors-in-Chief of
the JPIA. The JPIA is copyrighted by the Ohio State Department of Political Science. The content of all papers is copyrighted by the
respective authors.
All assertions of fact and statements of opinion are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of
the JPIA Editorial Board, the Faculty Advisors, The Ohio State University, nor its faculty and administration.


The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

Editorial Foreword

Rosie Izzi
Todd Ives

With pleasure, we the Co Editors-in-Chief of the Journal of Politics and International Affairs present our second
edition of the journal. In this issue you will find a range of topics from the legality of the Navy SEAL Team 6
raid on the bin-Laden compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan to the value of polygraph testing in the United States
intelligence community.
After weeks of hard-work and careful consideration, the journal’s editors chose these five papers to be showcased
for the Fall 2014 edition. These papers were the best out the 50 plus we received from across the nation and we
commend these authors for being selected for publishing.
This semester the journal successfully hosted its first Undergraduate Political Science Symposium, Bootleggers
and Baptists in the Shale Gas Revolution, in order to showcase and honor previous Ohio State University author,
Saayeee Arumugam. We hope to continue this tradition by recruiting only the best papers written by talented
As always, we are forever indebted to our wonderful Political Science Department for their support and
backing throughout JPIA’s inception. We would particularly like to thank Dr. Rick Herrmann for his belief and
encouragement of the Journal, Dr. Paul Beck for his role as advisor for the Journal, and Alicia Anzivine for her
assistance and guidance in our work.
Finally, we would like to thank you, the reader for taking the time to read the journal and contribute to our
success. Because of you, undergraduate research finds meaning and this is invaluable for the continued growth of
the political science research community.
Rosie Izzi and Todd Ives


The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015


The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Autumn 2014


Not for Sale: Assessing the Socio-Political
Implications of Water Privatization in Developing Nations
Myung Eun (Marianne) Lee

Given the increase in concerns over the global water scarcity phenomenon and the possible conflict
between states, the topic of water resource management has become highly contentious, particularly the debate surrounding the role of the private sector as a viable solution. The global trend for
water privatization began in the late 1980s as the Western economies and international financial
institutions aggressively promoted neoliberalism in developing nations. This paper does not favor
either side of the privatization debate, but instead provides a quantitative analysis of the socio-political conditions that are conducive to a successful implementation of the neoliberal water and
sanitation policies and the implications associated with them. The study uses data ranging from
1980 to 2010 to properly assess the impact of water privatization on social instability, particularly
using varied regime types, water scarcity, and the level of inequality.

I. Introduction:
With the water scarcity phenomenon visible in every continent, competition for water exists at
all levels. The situation is likely to worsen with rapid population growth, massive urbanization,
pollution, and climate change, placing greater demands on limited freshwater supply. Symptoms
are visible everywhere, with the collapse of water-based ecological systems, declining river flows,
and large-scale groundwater depletion. The United Nations reported that water usage has been
growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century. It is estimated that by
2025, about 1.8 billion people will live in regions with absolute water scarcity, almost half of the
world living in conditions of water stress. Many experts such as the former Vice President of the
World Bank, Ismail Serageldin, predict that highly commoditized water will replace oil as the next
source of conflict in this century, particularly emerging in water-scarce regions (Elhance 1997.)
Numerous countries in Africa and the Middle East are already experiencing shortages, leading
to a growing number of political and social clashes between states on sharing transboundary
water sources and ownership issues. To mediate growing tension and environmental concern,

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

international organizations called for commodification and privatization of water resource as
viable solutions to achieve economic development, conflict avoidance, and social stability. Many
projects have been initiated particularly in the developing nations, where privatization has been
advocated aggressively to pursue both economic growth and efficient resource management. To
properly assess the socio-political implications of water privatization, this paper examines how
private sector participation (PSP) can affect social instability in different political, environmental,
and social systems.
What is Water Privatization?
In this paper, water privatization refers to private sector participation (PSP) in the provision of water
and sanitation services, which companies assume substantial financial, technical, and operational
responsibilities. The fundamental goals include improving the efficiency of water and sanitation
services, expanding coverage area, and meeting or exceeding the water quality standard set forth
by the World Health Organization. There are two types of privatization, full privatization and
public-private partnership (PPP). Under full privatization (divestiture), assets are sold to private
investors and ownership is permanently transferred with the concomitant roles of operation and
control. Only places such as England, Chile, and some cities in the U.S. practice full privatization,
entitling companies with exclusive water rights for a limited time in a well-defined geographical
space. Under PPP, governments retain ownership but depend on expertise and capital of private
operators to improve and provide services for a designated span of time. Duration of contracts
vary, some lasting from four years to, in extreme cases, several decades. Concession is the most
common form by which asset ownership is both private and public, while the rest of operations and
investment are entirely private.

According to World Bank’s Private Participation Investment Database Team, private

activity in water infrastructure has more than doubled over the last decade (523 new projects since
2001 vs. 232 in 1991-2000)/ Despite the surge in activity by number of projects, private investment
remains low (US $29 billion since 2001 vs. US$58 billion in 1991-2000). Since 2001, the average
annual investment commitment ranges between US $2-3 billion, with top regions include China,
LAC (Latin America & Caribbean), and MENA (Middle East & North Africa) (see Figure 1, 2).
Traditionally, European companies have dominated the water market, but current trend indicates


that companies from developing countries, primarily the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and
South Africa) are expanding projects at local level. Table 1 indicates earlier trend in 1990s.
Figure 1 and 2:

Source: Perard, Edouard, and PPI Database Team. 2012. Private Sector Participation in Water
Infrastructure: Review of the Last 20 Years and the Way Forward. Rep.: World Bank.

For the purpose of this paper, PSP in water infrastructure is indicated as total investment

commitments made per year in low and middle countries, identified by the World Bank. WB
divides economies according to 2012 GNI (Gross National Income) per capita, calculated using
the WB Atlas method. The groups are: low income, $1,035 or less; lower middle income, $1,036$4,085; upper middle income, $4,086-$12,614; and high income, $12,616 or more. Using this

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

classification, this paper examines low and middle-income developing nations. A complete list of
countries used for this paper is shown on Appendix 1.
Historical Context:
Historically, the driving forces behind PSP in water and sanitation services have been international
political changes and policy shifts in the international development arena. The global trend
began in the late 1980s with the ideological paradigm shift towards neo-liberalism, when many
countries underwent democratic transitions and developing nations sought after economic
development. Endorsed and fully practiced by British PM Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald
Reagan, the neoliberalism ideology spread with increasing speed of globalization, dominating
international relations and trade. In align of the movement, the U.S. government, international
financial organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank
(WB), and the World Water Council (WWC) aimed to promote economic growth and poverty
reduction worldwide through a set of neoliberal policies, which became collectively known as the
Washington Consensus. The policies involved trade and financial liberalization, macroeconomic
stabilization, deregulation, tax reform, and privatization of state enterprises. To effectively enforce
implementation of these economic policies in developing countries, the WB and IMF required
privatization as part of loan conditionality, leaving nations in dire need of money no choice but to
comply. Since they aggressively used their leverage as creditors to promote liberal reforms, many
indebted low and middle-income countries were forced to reduce trade barriers, ease regulations,
and privatize their water and sanitation sectors. The results of these reforms are much debated;
to some, loan conditionality is viewed as serving only the primary interests of donor countries’
private sectors, rather than those of the recipients (Schulpen, Lau, and Gibbon 2002). While some
blame the Washington Consensus for causing economic instability and exacerbating economic
inequality, others credit its efforts for stimulating globalization and economic growth. The topic
of privation of water is highly controversial, as different ownership structures can have profound
social, economic, and political implications.
II. Debate on Privatization of Water:
The main proponents of privatization are the WB, the IMF, the U.S. government, the OECD


(Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, donor agencies, academics,
think tanks, and large multinational corporations. While the former groups prioritize international
development efforts in the context of the Washington Consensus, the latter is primarily motivated
by profit and expansion into emerging markets. The largest corporations are mostly European;
Suez-Lyonnaises des Eaux, a French company currently operating in over 130 countries, Veolia
Environment, a French company operating in over 100 countries, RWE, a German corporation,
Agbar, the Spanish corporation, and the Thames Water, a British multinational corporation. Table
2 lists main multinational companies active in the water and sewerage sector from 1990 to 2001.
Although recent trend shows involvement of companies from developing nations such as the Brazil
(Cab Ambiental, Odebrecht) and China (Beijing Sound Environment Industry Group), European
companies still maintain extensive projects worldwide. Against these privatization efforts, the
opponents are primarily activists, environmentalists, local governments, and generally the poor
sector of population where privatization is practiced.

Proponents argue that PSP can improve efficiency and quality of supply and distribution,

prevent environmentally harmful uses of water, expand coverage, achieve the objectives of the UN
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and contribute to economic growth. They insisted that
because many developing countries generally lack the necessary infrastructure, expertise and funds,
more resourceful firms should and can successfully extend the service network to reach the poorest
sectors of the population, thereby reducing unequal access to water (Olleta 2007). Particularly
because private firms are conscious of their stakeholders, they will continuously improve quality

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

of water and thereby reduce chances of environmental harm and water-related diseases. In addition
to these claims, Wallsten and Kosec (2005) support that private firms can deliver services more
efficiently than can governments because politicians can have contradictory objectives that lead
to a misallocation of resources, feeling pressured to provide jobs in the utility to the constituents
rather than investing in the water network. Some proponents recognize the increase in water price,
but claim that it will prevent reckless usage of water, thereby conserving water. Also, some experts
note the evident economic advantages of privatization; Martin and Parker (1997) discusses how
privatization is overall a very attractive plan for economic development in macroeconomic level
because it promotes national capital market, increases stock market capitalization, reduces debt,
and attracts investment. Proponents argue for water privatization based on social, economic, and
environmental advantages.

On the other hand, opponents criticize that privatization actually does not achieve the

intended goals, but instead cause more socio-political harm. First, they claim that it is unethical to
commodify water because it is a natural and universal right that should be granted to all, regardless
of wealth and income. Budds and McGranhan argue that privately operated utilities are unsuitable
in serving the majority of low-income households with adequate water and sanitation because
some companies cherry pick service areas to avoid serving poor communities, where water usage
is low and bill collection problems could hurt corporate profits (Budds, McGranahan 2003).
This undermines any attempts at extending access to clean water especially for the poor, leading
to a contradiction in achieving the UNMDGs. Second, opponents argue that privatization may
improve the water source, but because it could just benefit the middle and upper groups of the
population, those who cannot afford increased water costs are more likely to be exposed to waterborne diseases, potentially undermining the public health of the poor. Third, some argue PSP can
weaken the relationship between local and international entities as well as the capacity of local
polities to resolve their own water and sanitation issues. In particular, loan conditionality creates a
serious imbalance of power structure when indebted governments have to negotiate with and yield
to international financial institutions and multinational water companies. The level of democracy
is also affected because private operators are legally able to restrict public access to information
by exercising the ‘confidentiality clause,’ thereby decreasing transparency of operations (Budds,
McGranahan 2003). In addition, scholars such as José Esteban Castro insist the main claims


put forward to justify neoliberal water policies, such as PSP helps reduce social inequality in
developing countries, are not empirically true (Castro 2008).

The results and effectiveness of water privatization remain highly contentious. However,

it is undeniable that changes in the water ownership structure, which in turn can immediately and
directly affect the lives of many, can result in profound socio-political consequences. Hence it is
critical to examine individual countries’ state of stability before and after privatization to properly
capture the true impact of privatization. To measure this implication, social instability can be
defined as following.
Social Instability
The concept of social instability is very vague and hence subject to definition. For the purpose of
this paper, social instability refers to a mass mobilization of people, whose goal is to express sociopolitical discontent in forms of riots, anti-government protests, general strikes, revolutions, coups,
and government crises. Such disruptive activities are often times fast moving, unpredictable,
and exogenous. To properly capture the impact of water privatization, this paper will primarily
use anti-government demonstrations and the Conflict Index compiled by Arthur Banks in the
Cross National Time-Series archive (Banks and Wilson 2014). The data defines anti-government
demonstrations as “any peaceful public gathering of at least 100 people for the primary purpose of
displaying or voicing their opposition to government policies or authority, excluding demonstration
of a distinctly anti-foreign nature,” while defining riots as “any violent demonstration of clash of
more than 100 citizens involving the use of physical force.” Given their definitions, it is more
appropriate to use demonstrations over riots because the former captures public response to water
and sanitation policies at domestic level better. The Conflict Index accords weighted conflict
measures of numerous variables, providing a broader context on the analysis. Specific values
attributed are indicated on the descriptive statistics part, Table 3.
III. Literature Review:
The past two decades witnessed numerous instances of privatization precipitating social unrest in
many parts of developing regions. Given the exogenous nature of social instability, it is critical
to review what happens when countries undergo privatization and the socio-political factors that

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

are involved in the process, which are regime type, economic level, level of water scarcity, and
inequality gap.

When private sector participates in managing water and sanitation services, water prices

generally increase; the jump is more apparent in developing nations than developed. This is because
privatization takes place in areas where proper infrastructure may not have existed or was in poor
condition under public governance, leading private operators to charge higher prices for the greater
input costs needed to build and repair facilities. There are considerable costs involved in upgrading
water harnessing, purification and distribution systems. Since companies are driven by their
ultimate goal of profit maximization, they can easily cut services if the serviced community does
not generate enough revenue. When tariff increases to an extent that water becomes unaffordable
to the poor, the originally intended groups in need, the very goal of eliminating inequality of access
to water is not reached. The UN Development Program’s following assessment of privatization
initiatives in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea and Senegal confirms the pattern:

Privatization made water supplies unaffordable for many of the poorest sections of society,

which led to people getting disconnected from water supply due to inability to pay…Experiences
have confirmed that very poor sections normally tend to be excluded from being a part of privatized
service extension. (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),
UN Water, and World Water Assessment Programme 2006)

Likewise, there are cases that show how privatization failed to achieve development goals

by placing enormous financial burden on poor people and causing socio-political consequences
that affect social stability.
A. Case of Privatization: the Bolivian Water War
One of the most famous cases took place in 1999, when the World Bank refused to renew US$
600 million of debt relief to Bolivia unless the country agreed to privatize its water and sanitation
sectors. The fourth largest Bolivian city, Cochabamba, sold its municipal water company SEMAPA
to the transnational consortium Aguas de Tunari, controlled by the U.S. company Bechtel. Shortly
after, the water rates increased by 35 to 50 percent, exorbitant to many Cochabambans (“Bolivian
Activist Oscar Olivera” 2014). Bechtel conducted oppressive policies such as preventing residents
from collecting rainwater, a practice that has been carried out for centuries by indigenous people


in the semi-rural areas, unless they obtained a legal permit. Many Bolivian locals, primarily the
working-class urban groups and farmers, mobilized and launched massive protests for nine months.
At the height of civil unrest, a citywide strike disrupted transportation, news media, and other
industries for four days. In the end, Bechtel abandoned the operation but sued the government for
US$50 million for terminating the contract, leading to a prolonged international court case. The
lawsuit was dropped in the face of enormous international pressure (Laurie and Marvin 1999). The
story of Cochabamba became known as the ‘Bolivian Water War,’ symbolizing the denial of a basic
human right that provoked mass mobilization and series of social reforms throughout the country.
A similar pattern has repeated and resulted in public outcry in places such as Manila (Philippines),
Jakarta (Indonesia), Buenos Aires (Argentina), and Cape Town (South Africa) to name a few.

Water Privatization has taken place in places beyond stated countries, yet there have not

been many reported incidents of social instability. Why do some countries experience social
unrest more than others after water privatization, and what are the true effects? Are there certain
determinants of successful implementation? To properly assess these questions, I look at social and
political factors such as water scarcity, political regime type, and the inequality gap.
B. Water Scarcity & Conflict
First, several literature highlights the relationship between resource scarcity and violent conflicts
particularly in the developing world. Hendrix and Salehyan (2012) demonstrate a robust relationship
of environmental shocks and unrest; they found that extreme deviations in rainfall – particularly
dry and wet years –are more positively associated with different types of political conflict in
Africa. On the other hand, studies of international conflict find little interstate violence over water
and indicate that cooperative arrangements such as water-related bilateral/multilateral treaties are
more likely (Toset, Gleditsch, and Hegre 2000).

Thomas Homer Dixon shows that environmental scarcities interact with other political,

economic, and social factors to precipitate social crises and conflict (Figure 3). He cites water,
arable land, forests, and fish as examples of environmental scarcities and discusses its effects
within extremely complex ecological political systems. He also notes that river water is most
likely to stimulate interstate resource water, because it is such a critical source for personal and
national survival. According to him, water scarcity cannot be easily solved through sensible use

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

and ‘decoupling,’ which is producing goods and services that do not rely heavily on the scarce
resource. In particular, decoupling water is not likely because of its importance across all sectors
and livelihood, as well as need to require international trade and further exploitation of environment.
This suggests that commodification and marketization of water will increase with severity of water
shortage, flowing from resource-abundant countries to scarce regions. As indicated in Figure 3,
Homer cites numerous factors such as population growth that contribute to environmental scarcity,
which then relates to social effects such as ethnic conflicts, coup d’états, and deprivation conflicts.
In particular, his deprivation conflicts could easily manifest into instances of social instability, such
as riots and anti-government protests.
Figure 3: Sources and Consequences of Environmental Scarcity

Source: Homer-Dixon, Thomas. 2001. Environment, Scarcity, and Violence. Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press.

Building on Homer-Dixon’s theory on resource scarcity and conflict, Hauge and Ellingsen

find that countries suffering from environmental degradation are more prone to civil conflict, but
other economic and political factors such as the level of economic development, political regime,
and income inequality are far more important in predicting domestic conflicts (Hauge, Wenche,


and Ellingsen 1998).
C. Water Privatization & Regime Type
Given that much of the privatization efforts took place in developing nations during 1980s and 1990s,
it is worth noting that neoliberal policies have been enacted in countries that are comparatively
less stable in nature; those in Latin America, Asia, and parts of Europe that were undergoing series
of regime changes. There are some literatures that note the relationship between privatization
and regime type. Hall and Goudriaan explore how privatization efforts can lead to considerable
democratic backlash due to enormous pressure placed on local, state, and international political
actors. In particular, they note key elements that affect local democracy: the corporate-political
relationship, central governments seeking to usurp the powers of local councils, and the loss of
public accountability that follows privatization. They find that privatization has been often made
an election issue, particularly when private corporations maintain close political involvement
in forms of legal donations, funding of lobbyists and business coalitions, and appointment of
politicians within the company (Hall and Goudriaan 1999). This means that in general, political
actors in democracies are more conscious about PSP as it correlates with their electoral outcome.
In fact, some scholars suggested that because authoritarian leaders do not seek reelection or
popularity, they are able to ignore societal interests opposed to economic measures that impose
austerity (Lal 1983; Skidmore 1977). Kelly Janet insists that authoritarian governments are not
exposed to competitive elections and appear insulated from politics, allowing them to ignore
complaints against privatization. In addition, the authoritarian rulers’ capacity to use repression
against protesters also benefits autocracies to privatize (Kelly 1996).

There is an on-going debate on the role of regime type on privatization, whether democracies

or autocracies dictate efficiency, likelihood, and success of privatization. Interestingly, Biglaiser and
Danis (2002) discover that contrary to supposed advantages of authoritarian regime, democracies
privatize more and privatization is most likely in wealthier developing democracies whose budget
operates within current account surpluses. They claim that authoritarianism does not necessarily
provide correct model for countries wishing to pursue unpopular economic policies. Instead,
democracy provides greater governmental accountability, transparency, and trust-worthy legal
institutions that result in successful policy reform. However, current literature lacks examination

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

of the consequences of water privatization in different regime types, particularly its impact on
social instability. To further investigate the effects of social and political factors, literature on the
relationship between privatization and inequality is examined.
D. Privatization & Inequality & Social Instability
In general, the inequality gap tends to be greater in developing countries, where conflicts and
corruption are more prevalent and a high level of bureaucracy dominates weak institutional
frameworks. Existing literature such as Alesina and Perotti (1996) illustrates that income inequality
increases socio-political instability, which in turn decreases investment and growth. As discussed
earlier, Homer-Dixon also attributed factors such as inequality and social inclusion to determine
the ferocity of strife, more than water scarcity. Because inequality raises important questions rooted
in normative ideas about social justice and fairness of society, social inequality stems from the
way people perceive themselves in relation to their surroundings, eventually forming identity in
relative terms. This implies that if privatization occurs in places where there already is a large gap
between the rich and poor, then it is likely that such feeling of relative deprivation and frustration
can trigger people to take actions, leading to episodes of social unrest. In this context, the relative
deprivation theory is critical to understanding the link between inequality and instability.

The theory of relative deprivation is based on a concept that “people may feel deprived

of some desirable thing relative to their own past, other persons or groups, or some other social
category,” and can be explained as an “experience of being deprived of something to which you
think you are entitled” (Walker and Pettigrew 1984). Under this concept, it makes logical sense
that people may feel deprived both morally and economically. With price increase, poor people
have less or limited access because it is simply not affordable anymore. Morally, it will be seen as a
violation of a basic human right. Economically, high water tariff can affect economic productivity
in poor countries, particularly those that engage in agriculture or industries that demand water
in high volume. Homer-Dixon discusses how environmental scarcity could produce economic
deprivation and cause civil strife, but noted that more research is needed to understand the effects
on social institutions. This makes privatization a regressive policy that prevents the redistribution
of a common good. Going back to the example of Cochabamba, the absurd policy preventing
rainwater collection exemplifies how the issue of privatization infringes upon distributive justice


and universal access to natural resource.

It is undeniable that privatization of commodity such as water has profound economic,

social, and political implications, particularly in developing regions. To contribute to an on-going
debate and research, this paper examines interaction between variables regime type, water scarcity
and inequality to assess the impact of water privatization on instability.

IV. Hypotheses
I hypothesize that:
H1: Water Privatization (WP) increases the likelihood of social instability in the short-run.
H2: A recent history of water privatization in democratic countries decreases the likelihood of

social instability.

H3: A recent history of water privatization in autocratic countries increases the likelihood of

social instability.

H4: A recent history of water privatization in areas of high inequality increases the likelihood of

social instability.

H5: A recent history of water privatization in areas of extreme temperature increases the likelihood

of social instability.

V. Data Description
Independent Variable (X): Water Privatization
The independent X variable is the Private Participation Investment in Water and Sanitation data
from the World Bank, which I will be using the years from 1980, the beginning era of neoliberal
policies, to 2010 in order to assess its effects. The data outlines investment amount made per year
for each country, but excludes moveable assets and small projects. Although most of the projects
are likely to be regional and local, my study is nationally based because I aim to see whether there
has been water privatization in the country or not, testing against the level of protests and conflict
at national level. Given the controversial nature of privatization, the issue can easily spark nationwide debates, protests, and other conflicts.

o properly assess the effect of water privatization over time, I use distinguish two variables—

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

water privatization (WP) and recent WP. The former indicates that the water privatization took
place the year of, while the recentWP indicates whether WP took place within the past five years.
Lagging the variables helps observe both the immediate and long-term effects of water privatization.
Dependent Variable (Y): Social Instability
The dependent Y variable is social instability based on Arthur Banks’ data from the Cross National
Time-Series archive. The data ranges from 1815 to 2011 and includes variables strikes, government
crises, riots, revolutions, anti-government, conflict, regime type, coups, and government revenue
and expenditure. Because there are so many different types of instability, I will only test using
Anti-government protests and the weighted measures of ‘Conflict.’ I chose to observe antigovernment protest because it will represent the most likely response from the people whose water
is being privatized, as supposed to extreme cases of Revolution. Comparing the impact of water
privatization to the level of conflict will provide interesting insight to this study. The specific
weights attributed to each variable are the following:
Anti-Government Demonstrations (10), Government Crises (20), Purges (20), Strikes (20),
Assassinations (25), Riots (25), Guerrilla Warfare (100), and Revolutions (150).


The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

VI. Research Design/ Methodology
To assess the effects of water privatization on social instability, I utilize Fixed Effects Poisson
regression on Anti-Government protest and Fixed Effects basic OLS regression on the Conflict
Index. Fixed effects are used to eliminate the effect of time-invariant characteristics from the
predictor variables to properly assess the predictor’s net effect. It is also used to remove potentially
large source of bias by controlling for individual characteristics.
Model 1: Fixed Effects Poisson Regression <Anti-Government Protest>
Pr (Y|X) = f (β0 + β1(Water Privatization) + β2(Recent WP) + β3(L.Polity) + β4(Polity x WP) +
β5 (Polity x RecentWP) + β6 (L.logPop) + β7 (L.logGDP) + β8 (GDPgrowth))
Using Fixed Effects Poisson regression model allows expression of the dependent variable, as the
natural logarithm of the event, producing estimate of outcome using some or all of the explanatory
variables. Poisson model accounts for the intrinsically integer-valued count data, which the antigovernment protest is. In addition, fixed effects Poisson model improves the consistency and
robustness of arbitrary patterns of serial correlations.

The model is parameterized with lambda λ, which is the exponential value of Xβ ̂
(λ =e^(xβ ̂ )). Using this model, I show predicted number of anti-government protests with current
or recent water privatization activity depending upon regime type in Table 6 and Appendix 2.
The same model will be used to analyze the relationship between anti-government protest and
interactions between water privatization and level of inequality and drought occurrences.

Model 2: Fixed Effects Linear Regression <Conflict>


Y (Conflict) i,t = β0 + β1(Water Privatization) + β2(Recent WP) + β3(L.Polity) + β4(Polity x WP)
+ β5 (Polity x RecentWP) + β6 (L.logPop) + β7 (L.logGDP) + β8 (GDPgrowth) +ε

The second model examines the relationship between conflict level and interactions

between water privatization, level of inequality, and drought occurrences.
VII. Results/Analysis

The outcomes of the fixed-effects regressions are shown in Table 4, outlining the role of

regime type in determining the effect of water privatization in the short and long terms.

The result indicates that there are more anti-government protests and conflict in larger countries,
which is logical given higher chance of interactions and disagreements among people. It shows
that richer countries have less likelihood of social instability, which can be explained since there
is less need to protest if people are economically satisfied and live with high living qualities.
Water privatization has strong and positive relationship with anti-government protests, meaning
that occurrence in the current year can drastically increase the likelihood of social instability in the
short run at significant level. This tests my first hypothesis, that water privatization can affect the
level of stability.

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

Interestingly, an interaction between a recent history of water privatization (recentWP) and

Polity indicates that in the long run, the effect of water privatization varies drastically over regime
types. In democracies, recent occurrence of privatization has stabilizing effect and significantly
decreases the level of protests, while the effect is the opposite in autocracies. Similar conclusion
can be drawn from using the fixed effects OLS regression model on Conflict Index, with increased
robustness of significance. This shows that immediate effect of water privatization may be highly
controversial, and hence subject to protests in the short-term, which is the usual pattern when new
market reform policies are introduced. On the contrary, the long-term effect varies significantly
over the socio-political systems.

To confirm this pattern, I use program “Clarify” to generate predicted numbers of Anti-

government protests and Conflict Index from a random sample of 1000 (King, Tomz, and Wittenberg
2000). The numbers are simulated to show the impact of water privatization in varied political
systems given same economic and demographic settings. Based on World Bank classification of
countries based on income, I chose GDP per capita of $2,000 to depict a low/low-middle income
countries and $8000 to depict middle/upper middle income countries. Population range has been
chosen to depict countries that are generally deemed ‘large’ and ‘small.’
Table 5: Four Specifications

Based on the country specifications outlined in Table 5, I chose low/low-middle income country
with large population to predict the number of protests and conflict level to assess the effect of
water privatization in developing nations with varied regime types, income, and population size. I
chose this specification because water privatization has taken place in developing countries such as
the BRICS, which are commonly associated having such characteristics. Table 6 indicates numbers
generated using “Clarify.”


From this model, it is evident that in democracies, water privatization in the current and

recent years can drastically lower the number of expected anti-government protests, while having
the opposite effect in autocracies. The estimated number trends from 2.75, 2.05, to 1.52. While the
values have been randomly generated, the intervals do not overlap with each other, indicating their
significance. Similarly for autocracy, the difference is evident as the predicted number increases
from 2.42 to 3.45 with both current and recent history of water privatization. The intervals become
larger because there have not been many observations of water privatization activities in the past,
thus creating larger range of estimates, but no overlaps show statistical significance in change of
coefficients. Considering these changes, it is interesting to note the different impact of privatization
in short and long runs, depending on regime types. However, the result shows that democracies
have higher Conflict score than do autocracies in the long run, while decreasing in autocracies.
This may be because of the way Conflict index has been measured, attributing higher values to
variables such as Guerilla Warfare and Revolutions, which may not be as correlated with water
privatization initiatives as other variables such as Strikes and anti-government protests. However,
the Conflict results are relatively insignificant because of overlapping intervals. This pattern has
been repeated in three other country specifications in Appendix 2, suggesting that regime type
can significantly impact the outcome of water privatization in low and middle-income developing

Possible Explanations on the role of Regime Type


The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

To understand why water privatization could lead to initial increase of social instability regardless
of regime type while in the long run the outcome changes depending on the political system, I have
numerous explanations to support the result.

First, it makes sense that water privatization projects face resistance initially. The topic

of privatization usually sparks public vs. private and local vs. foreign debates, stemming from
conflict of interest between numerous of actors at local, national, and international levels. It
raises questions of distribution, transparency, equality, development, sovereignty, accountability,
oversight, and more. Oftentimes privatization is depicted negatively in media, associated with
exploitative capitalism and over-consumerism. The story of mega-corporations profiting at the
expense of the poor is sensational, attracting journalists to publicize stories that stir social and
political mobilizations. Particularly in developing regions of Latin America and East Asia, where
large-scale corruption has accompanied privatization during the sale of state owned companies,
the role of media could stir further frustration. Active media reports could anger protesters to
demonstrate against established regimes, which could face different levels of violence depending
on political spheres. In addition, since many nations underwent democratization, anti-government
protest could have been a way to exercise newly acquired political rights and freedom in transitioning
to newer economy.

Second, political leaders in democratic countries care more about political survival than

those in autocratic countries, because the former directly face elections and media pressure. With
this logic, democratic leaders choose policies carefully, selecting those they deem to be popular if
not safe, while autocratic leaders choose policies based on their own interests without much care
for popularity. Naturally, the relatively popular and stable policies will lead to decreased chance
of anti-government protests and conflict under democratic regime. Or even if the leaders do not
pursue safe choices, some literatures argue that democracies are better at initiating unpopular
economic policies, and that greater legitimacy enjoyed by democratic leaders enables them to
obtain the cooperation of citizens in order to impose economic austerity policies (Maravall 1995;
Biglaiser and Danis 2002)

Third, in the long run, privatization itself is more suitable for liberal market economy that

democracy usually fosters than autocracy-supported command economy. Democracies advocate
and nurture legal transparency, accountability, reliability, and low corruption and bureaucracy


levels, which in all create a safer and stable business climate for companies to invest. Since such
system guarantees secure property rights, it makes sense that Biglaiser and Danis (2002) found
that privatization is more apparent in democracies, particularly in wealthier developing nations.
Because PSP inevitably contributes to growth rate through foreign and local investment attraction,
policy makers choose the path of privatization for economic development. Given the advantages,
likelihood of success, and higher frequency in democratic societies, it is reasonable that people in
democracies protest less in the longer-run, while those in autocracies do not benefit as much and
are not too familiar with the programs.

In sum, democracy provides a better economic and social platform in which water

privatization can take place without a risk of instability in the long run. The features of democracy,
which include greater transparency and accountability, as well as economic growth, altogether
encourage political leaders and citizens to adopt and adapt privatization policies in the long run
without need for protests. Particularly since democracies have witnessed higher occurrence of
privatization record and have exhibited stability in the long run despite initial resistance, there is
less likelihood of Anti-government protests or Conflict in democratic regimes.

In addition to examining the importance of political system in the effect of water

privatization, I also look at how recent history of WP in areas of extreme temperatures can impact
social instability, shown in Table 7.

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

I initially hypothesized that recent history of water privatization in areas of extreme

temperature would increase the likelihood of social instability, given discussed relationship between
environmental shocks, resource scarcity, and socio-political unrest in literature. The result confirms
that occurrence of drought and extreme temperature, an indicator for water scarcity, can lead to
increased likelihood of anti-government protest. However, the model yields different outcome


when it interacts with water privatization; if drought occurs in a country where privatization took
place within the past five years, there is no significant likelihood of social instability, but if drought
takes place the year water privatization has been implemented, then there is less likelihood of
anti-government protest. The drastic decrease could be an indicator of the positive role private
companies plays in lessening the effect of ferocious drought, hence minimizing the need for antigovernment protests. Although this study lacks proper assessment of company performance, this
result serves as a testament of the benefits of privatization in lessening anti-government protest.
Further study needs to be conducted to measure how private sector involvement in areas of drought
could lessen likelihood of protests.

There seems to be no apparent correlation between water privatization in areas of drought

and the Conflict level. This may be due to lacking correlation between drought and variables such
as revolutions and purges, which have been weighted greater than more likely outcomes of riots
and demonstrations.

Lastly, I hypothesized that if water privatization occurs in places with high level of inequality,

there is greater likelihood of social instability given theory of relative deprivation. Table 8 shows
the result of fixed effects Poisson regression, highlighting the interactive relationship between
level of inequality and water privatization and anti-government protests.

The quantitative result confirms my first hypothesis that current and recent history of water

privatization could lead to increased likelihood of social instability in the short-run, looking at
50% and 143% chances of increase. The lagged Polity variable indicates that in democracies, the
likelihood of protests decreases significantly at robust level, while increasing the chance drastically.
Contrary to hypothesis 4, the level of inequality has no direct impact on social instability, even less
so when it interacts with water privatization that had taken place currently.

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

IX. Implications/Conclusion
Currently, public water services provide more than 90 percent of the water supply in the world,
meaning that water privatization is not as commonly observed. However, it is notable that most
of the privatization had taken place, and increasingly continues to, in developing nations where
antiquated, often colonial-era, water systems are no match for rapidly increasing populations. As


ownership and control fall under the private hands, there are many social and political factors that
can determine the outcome in these transitioning and transforming countries. This paper assessed
the conditions in which private sector participation could affect developing countries, using
variables such as regime types and levels of inequality and scarcity.

Empirically, I discovered that water privatization is likely to increase the chance of anti-

government protest and conflict in the short-run, while its long-term effect varies drastically
over regime types. My result indicates that in democracies, recent occurrence of privatization
has stabilizing effect and significantly decreases the level of social instability; in autocracies,
privatization leads to further social unrest. The number of expected protests and conflict level has
been generated using software Clarify to further support this pattern. The outcome has significant
implication for low and middle-income developing countries and institutions implementing
neoliberal water and sanitation policies; to fully take advantage of water privatization and witness
less social instability, being democratic is highly critical to the success of water privatization.
This serves as an insightful addition to the current debate surrounding the role of regime type and
privatization, while also exhibiting incentives for further democratization.

In arguing that democracy can lead to less likelihood of social instability, I am mindful

of the selection bias/effect of my data in this study. The argument that democratic leaders select
policies that are favorable to their popularity and electoral outcome influences the data that I use.
However, the effect may not be as significant given the historical trend that most of the water
privatization efforts have been mostly pushed for by the international organizations, the World
Bank and the IMF. As discussed in introduction, many developing nations have been forced to
privatize as part of the Washington Consensus policy agenda and neoliberal movement. This could
certainly undermine any selection effect on my data.

In addition to my finding on importance of regime type, I found that the level of inequality

have no significant relationship with indicators of social instability, contrary to the established
literature and the relative deprivation theory. This could mean that despite the existing inequality
gap, people in the lower income do not feel as relatively deprived as I had expected them to be
with increased water prices, or that the private operation has not significantly affected the lives
of many people. Water privatization in highly unequal society could perhaps provoke protest in
places where huge increase in water tariff rates are imposed, companies have managed poorly,

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

or corruption has been prevalent. These factors may be important indicators to explain numerous
privatization stories where the underprivileged groups of population expressed frustration in forms
of riots and strikes, but further analysis is needed to confirm the relationship.

My quantitative result also shows that drought occurrences could increase the likelihood

of anti-government protest, just as some underlying literature insists on the importance of resource
scarcity and climate change. Yet, if water privatization takes place the current year of displayed
drought, there is less chance of anti-government protest. This signifies the positive role that private
companies have on mediating the social effect in areas of drought. However, since my study lacks
any substantial assessment on company performance and severity of scarcity, it is hard to solely
credit private operators in reducing the likelihood of social unrest.

Historically, neoliberal policies have stirred controversy, often manifesting into strikes

and demonstrations due to conflict of interest between actors. Many opponents depict stories
of multinational companies benefiting at the expense of the poor, those who cannot afford the
increased water tariffs. Proponents insist on the economic advantages of privatization, appealing
to the developing nations that pursue economic growth or loans from institutions such as the
World Bank. There may be overlooked benefits of privatization that the public cannot recognize
due to media bias and sensationalism, and there may be instances of unfair practices by private
companies. However, the current debate focuses too much on the idea of privatization itself, while
my study shows that there are certain economic, political, and social conditions that are conducive
to implementing successful water privatization as well as its relation to likelihood of social
stability. There certainly is need for further assessment of the effect of water privatization and the
role of private sector in broader international developmental context, streaming past debates of
neoliberalism and privatization.


Banks, Arthur S., Wilson, Kenneth A. 2014. Cross-National Time-Series Data Archive. Databanks

International. Jerusalem, Israel; see

Biglaiser, Glen and Danis, Michelle. 2002. “Privatization and Democracy: The Effects of

Regime Type in the Developing World.” Comparative Political Studies 35(1): 83-101.

“Bolivian Activist Oscar Olivera on Bechtel’s Privatization of Rainwater and Why Evo Morales

Should Remember the Ongoing Struggle Over Water.” 2014. Democracy Now! (Accessed

10 Mar. 2014).
Budds, Jessica and McGranahan, Gordon. 2003. “Are the debates on water privatization missing

the point? Experiences from Africa, Asia and Latin America,” Environment and Urbanization

15, 2: 87-113

Castro, José Esteban. 2008. “Neoliberal water and sanitation policies as a failed development

strategy: Lessons from developing countries.” Progress in Development Studies 8:63-83


Celine Ruben-Salama. 2008. “Thirsty for Change: Considering Water Privatization in

Developing Nations.”

Elhance, Arun P. 1997. “Conflict and Cooperation over Water in the Aral Sea Basin.”

Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 20 (20):207-218.

Hall and Goudriaan. 1999, “Privatization and Democracy” Working Papers in

Local Governance and Democracy. PSIRU.

Hendrix, C.S., and I. Salehyan. 2012. Climate change, rainfall, and social conflict in

Africa. Journal of Peace Research 49(1):35-50.

Homer-Dixon, Thomas. 2001. Environment, Scarcity, and Violence. Princeton, NJ:

Princeton University Press.

Kelly, Janet. 1996. “One piece of a larger puzzle: The privatization of VIASA.”

Privatizing monopolies: Lessons from the telecommunications and trans- port

sectors in Latin America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press: 241-277.

King, Gary, Michael Tomz, and Jason Wittenberg. 2000. “Making the most of statistical

analyses: Improving interpretation and presentation.” American Journal of Political

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

Science 44(2): 347-361

Lau, Schulpen and Gibbon, Peter. 2002. “Private sector development: policies,

practices and problems”, World Development Vol.30, No 1, 1–15

Lal, D., 1983. The Poverty of ‘Development Economics’. London: Institute of

Economic Affairs, Hobart Paperback 16.

Laurie, N. and Marvin, S. 1999. “Globalisation, Neoliberalism, and Negotiated

Development in the Andes: Water Projects and Regional Identity in

Cochabamba, Bolivia.” Environment and Planning A 31, No. 1401-1415.

Li, M. 2000. “Walking on the Tightrope”: Can Water TNC Tackle Drinking

Water Crisis in Developing Countries?” Asian Social Science, 7(5):122-31.

Olleta, A. 2007. The World Bank’s Influence on Water Privatization in

Argentina The Experience of City of Buenos Aires. IELRC Working Paper 2007-02.

Geneva: International Environmental Law Research Centre.

Parker, David and Kirkpatrick, Colin. 2005. “Privatisation in Developing Countries:

A Review of the Evidence and the Policy Lessons” The Journal of Development Studies,

41:4, 513-54.

Perard, Edouard, and PPI Database Team. 2012. Private Sector Participation in Water

Infrastructure: Review of the Last 20 Years and the Way Forward. Rep.: World Bank.

Seggier, Marie-Clair and Weeramantry, Justice. 2005. “Social Protest against Privatization

of Water: Forging Cosmopolitan Citizenship?”Sustainable Justice:

Reconciling International Economic, Environmental and Social Law.

Martinus Nijhoff

Skidmore, T.E. 1977. “The politics of economic stabilization in postwar

Latin America”, Authoritarianism and Corporatism in Latin America.

Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Toset, Hans Petter Wollemaek, Nils Petter Gleitsch, and Harvard Hegre. 2000.


“Shared rivers and interstate conflict” Political Geography 19(5): 97 1-996

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),

UN Water, and World Water Assessment Programme. 2006. The UN

World Water Development Report 2: Water a Shared Responsibility. Publication. New

York: Berghahn.
Wallsten, Scott and Kosec, Katrina. 2005. “Public or Private Drinking Water?

The Effects of Ownership and Benchmark Competition on U.S Water System

Regulatory Compliance and Household Water Expenditures” AEI Brookings Joint Center.

Walker, I. & Pettigrew, T.F. 1984. Relative deprivation theory: an overview and

conceptual critique. British Journal of Social Psychology, 23, 301-10.

Wenche, Hauge and Ellingsen, Tanja. 1998. “Beyond environmental scarcity: Causal

pathways to conflict.” Journal of Peace Research 35(3):299-317.


The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

Not for Sale: Assessing the Socio-Political
Implications of Water Privatization in Developing Nations
Myung Eun (Marianne) Lee

Given the increase in concerns over the global water scarcity phenomenon and the possible conflict between states, the topic of water resource management has become highly contentious, particularly the debate surrounding the role of the private sector as a viable solution. The global
trend for water privatization began in the late 1980s as the Western economies and international
financial institutions aggressively promoted neoliberalism in developing nations. This paper does
not favor either side of the privatization debate, but instead provides a quantitative analysis of the
socio-political conditions that are conducive to a successful implementation of the neoliberal water and sanitation policies and the implications associated with them. The study uses data ranging
from 1980 to 2010 to properly assess the impact of water privatization on social instability, particularly using varied regime types, water scarcity, and the level of inequality.

Not for Sale: Assessing the Socio-Political


The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

Agrarian Change in Egypt:
Dispossession and Disarticulation in the
19th Century
Karam Sheban

Beginning with the forced cultivation of export crops and the adoption in the mid- and late-1800s
of the European concepts of private property and land ownership, the Egyptian peasantry experienced an extended period of imposed agrarian change. The move away from an informal and
complex system of diffuse claims on land’s revenue to strict ownership of the land itself provided
mechanisms for a chain of surplus transfer from rural laborers, the beneficiaries of which were
large landowners, the Egyptian government, and the imperial powers to whom the nation was
increasingly indebted. In the construction of the global economy Egypt was placed firmly in the
periphery. The patterns of surplus extraction set in the nineteenth century in Egypt remain to this
day, and since the 1980s the governments of Egypt have responded to the international call from
the global core for an increasing commitment to a “market and export-oriented economy.” Meanwhile, the nation’s uneven development and the persistence of a sizeable peasant class whose economic activities happen largely outside the formal economy speak to Egypt’s disarticulation. This
paper offers a critical literature review of Egypt’s neoliberal agenda that has deepened sectoral
disarticulation in the country. It then offers paths forward to address this disarticulation.

Behind the rhetoric of poverty alleviation and economic freedom, policies promoting liberalization
and the integration of Egypt’s agrarian sector into global markets, led by international development
agencies, in particular the World Bank and facilitated by the Egyptian government under first Sadat
and the regimes that have followed him, have impoverished Egypt’s peasant class, and deepened
the nation’s legacy of peasant marginalization and dispossession at the hands of large landowners,
private corporations, and both domestic and foreign governments. The consequence of Egypt’s
macroeconomic policies in the 20th and 21st centuries has been a deepening disarticulation and the
hybridization of the Egyptian peasantry. Disappearing rural livelihoods and suppressed wages have


resulted in the creation of ashwa’iyyat, large informal communities that straddle the line between
rural and urban, seen by the Egyptian government and urban residents as “unnatural communities
which trigger social disease and abnormal behavior,” or “Hobbesian [loci] of lawlessness and
extremism, producing a culture of violence and an abnormal way of life,” (Bayat and Denis
2000). While the Egyptian government often refuses to publicly acknowledge their existence,
these communities have been the objects of state-sanctioned violence, neglect, development, and
resettlement (Shoukry 2013). Alain de Janvry’s concept of functional dualism offers a powerful
framework in which to place these hybrid communities, and when considered within Egypt’s
history and current sociopolitical and economic climate ashwa’iyyat can be understood as both an
outgrowth and facilitators of disarticulation in Egypt, perpetuated by the country’s adherence to a
neoliberal economic agenda.
History of Egypt’s Economic Development
Leading up to the 19th century, while a de jure province of the Ottoman Empire, Egypt operated
as a highly autonomous state. The rural population was not part of a formal economy, but rather
gave to the state a portion of their main crop, usually a food grain, in exchange for state protection
and security. But beginning in the 1800s the Egyptian peasantry, or fellahin, began to lose its land.
This occurred through the seizure of rural land via government land grants, the desertion of land by
peasants to avoid taxes or conscription, the failure to pay taxes, and the seizure of land after failure
to pay back private debts (Richards 1982, 37). These processes often worked in conjunction with
one another, to the detriment of the peasants.
The Egyptian government and elite had a prior history of land grabs and grants, which
continued as the fellahin increasingly lost their land through processes of dispossession. Beginning
in the early 19th century, the Egyptian government, interested in modernizing the state and
capitalizing on international markets in Europe and the United States, began using a monopoly
system to coerce farmers into growing export crops, most importantly cotton. The production of
cotton required land, “irrigation and other infrastructural investments” as well as formal laborers
(Richards 1987 39). In response peasants deserted their farms, moving outside of the reach of the
authorities or into Cairo and other large towns, and the passage of land laws over the following
50 years aimed at preventing desertion largely failed (Mitchell 2002, 59-61). During this time,
increasing contact with the Western world and its dogmatic belief in the universality of private

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

property rights began to change the landscape in Egypt, both politically and demographically,
particularly through the emergence of debt. Taxable private property was seen as an attractive
means by which to finance state debt, and increasingly peasants were incorporated into private
agricultural estates, consolidated through land grants, landowner debt, and the spread of private
property laws and unmanageable taxes. Private property rights were not won by the people, but
rather “imposed upon [the fellahin] as a means of paying government debts…[causing] many
smaller landowners to fall into debt themselves and lose their land” (Mitchell 2002, 67).
In 1876 the government entered into an agreement with over a dozen European powers and
the United States to establish a court system that would “govern legal relations between foreigners
and local subjects,” which for the first time gave private creditors the ability to seize cultivators’
land as collateral for the nonpayment of loans, and as a result many small landowners lost their
property and livelihoods, sometimes violently (Mitchell 2002, 73). Yet in spite of the increasing tax
burden on the peasantry, the government’s debt continued to grow, and, after a global depression
made Egypt’s loans too expensive to pay off, the same courts were used by European powers in
1882 to turn Egypt into a British colony. Under the purview of the Empire the system of taxation
for the Egyptian peasantry was further formalized (Mitchell 2002, 73).
These processes of dispossession, and the country’s first steps into the “world market as
[an]…exporter” resulted in the accumulation of large amounts of land in the hands of a relatively
few landowners, and represented a marked divergence from the country’s history; the Egyptian
fellahin saw its relative equality, which had remained stable for centuries under Ottoman control,
dissolve during the 19th century. By 1888, 1% of landowners controlled 40% of Egypt’s land,
while 80% of landowners controlled only 20%. The creation of this “bimodal land tenure system”
laid the foundation for Egypt’s uneven development up to the present day (Richards 1987, 39).
The trend of growing inequality continued under the formal occupation of Egypt. By removing
impediments to private land ownership, breaking up communal labor in favor of free market
employment, and importing agricultural technologies, the British Empire facilitated Egypt’s
integration into global markets, all the while consolidating private property rights, and the result
was dramatically increased exports and a widening wealth gap (Richards 1987, 55, 98). Through
the creation of export industries and the import of capital goods, the disarticulation of the Egyptian
state was set into motion.


The 20th century saw the nation’s independence, two world wars, a revolution, land reform,
and intraregional conflicts. Yet in order to understand modern Egypt’s position in the global
economy and its disarticulation in the 21st century, it is critical to understand the transformation
that occurred in the 19th century, which was arguably the “beginning of the modern Egyptian state
and economy,” and certainly a period of “momentous change” in the country’s history (Brown
1990, 23). Essential characteristics of the modern Egyptian state, namely its export-oriented
agrarian sector, landless peasant class, and rising inequality, were established in this period of
rapid change, and both were causes and portents of the class tensions and hybridity seen in Egypt
Review of the Literature and Conceptual Framework
In the last 30 years, ashwa’iyyat have appeared throughout Egypt, particularly around urban
centers, absorbing the country’s class of landless agricultural workers. While these communities
are “dominated by agricultural activities,” they also exhibit “urban characteristics such as greater
social distance and anonymity among their inhabitants, a more extensive exchange of goods and
services, the division of labor and occupational diversity” (Bayat and Denis 2000). Meaning literally
“disordered” or “haphazard,” ashwa’iyyat have been the subject of much misunderstanding, scorn,
and fear (Khalifa 2011). The settlements have been a major concern for the Egyptian state, which
sees them as illegal – which, in violation of zoning laws, they often formally are – and breeding
grounds for “anomie, poverty, crime and thus political violence” (Bayat and Denis 2000). There
are a number of conflicting discourses on the rise and growth of ashwa’iyyat, and a discussion
of the most prevalent is necessary to parse out the forces responsible for the creation of these
At the forefront of the discussion on the persistence of poverty, landlessness, and hybridity
in the Egyptian countryside are international development organizations, in particular the World
Bank. The Bank’s explanation of these phenomena adheres to the tenets of neoliberal economics,
and is at once simple and attractive. Egypt’s problem is one of “geography versus demography,”
as a booming population has outstripped the ability of the land, in a country that is 96% desert,
to provide for everyone (Mitchell 2002, 209). A 1983 USAID report points out the simplicity
and logic of this explanation, indicating that the divergence of population and land availability
“is a matter of simple arithmetic” (Johnson, et. al 1983). In 1996 the World Bank kicked off a

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

21 million dollar operation called the Egypt Population Project, which, among other subprojects
and initiatives, included development programs in rural Egypt aimed to increase employment and
provide loans to rural communities (World Bank Population Project 2008). The solution to rural
poverty and landlessness, as offered up by the Bank, is to “liberalize…the market…[to improve]
the international competitiveness of the agricultural export sector” through the elimination of
price and trade interventions, with the predicted effect on employment and farm income being
“positive and very large” (World Bank 2001). The Bank’s policies, widely implemented in Egypt,
have suppressed wages by removing labor regulations and promoted further land consolidation by
eliminating caps on landholding size. The logic of this argument is that hybridity and the existence
of an informal sector is a result of the ineffective and incomplete implementation of market
capitalism, and the solution is to liberalize and strengthen Egypt’s agricultural sector, tailored
toward export, and incorporate rural populations into the formal economy.
Yet the World Bank’s logic and prescriptions are based on assumptions that have been
challenged. Critics point out that the transition from the production of food grains to animal feed
and meat production that took place between 1960 and 1990, and the consequent import of food
to make up for the lack of domestic production, were paid for through “subsidized US loans,
increased international borrowing, and an enlarged external debt,” and created the conditions for
land consolidation by foreign and domestic agribusiness (Bush 2007). In 1982 the largest 10%
of landowners controlled 47.5% of agricultural land, up from 33% in 1976, as small plots of
farmland were bought up and their owners displaced. These processes contributed to the class
of landless Egyptians, many of who were former landowners, which by 1985 was 4.3 million
strong. While the World Bank’s image of “a narrow strip of fertile land crammed with so many
millions of inhabitants” and the resulting landlessness in the Egyptian countryside is intuitive,
critics point out that in 1988 there was enough arable land, if redistributed, to provide every
Egyptian with more than the .625 acres needed to feed a family of five (Mitchell 2002, 218220). This stance asserts that the very policies that the World Bank promotes in the fight against
landlessness, poverty, and hybridity, specifically the liberalization and the opening up of Egypt’s
agrarian sector to international competition, are in fact creating the conditions for the perpetuation
of these phenomena. Uninhibited market capitalism is thus seen as the cause of landlessness and
the hybridity exemplified by the growth of ashwa’iyyat in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.


A further body of work on the growth of slums worldwide provides a broader historical and
geographic perspective on the emergence and recent growth of informal communities in Egypt.
Ashwa’iyyat, as informal communities, fall under the umbrella concept of slum, and can be seen
as part of a global pattern of rural migration to the outskirts of urban centers (Khalifa 2011).
This argument suggests that neoliberal policies promoting and facilitating mechanization, food
importation, the consolidation of landholdings, and competition with large-scale agribusiness have
pushed people from the countryside and resulted in the creation of ad hoc rural communities that
are urbanizing “in situ” (Davis 2004), which “challenge the assumption of a clear-cut rural-urban
dichotomy” (Bayat and Denis 2000). These critics claim that national and international neoliberal
interventions have “increased urban poverty and slums, [and] increased exclusion and inequality,”
and thus view neoliberalism as responsible for the creation and reproduction of landlessness and
Ashwa’iyyat (Davis 2004).
Another view critical of the mainstream explanation for the existence of Egypt’s ashwa’iyyat
is laid out in Alain de Janvry’s The Agrarian Question. De Janvry’s concept of disarticulation,
while theoretical, provides powerful explanatory contributions to the understanding of Egypt’s
economic development and peasant landlessness from the 19th century to the present day. In a
disarticulated economy in a global capitalist system, there is no domestic production of capital
goods, and the final destination for produced goods is foreign markets. Therefore the determinants
of accumulation in the modern sector, or the formal economy, are “the performance of the export
sector and the nature of the terms of trade on the international market” (Janvry 1981, 33). Given the
absence of domestic markets for produced goods, there exists no incentive for capital to increase
wages for labor, as increasing domestic purchasing power does not translate into returns to capital.
Instead, there is an objective basis for suppressing wages, as they represent only a cost to capital.
There is also an objective basis for expanding the labor force, through the incorporation of as many
laborers into the formal sector as possible, in order to create a surplus of exchangeable labor. De
Janvry refers to this process as proletarianization. The suppression of wages is made possible by
“perpetuating the subsistence [informal] economy that partially assumes the cost of maintaining
and reproducing the labor force” (Janvry 1981, 36). Thus, under social disarticulation the formal
economy depends on the existence of the informal economy. De Janvry calls this coexistence of
the formal and informal sectors functional dualism.

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

Critical Analysis
Understanding de Janvry’s concept of disarticulation is critical to an understanding of Egypt’s
ashwa’iyyat. Insofar as the other explanations for Egypt’s landlessness and the growth of
ashwa’iyyat mentioned above are successful, it is in addressing only the proximate causes of these
patterns. Certainly Egypt’s historic implementation of neoliberal policies, such as opening markets
to global competition and eliminating barriers to trade, has resulted in the mass dispossession
of the fellahin, who increasingly have flocked to informal communities springing up around the
country’s urban centers, and has been rightly indicted by critics. And the critics of these policies
do accurately identify the inconsistencies in the macroeconomic logic of neoliberalism. Yet they
miss the deeper logic driving these patterns of dispossession, one derived in the capitalist-social
relations of a disarticulated economy.
Under disarticulation, as the agrarian sector is competing in international markets, wages
are driven downward to increase profits, and the reproduction of the informal sector becomes
a necessary supplement to the formal sector’s provisioning of labor. Thus the conditions for
functional dualism are created. Yet while the formal sector relies on the existence of the traditional
sector, under the logic of capitalism in a disarticulated economy there is an objective basis for the
destruction of the traditional sector by the formal sector. In the long run, peasants are outcompeted
for access to the land by capitalist agriculture and are increasingly proletarianized as capital seeks
to increase the size of the labor pool. This process, understood by de Janvry as an “extended period
of primitive accumulation,” is one “in which a surplus is extracted from the traditional sector via
the labor and wage-foods markets and in which the traditional sector gradually decomposes while
sustaining rapid accumulation in the modern sector” (Janvry 1981, 37).
An understanding of the dynamics of disarticulation and functional dualism shed new light
onto contemporary Egypt and the country’s ashwa’iyyat. During the second half of the 20th century,
as Egypt’s ashwa’iyyat grew so did its disarticulation. Land was increasingly consolidated, and
by 1976, “94 percent of all [landowners had] less than 5 feddans [acres] each, and only .2 percent
[had] at least 50 feddans each” (USDA and USAID 1976). Capital-intensive agriculture was taking
over the countryside, and this process was occurring as Egypt’s agricultural sector transitioned to
being increasingly export-oriented. Between 1966 and 1988 grain production increased by 77%,
primarily for export, and food imports during the same time period increased by 5.9 million metric


tons (Mitchell 2002, 215). By 1974, Egypt, a country with a more than large enough productive
agricultural capacity to feed itself, was the third largest importer of food grains (Bush 2007). Partly
in response to World Bank and USAID subsidies on food imports and the provision of food aid
(Mitchell 2002, 218), Egypt continued to replace subsistence crops with crops for export. By the
end of the 20th century the World Bank declared that Egypt’s “agricultural sector [was] now a
fully private sector, operating in a market and export-oriented economy” (World Bank 2001). “The
performance of the export sector and the nature of the terms of trade on the international market”
(Janvry 1981, 33) became the primary determinants of accumulation in Egypt’s economy, but have
not yet managed to produce a windfall; in 2013 Egypt’s imports cost over $34 billion more than
the revenue generated by its exports (CIA 2014).
In Egypt today labor remains only semiproletarianized. The formal sector employs a
mere 28 million out of the country’s 87 million inhabitants. Agriculture accounts for 29% of this
formal employment, or around 8 million Egyptians, and consistent with the logic of disarticulation
wages have remained low, with the country’s GDP per capita sitting at $6,600, or 144th in the
world (CIA 2014). Formal sector employment is supplemented by the number of Egyptians who
survive, often on top of wage labor, by working agricultural land outside of the formal sector, a
number estimated to be as high as 60% of country’s total population, or 52 million people (SEMP
2005). Further, in 2006 nearly 12 million Egyptians were living in informal communities around
the country (Khalifa 2010). Egyptians working in the traditional sector create the conditions for
functional dualism, and their informal economic activities support the formal sector. Ashwa’iyyat
“function…outside the boundaries of the state and the modern bureaucratic institutions,” and,
crucially, “accommodate cheap waged labour subsidized by low-cost housing and provide basic
necessities such as affordable land and rents, and food, in particular agricultural products” (Bayat
and Denis 2000).
In spite of the importance of the informal sector to the maintenance of Egypt’s formal
economy, and consistent with de Janvry’s predictions for the chronology of functional dualism,
the Egyptian state has historically worked to incorporate these communities into the formal sector.
Ashwa’iyyat have been targeted by state and international development projects to promote
employment, subjected to stricter laws on housing and agriculture to limit community growth, and
have been demonized by the state and society, with those living in these communities ending up as

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

victims of harassment, imprisonment, and violence (O’Donnell 2010). Even the solutions offered
up by research conducted in the interest of producing “policies and strategies for improving slums’
conditions and the lives of their inhabitants” often translate into recommendations for formal
employment via the elimination of the traditional sector (Khalifa 2010). In Egypt, the tension
between the informal sector and the formal sector, which at once needs the informal sector to
exist and has an objective basis to destroy it, is a product of the country’s disarticulation, and it is
Egypt’s disarticulation that provides the logic for the ultimate causation of ashwa’iyyat.
This tension of the traditional sector did not begin in Egypt 30 years ago with the influx
of Egyptians to ashwa’iyyat and with the “growing concern that rural migration [was] laying the
groundwork for a major social explosion” (Bayat and Denis 2000) but in the 19th century, as
the Western creed of private property rights and the accompanying package of capitalist-social
relations began to march across the Egyptian landscape. As these ideals spread across the Egyptian
countryside, leaving private agricultural estates and the production of export crops in their wake,
the result was the “incorporation or erasure of political communities that occupied the margin”—
the hybrid communities not fully part of or separate from Egypt’s formal sector. These communities
lived on lands that “were seldom registered or taxed, but they often paid some collective form of
tribute,” and “were involved in agriculture but did not belong to the ‘peasantry,’” thus constituting
a traditional sector that capital could cash in on by incorporating it into the formal economy. While
these communities had lived on the land for hundreds of years, by the mid-19th century they were
targeted by elites and the state and ultimately destroyed (Mitchell 2002, 61-62).
The destruction of these informal communities resulted in their reproduction, and during
the late 19th and into the 20th century wage labor, or participation in the formal economy, did not
provide the fellahin with the means to survive. Continuing up until the present day, “land-poor
families [were] forced to search outside their property for livelihood,” managing to subsist by
“farming their own land, farming rented land, and performing agricultural wage labor…[deriving]
income or sustenance from their ownership of livestock…[and] other sources of income, such as
handicrafts or urban labor” (Brown 1990, 32-33). The traditional sector was thus reproduced and
destroyed again, only to be reproduced, and in the 21st century this process in ongoing, as Egypt’s
ashwa’iyyat grow to unprecedented size. In the search for the cause of these informal communities
one must go back to the introduction of capitalist-social relations to Egyptian society, tracing the


patterns of disarticulation and functional dualism along the way.
The Way Forward
The perception of ashwa’iyyat in Egypt has been largely negative, with the approach of the state
ranging from inadequate provisioning to outright violence and forced eviction. Changing the
perception of ashwa’iyyat as a uniform space, one dominated by “social ills,” to a response by
productive people to a lack of affordable housing is a critical first step in acquiring the public
sympathy and support necessary for improving living conditions for those in ashwa’iyyat. With
public sympathies, the state could move towards providing those living in informal communities
with “fundamental rights, such as: adequate shelter, perhaps through land titling as the recognition
of housing rights; access to services, like water and waste systems; and political voice.” But
more importantly, the Egyptian government must see those living in ashwa’iyyat as “citizens
who participate and contribute socially and economically to Egyptian society” by supporting the
existence of the formal sector. NGOs and researchers have taken up these tasks of negotiating with
the government to win titles and recognition from government and reformulating the public and
state perception of informal communities in Egypt, and their work will be crucial in the coming
decades as ashwa’iyyat continue to grow (O’Donnell 2010).
However, the tensions between the Egyptian state and ashwa’iyyat are undoubtedly
exacerbated by the country’s poverty, and this perceptional change must be accompanied
by institutional and organizational change to promote economic growth and development.
Neoliberalism has not served Egypt’s economy or its peasantry, and has accelerated the flow of
former landowners from the countryside into ashwa’iyyat. Policies promoted by international
development agencies and implemented by Egyptian governments have increased rural inequality
by facilitating the consolidation of land by agribusiness, which enjoy economies of scale and
large yields made possible by mechanization and chemical-intensive farming practices. Due to its
indebtedness to the World Bank, the Egyptian state has been required to scale back government
and cut domestic spending, and the result is a balance of trade that is firmly in the red, despite that
fact that Egypt is exporting some high value commodities as the “largest non-OPEC oil producer
in Africa and the second largest dry natural gas producer on the continent” (USEIA 2013). To
generate large revenues quickly, Egypt could nationalize its oil and natural gas industries, following
a model as set by Bolivia in the past eight years (Bottazzi & Rist 2012). This would provide

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

the state with the funds needed for development and to compensate for the inevitable financial
backlash from international development agencies and Western nations. With this funding Egypt
could begin to adopt some of the organizational structures of the developmental state, namely a
robust department of development, perhaps tied directly to the branch of government in charge
of the state’s finances, such as in the case of Botswana (Samatar 1999, 84-85); a state agency
that deals with industrial policy in order to promote the growth of domestic industry by picking
“winners,” and fosters a close relationship between government and industry; and state-funded
R&D laboratories to promote innovation (Wade 2005).
This markedly anti-neoliberal intervention into the market through the promotion of
“nationally-owned firms” could begin to build domestic industry and create articulation, where
there are “linkages…between productive sectors.” As a result, “an increase in the production of
consumptive goods [would] create an increase in the derived demand for capital goods,” and
there would exist an “objective relationship between the rate of profit and real wages, between
development of the forces of production and the rate of surplus value, and between the rate
of growth and the distribution of income” (Janvry 1981, 27-28). These policies could create
employment opportunities and generate income for Egypt’s unemployed population, as well as
stem the flow of Egyptians into ashwa’iyyat, where millions are forced to live in the margins of the
country’s economic social-relations. The dismantling of Egypt’s disarticulation after nearly 200
years of progression through the country would require a break from the country’s pro-Western
economic policies, dominant since the end of the Nasser era, and even articulated capitalism comes
with uneven development. Yet it represents a model to strive for, a way to throw off a legacy of
marginalization of the fellahin in the name of a system of social organization that for much of the
country has simply not paid out.


Bayat, A., and Eric Denis. 2000. “Who Is Afraid of Ashwaiyyat? Urban Change and Politics
in Egypt.” Environment and Urbanization 12.2: 185-99.
Bottazzi, P., and Stephan Rist. 2012. “Changing Land Rights Means Changing Society: The
Sociopolitical Effects of Agrarian Reforms under the Government of Evo Morales.” Journal of
Agrarian Change 12: 528-51.
Brown, Nathan J. 1990. Peasant Politics in Modern Egypt: The Struggle against the State.
New Haven: Yale UP.
Bush, Ray. 2007. “Politics, Power and Poverty: Twenty Years of Agricultural Reform and
Market Liberalisation in Egypt.” Third World Quarterly 28.8: 1599-615.
United States. 2014. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Egypt. (Accessed 19
Apr. 2014) <>.
Davis, Mike. 2004. “Planet of Slums.” The New Left Reivew 2.26: 5-34. Mar.-Apr. 2004.
Janvry, Alain De. 1981. “Laws of Motion and the Center-Periphery Structure: The Underlying
Forces.” The Agrarian Question and Reformism in Latin America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP:.
Johnson, Pamela R, et al. 1983. Egypt: the Egyptian American Rural Improvement Service,
a Point Four Project, 1952-63, AID Project Impact Evaluation, no. 43 (Washington, D.C.: Agency
for International Development).
Khalifa, Marwa A. 2011. “Redefining Slums in Egypt: Unplanned versus Unsafe Areas.”
Habitat International 35.1: 40-49.
Mitchell, Timothy. 2002. Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-politics, Modernity. Berkeley:
University of California Press.
O’Donnell, Shawn. 2010. “Informal Housing in Cairo: Are Ashwa’iyyat Really the Problem?”
Planning: Professional and Plan A Papers: 1-45.
Richards, Alan. 1982. Egypt’s Agricultural Development: Technical and Social Change.
Boulder: Westview.
Samatar, Abdi Ismail. 1999. An African Miracle: State and Class Leadership and Colonial
Legacy in Botswana Development. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

SEMP. 2005. Who Are The Fellahin? Publication no. 312. Washington D.C.: Suburban
Emergency Management Project.
Shoukry, Mervat Mohamed Hussein. 2013. “Defining Slums (‘Ashwa’iyyat) in Egyptian
Public Agenda-setting Process.” Thesis. The American University in Cairo. Digital Archive and
Research Repository.
USDA, and USAID. 1976. Egypt: Major Constraints to Increasing Agricultural Productivity.
Tech. no. 120. Washington D.C.
USEIA. 2013. “Country Profile: Egypt.” U.S. Energy Information Administration. U.S.
Department of Energy. (Accessed 21 Apr. 2014). <
Wade, Robert H. 2005. “Bringing the State Back In: Lessons from East Asia’s Development
Experience.” International Politics and Society: 98-115.
World Bank. 2001. Arab Republic of Egypt: Toward Agricultural Competitiveness in the 21st
Century - An Agricultural Export-Oriented Strategy. Rep. no. 3405-EGT. Washington D.C.: World
World Bank. 2008. Project Performance Assessment Report: Arab Republic of Egypt,
Population Project. Rep. no. 44465. Washington D.C.: World Bank.
World Bank. Country Profile: Egypt. Rep. 2014 World Bank. 20 Apr. 2014 <http://data.>.


The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

The US Intelligence Community and Polygraph Testing:
Examining an exercise in futility
Eric Hazoury

Is it possible to scientifically detect lies using modern technology? The United States Intelligence
Community would have you believe in the affirmative, given their unequivocal support of polygraphs for handing out and maintaining security clearances. This paper examines the use of polygraph testing and whether or not it has value in the United States intelligence community.

Is it possible to scientifically detect lies using modern technology? The United States Intelligence
Community would have you believe in the affirmative, given their unequivocal support of
polygraphs for handing out and maintaining security clearances. Popularly referred to as a lie
detector, the polygraph measures and records physiological indices while a subject is asked and
subsequently answers a series of questions. Deceptive answers are thought to provide a larger
physiological response in comparison to truthful answers. However, a mounting trove of scientific
evidence validated by Supreme Court decisions have derided the polygraph as pseudoscience and
labeled the practice invalid. Furthermore, security breaches by now infamous characters such as
Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor and Aldrich Ames, the most damaging spy to infiltrate
the CIA, have further diminished the polygraph’s supposed value to national security. Finally, a
spate of abuse allegations ranging from blatant sexual harassment to the infringement of human
rights for federal employees call into question the constitutionality of these tests, the methods of
their administration and their oversight mechanisms. Given the complications polygraph tests
pose, one may be surprised to learn that as recently as this year, Director of National Intelligence
James Clapper has called for a dramatic increase in testing at the protest of our government’s own
scientists. Through careful examination of scientific evidence, judicial cases, security breaches


and abuse allegations, a conclusion advocating for the renovation or abolishment of interagency
polygraph policy is undoubtedly viable.
Critics of the polygraph test have questioned its use for employment purposes long before
the 1998 Supreme Court decision United States v. Scheffer. In the decision banning polygraph
evidence in court, the majority provided a damning critique of polygraphy including that “there is
simply no consensus that polygraph evidence is reliable.” The Supreme Court also noted, “Unlike
other expert witnesses who testify about factual matters outside the jurors’ knowledge, such as the
analysis of fingerprints, ballistics, or DNA found at a crime scene, a polygraph expert can supply
the jury only with another opinion.” (United States v. Scheffer). The ruling relied on evidence
from scientists, witnesses and academic journals including “The Scientific Status of Research on
Polygraph Techniques: The Case Against Polygraph Tests” published by William Iacono & David
Lykken in 1997. Iacono & Lykken determined that the accuracy of a positive polygraph was barely
above 50% - akin to flipping a coin and far lower than the American Polygraph Association’s stated
value of 87% (Iacono and Lykken 1997). Additionally, Iacono & Lykken published the results of a
survey administered to fellows from the American Psychological Association (APA) and Society
for Psychophysiological Research (SPR). In the survey, the vast majority of respondents (74% of
APA responding and 91% of SPR responding) deemed the control question test (CQT) polygraph
scientifically unsound - and nearly 75% declared that it could be beaten using countermeasures
(Iacono and Lykken 1997). Iacono would later critique the underlying theory behind CQT in a
2001 University of Minnesota publication, “CQT theory is based on naive, implausible assumptions
indicating that it is biased against innocent individuals.”(Iacono 2001).
In the aftermath of United States v. Scheffer, numerous studies were commissioned by
Congress and the federal government on the polygraph’s validity for security purposes. In 2003,
The National Academies Press produced a lengthy paperback entitled “The Polygraph and Lie
Detection” detailing the National Research Council’s work on the subject. In the eighth chapter,
“Conclusions and Recommendations” the authors state:
“We have reviewed the scientific evidence on the polygraph with the goal of assessing

validity for security uses, especially those involving the screening of substantial


of government employees. Overall, the evidence is scanty and scientifically

weak. Our

conclusions are necessarily based on the far from satisfactory body of evidence

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015


polygraph accuracy, as well as basic knowledge about the physiological responses the

polygraph measures.” (National Research Council 2003).
Furthermore, researchers identify sources of error within polygraphy - in particular the
inability of examiners to directly determine the source of certain physiological responses and
to an equal extent, “uncontrolled variation in test administration (e.g., creation of the emotional
climate, selecting questions)” that may result in variations (National Research Council 2003).
Another study commissioned by the US Congress Office of Technology Assessment reached a
similar conclusion (Office of Technology Assessment United States Congress 2003). Additionally,
the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) extrapolated that a hypothetical success rate of 80% for
detecting spies (thought to be generous) would be wholly useless. The NAS concluded that in a
hypothetical screen of 10,000 employees with 10 spies, a polygraph with an 80% success rate would
depict eight spies and 1,922 non spies as having failed the test - thus 99.6% of all positives would
be false (National Research Council 2003). The findings of such studies conducted by our own
government gives one pause when considering Director Clapper’s fervent support of polygraph
tests. Summarized best by our nation’s foremost scientists, “its accuracy in distinguishing actual or
potential security violators from the innocent is insufficient to justify reliance on use in employee
security screening.” (National Research Council 2003).
Although the National Research Council admits that the polygraph has some utility in
eliciting admissions and deterring illegal activity, it is important to note that this utility is based on
the subject’s false assumption that polygraphy is scientifically valid (National Research Council
2003). That is, an inert machine with the guise of validity would accomplish the same objective.
In the long run, this poses a significant impediment to national security; an increasing proportion
of the population will come to understand the folly of these machines and techniques - antiquating
their use and providing the intelligence community with a false sense of security.
The manifestation of this false sense of security may even contribute to security breaches
of spies and disseminators of government secrets within the community. What remains certain
however, is that polygraphy is simply an ineffective method to identify potential intrusions as
such. Convicted spies including Aldrich Ames, Ana Montes, Larry Chin and Leandro Aragoncillo
all purportedly passed the polygraph multiple times while conducting espionage. Although he
began spying for the Soviet Union (later the Russian Federation) in 1985, the infamous former


CIA analyst Aldrich Ames passed the polygraph twice - in 1986 and again in 1991. In prison,
Ames reflected on his simple strategies for passing polygraph examinations: “Go into the test
rested and relaxed, be cooperative and try to maintain your calm.” and “There’s no special magic...
Confidence is what does it.” (Office of Technology Assessment United States Congress 2003). If
a polygraph examination is unable to (twice) identify an agent responsible for the executions of at
least five intelligence assets, what exactly is it’s intended purpose? In the wake of the Snowden
fiasco, Director Clapper desperately clings to this test’s supposed value as he continues to disregard
scientific merit in favor of a policy grounded in a fallacy - increasing utility of an invalid test will
lead to valid results.
Finally, the wide range of abuse allegations by participants and members of the intelligence
community further the notion that polygraph use in terms of security screening should be abolished.
Much of this harassment is attributable to senior policy officials and superiors of polygraphers who
reward their subordinates on the number of confessions they are able to elicit - no matter how
personal or frivolous. In a complaint to his superiors, one NRA polygrapher said he felt “pressured
to interrogate an employee about her sexual abuse as a child during a screening.” (Taylor 2013). In
another instance, a CIA programmer was quizzed on his volunteer work with junior high students
at his local church - down to a high-five he had given one teenager: “The examiner pressed him on
whether he was sexually involved with the teenager at church. The examiner then asked Vermette
about her bra size. When Vermette said he did not know, the examiner asked him to guess -- after
explaining bra sizes.” (Taylor 2013). Although a complaint was filed and the security clearance
eventually given, it is evident that the amount of power wielded by these interrogators, trained in
a 14-week program, is disproportionate at best. Russell Tice - a former NSA employee working
on a PhD in global security studies claims the “NSA uses polygraphs to terrorize the rank and file
of employees” and to “gather very personal information on them that they can use to blackmail
them into participating in unethical conduct.” (Flock 2012). While citizens are not entitled to jobs
and security clearances within the federal government, they are entitled to just treatment by that
The careful examination of polygraph implementation within securitization policies of
the United States Intelligence Community reveals a deeply flawed pseudoscience incapable of
fulfilling its intended purpose - being kept afloat by a theoretical fallacy. In conjunction with

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

the infringement of the rights of civilians to be denied an opportunity due to the inadequacy of a
particular instrument, one will have to consider alternative forms of background investigations.
While techniques involving functional MRI’s and “brain fingerprinting” show some promise,
an ethical line is breached when we employ invalidated practices to disqualify citizens of their
liberties. Thus, we must abandon the myth of the lie detector.


United States v. Scheffer. 1998. 523 U. S. 303.
William Iacono and David Lykken. 1997. “The Scientific Status of Research on Polygraph
Techniques: The Case Against Polygraph Tests’ in D Faigman, D Kaye, M Saks and J Sanders

(eds). Modern Scientific Evidence: The Law and the Science of Expert Testimony.

William Iacono and David Lykken. 1997. “The validity of the lie detector: two surveys of
scientific opinion”. Journal of Applied Psychology.
William Iacono. 2001. “Forensic lie detection procedures without scientific merit”.
University of Minnesota Press National Research Council. 2003. “The Polygraph and
Lie Detection”. The National Academies Press.
Office of Technology Assessment United States Congress. 2003.
“Scientific Validity of Polygraph Testing: A Research Review and Evaluation”.
University Press of the Pacific.
Marisa Taylor. 2013. “After criticism, Obama officials quietly craft new polygraph
policy”. McClatchyDC.
Elizabeth Flock. 2012 “NSA Whistleblower Reveals How To Beat a Polygraph Test”.
US News and World Report.

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

The Legality of the Raid on Usama bin Laden
Maura Guyler

The United States has been engaged in an unconventional war with al-Qaeda since 2001,
following the attacks on the World Trade Center. On May 2nd 2011, Navy SEAL Team 6 raided a
compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, ultimately killing Usama bin Laden (UBL). This paper looks
at the legality of this operation against UBL, by examining international and domestic legislation,
as well as legal commentary and news reports. This paper proves the legality of the raid on UBL’s
compound. It demonstrates that Pakistani sovereignty was not violated, the US had the right
authority to undertake this raid and UBL’s position as an enemy combatant permitted the Navy
SEALs to kill him. This raid serves as a point from which policy makers should consider reworking
the laws governing war to better address the changing nature of warfare and technology.

At 8:46 AM on September 11th 2001, American Airlines flight 11 crashed into the North Tower
of the World Trade Center. Twenty-three minutes later United Airlines flight 175 hit the South
Tower. Two other planes were hijacked that day, with American Airlines flight 77 crashing into
the Pentagon, and United Airlines flight 93 heroically grounded in Pennsylvania. September 11th
marked the first foreign-born attack on US soil since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, sparking the
decade-long manhunt, by the United States and NATO, for UBL, the mastermind behind these attacks and the head of al-Qaeda. On May 2nd 2011, two U.S. Navy Black Hawk helicopters, carrying Navy SEAL Team 6, crossed from Afghanistan into Pakistan destined for a fortified compound
in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Forty minutes later, the most-wanted terrorist in the world was confirmed
dead and the SEALs safely returned to Afghanistan, with all the information stored in this compound. At 11:35 PM Eastern Standard Time, President Obama reported to the American public,
“justice had been done.” This operation, officially known as Operation Neptune Spear (ONS), was
one of the most high-stakes raids undertaken in the last decade, and was generally viewed as a
success. However, the Pakistani government claimed their national sovereignty was violated as
they had not been given warning of this raid. This claim raised questions as to the legality of ONS.
I argue that ONS was legal under international and US domestic law because Pakistani sovereignty was not violated, the US can authorize a targeted operation, and killing UBL was permitted in
accordance with the laws of war. The discussion of law and legal commentary will be divided into
three sections, each addressing the legal elements critical in this case: sovereignty, authority to
undertake a targeted operation, and the legality of killing UBL. All three of these elements must
be satisfied for the overall operation to be considered legal. Only once it was determined that Pakistani sovereignty was not violated could any discussion occur regarding which type of operation


should be undertaken. Determining authority to carry out a targeted mission and authority to kill
UBL draws upon similar laws and principles. In this case, past precedent is important to establish
legality. The Geneva Conventions, written immediately following World War II, are the primary
laws governing war; since then the nature of war, technology, and combatants has changed significantly. Interstate conflict is no longer conventional and common warfare. Navy SEALs were not
established until the Vietnam War. The most recent authorization of force against al-Qaeda was in
2001. As they are written, many of the specifics of law are outdated, but the ways in which these
have been applied in a modern context remain true.

I will address three propositions, each incorporating a legal element mentioned above.
These propositions are as follows:
Proposition 1: Pakistan was deemed unwilling or unable to carry out its responsibilities as a state,
thus negating its sovereignty and allowing for international intervention.
Proposition 2: This targeted operation was a legal act of war in accordance with the Geneva Convention and the Authorization of Military Force Act of 2001(AUMF).
Proposition 3: The Navy SEALs were permitted to kill UBL at the end of this raid because bin
Laden’s position as commander of Al-Qaeda qualified him as an enemy combatant.
ONS was the culmination of years of active warfare, military operations and intelligence gathering. To develop this legal case, I will present the pertinent international and domestic legislation,
followed by an analysis. I will then demonstrate ONS’s adherence to the law, by drawing upon
commentary of White House officials and legal advisers. The legality of this case is also heavily
dependent upon accepted legal principles derived from cases analogous to ONS.

The international legislation included addresses ONS and its adherence to international
humanitarian law, human rights law, and jus in bello. United States domestic legislation presents
ONS as a legal act of war in the authorized, armed conflict against al-Qaeda. US military codes distinguish between the jurisdiction of United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), the
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the difference between covert and clandestine operations.
Based upon the legal framework, and the facts of its execution, ONS was legal. To further bolster
the legality of this case, I will draw upon the commentary of Harold Koh, current Legal Adviser of
the Department of State and John Bellinger, former Legal Adviser of the Department of State from
their speeches about the legality of targeted operations.

This method of qualitative research focuses on the application of codified legal principles
as they relate to sovereignty, right authority, and targeted killings. However, the text of this legislation is not highly specific; just as the case for ONS’s legality is built off the application of certain
legal principles, these same principles can be applied in a different manner thereby creating a different argument. The intended argument directly impacts which law, and how, it will be applied.
However, overall, by examining a broad spectrum of legislation and legal commentary, ONS is
correctly viewed as legal.

As previously mentioned, all three propositions must be proven true. Proposition 1 addresses national sovereignty, and the threshold at which a state forfeits its sovereignty. Proposition 2
addresses whether a unilateral, targeted mission by the US is legal. Proposition 3 addresses UBL’s
status as an enemy combatant and its impact on the legality of killing UBL. The legal evidence
is divided into classifications as international or domestic; international legislation and analysis

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

is presented first, followed by domestic legislation. Although this paper argues that the bin Laden raid was legal, where applicable, counterarguments will be presented. The primary argument
against the legality of this raid stems from the shift in jurisdiction from the Department of Defense
(DoD) to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in order for this to be a covert operation.

The international legislation referenced in this paper is the UN Charter and the Geneva
Conventions. The domestic legislation referenced includes the AUMF and Executive Order 12333.
Although there is no shortage of evidence on this raid, there are some limitations. Firstly, this operation involved both USSOCOM and the CIA, both entities that operate in the shadows and engage
in highly classified operations. Many of the legal codes that authorize their actions are classified,
thus we do not have access to all of the pertinent legislation in this case. Secondly this operation is
commonly viewed as successful and justified; arguments critical of ONS’s legality, while may be
legitimate, are usually dismissed. Finally, the wording of the law is vague, allowing for numerous
different interpretations and legal justifications from one piece of legislation.
Results and Discussion:
Proposition 1: Pakistani Sovereignty

Firstly, I will address whether ONS violated Pakistani sovereignty. I argue that Pakistan
was deemed unwilling or unable to carry out its responsibilities as a state, thus negating its sovereignty and allowing for international intervention. This proposition makes heavy use of the “unwilling/unable” test, which permits intervention against a host state when it is determined that the
state is unwilling or unable to stop a threat within its borders. Two further questions stem from this.
Firstly, was Pakistan truly unwilling or unable to stop the threat posed by UBL, a known leader
of an international terrorist organization? Secondly, based upon the US authorization for the War
on Terror, was Pakistan a “hot battlefield”, where “hot battlefield” is defined as a location that is
considered an active theater of war?

National sovereignty is codified in Article 2, paragraph 4 of the UN Charter; “All Members
shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial
integrity or political independence of any state.” Use of force against another sovereign state is
only permitted following a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Chapter 7 resolution, or in
the case of immediate self-defense. Even when engaging in war under self-defense, a state must
bring its case to the UNSC for support. Pakistan’s claim that their sovereignty was violated by an
“unauthorized, unilateral action” was valid; the UNSC didn’t pass a resolution and the US did not
bring this self-defense case to the Security Council (Deeks 2011).
However, under customary international law, if a host state fails the unwilling or unable test,
another nation may use force to address the threat within that state’s borders (Deeks 2011). It
is a state’s responsibility to ensure that terrorists are not using its territory as a base by which to
launch attacks (Bellinger 2006). Even further, Ashley Deeks, former Assistant Legal Adviser for
Political Military Affairs at the Department of State, argues that the unwilling or unable test does
not need to be applied in circumstances where “there is strong evidence that the sovereign territory
is working with the non-state actor” or “where there is sufficient evidence that the territorial state
may tipoff the threat.” Pakistan failed to demonstrate that it was willing and had the capacity to
address the threat posed by UBL. Pakistan’s internal sovereignty, specifically in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), has been challenged by non-state actors and transnational terrorist
organizations; the FATA are known for their heavy presence of terrorist activity.
According to CIA director Leon Panetta, the Pakistanis were not informed of ONS because of fear


they “could jeopardize the mission” (Ross, Patel, and Ferran 2011). This fear was not unfounded. Wikileaks revealed evidence that the Pakistani government was complicit in protecting UBL.
While in Pakistan, UBL was impossible to track because the Pakistani security forces alerted UBL
whenever the United States forces closed in on his location (Ross 2011). Other evidence revealed
Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) had previously smuggled al-Qaeda operatives through
airport security (Ross 2011). Finally, the US received warning from the Tajik government, that
“many” inside Pakistan knew of UBL’s location (Ross 2011). Even more uncertainty surrounds
how UBL lived, supposedly undetected, for five years a mile from the Pakistani Military Academy
and a military base (Ross, Patel, and Ferran 2011). American security analyst Raelynn Hillhouse
revealed her informant within Pakistan “claimed that the Saudis were paying off the Pakistani
military and intelligence (ISI) to essentially shelter and keep bin Laden under house arrest in Abbottabad, a city with such a high concentration of military that I’m told there’s no equivalent in
the U.S. (Crilly 2011). Thus Pakistan’s actions, whether intentional or unintentional, were enough
evidence needed to legalize a raid without consent of the Pakistani government.

Determining whether or not Pakistan is a hot battlefield requires a reading of the AUMF
official authorization for the use of force against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in response to the attacks on September 11, 2001. According to the AUMF in the War on Terror, the President has the
authority to use:
“All necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines
planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001,
or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons” (United States).

Eliminating the threat posed by al-Qaeda and capturing those responsible for the attacks
on September 11 requires hunting down al-Qaeda operatives, no matter the location. Bellinger
is quoted saying “There is no principle of international law that limits a state’s ability to act in
self-defense to a single territory when the threat comes from areas outside that territory as well”
(Bellinger 2006). Conflict with al-Qaeda has crossed national boundaries before. In 2002, Qaed
Salim Sinan al-Harethi, an al-Qaeda operative linked with USS Cole bombing, was killed in Yemen as part of a covert, targeted operation. In response, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
stated, “We will fight the war on terrorism wherever we need to fight the war on terrorism” (Friedman 2012).

The AUMF authorizes action against any countries that “harbored organizations or persons” supporting UBL. The US invaded Afghanistan after the Afghani Taliban refused to assist the
US and hand over UBL. There is evidence indicating Pakistan was complicit in harboring UBL;
Pakistan was thereby considered a “hot battlefield”.

Additionally, US covert operations in Pakistan were not new; rather ONS was controversial because its result became public. Leaked embassy cables revealed US Special Operations
Forces (SOF) had been, and continually are, secretly operating alongside Pakistani authorities in
the FATA in order to hunt down Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders (Walsh 2010). This is in accordance
with US military rules of engagement which permit unauthorized “entry into Pakistan (PAK) for
hot pursuit of al-Qaeda, Taliban, and terrorist command-and-control targets from Afghanistan into
Pakistan” (Lindlaw, 2007). US military protocol in the War on Terror also preemptively authorizes
any military action against the Big 3, Osama bin Laden, Ayman-al Zawahiri, and Mullah Omar
(Lindlaw, 2007).

Pakistan is a legitimate battlefield. Military action was permitted in Pakistan because, un-

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

der the AUMF, the US War on Terror is fought wherever the members of Al-Qaeda are. Pakistan’s
designation as a hot battlefield was critical in determining its legality. For if Pakistan were not a hot
battlefield, a military operation against UBL would’ve been illegal; any action taken against UBL
must’ve taken the form of a law enforcement operation (Deeks 2011).

The two major questions regarding whether or not ONS was legal in its relation to Pakistani sovereignty addresses Pakistan’s ability to handle UBL and Pakistan’s designation as a hot
battlefield. For the US, enough credible evidence was presented to demonstrate Pakistan, whether
intentionally or not, was unable to take action against bin Laden. Thus international intervention
was permitted. For the security of the operation and all those involved, alerting Pakistan was too
high of a risk. Secondly, the War on Terror marks the changing nature of war from conflict between
states to conflict between states and transnational actors. Thus in order to successfully combat
al-Qaeda and its affiliates, the battle must occur where al-Qaeda members are located. Under both
international and US domestic law, Pakistani sovereignty was not violated.
Element 2: Right Authority

Is a targeted operation against an individual a legal act of war? This targeted operation was
a legal act of war in accordance with the Geneva Convention and the AUMF. When making this
argument, I only address the legality of a targeted mission, not the authority to kill UBL. First,
ONS was carried out with a “right” intention, in accordance with the mandate of the UN Charter.
Second, the US had the correct authority to undertake this type of mission. It is important to note
that ONS was CIA-led, but executed by members of SEAL Team 6. Navy SEAL Teams are generally under the command of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), within USSOCOM.

The US had right intentions and a just cause when crafting this operation. ONS was executed in accordance with Article 1, Paragraph 1 of the UN Charter which states that the primary
aim is to “remove threats to the peace” (Charter of the United Nations). Removing the head of a
known terrorist organization is a right intention for military action; US and international security
was compromised as long as UBL remained in his position as the leader of al-Qaeda. Even after the
attacks on September 11, UBL remained committed to attacking the United States. As the United
States prepped for the Battle of Tora Bora along the Afghanistan/Pakistan (AFPAK) border in December 2001, radio intercepts revealed bin Laden speaking to those present with him saying, “The
time is now. Arm your women and your children against the infidel” (Walters, 2011). The “infidel”
UBL was referring to, in this case, was the United States. Furthermore, ONS was self-defense in
response to the attacks on September 11 (Koh 2011). This delay in action is attributed to the need
for credible and workable intelligence. Additionally, the AUMF grants the United States the right
to take self-defense measures to protect US citizens, in the homeland and abroad.

The CIA is the only branch of the US military permitted to carry out covert operations.
Covert operations cannot be traced back to the US government, and are often associated with an
element of illegality. ONS was under CIA command, with personnel from SOCCOM, classifying
this as a covert operation. Did the president authorize this operation covertly because as a military
operation it was illegal? The US military is expected to follow the Geneva Conventions and the
laws of war; the CIA is not. Neither the US government nor the military could be found responsible
for ordering an assassination. Conversely, was this operation executed covertly out of an abundance of caution? This raid was highly sensitive and the operation could have been jeopardized
had it not been classified above top secret. Additionally, had this operation passed all the legal
checks, but failed either due to faulty intelligence or some other reason, the US government would
have been free from the uproar that surely would have followed. While the concern of illegality


may have resulted in the shuffling of jurisdiction, ultimately the operation as it was executed, was
conducted under the correct authority, and was conducted right intentions.
Element 3: Legality of killing

As a result of the raid, was the SEAL team allowed to kill UBL under the laws of war?
This question is answered by determining UBL’s status as an enemy combatant or as a hors de
combat. This section also clarifies that ONS was not an assassination. My third argument is the
Navy SEALs were permitted to kill UBL because bin Laden’s position as commander of al-Qaeda
qualified him as an enemy combatant.

The Geneva Conventions are the universal documents dictating laws of war. All four of the
Geneva Conventions contain Article 3, ensuring the protection of hors de combat. This is a primary
principle of international human rights law. As its written in the Geneva Conventions, a hors de
combat is defined as:
“(a) Anyone who is in the power of an adverse party
(b) Anyone who is clearly defenseless because of unconsciousness, shipwreck, wounds or sickness; or
(c) Anyone who clearly expresses an intention to surrender” (Geneva Conventions of 1949 and
their Additional Protocols)
In addition to Article 3, protection of hors de combat is guaranteed under Article 41 of Protocol
1 to the Geneva Convention (Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols). The
first two conditions of attaining hors de combat status do not apply in this case. However, had
UBL surrendered, it would’ve been illegal to kill him, as provided by the third condition of hors
de combat status.

Geneva 3 Article 21 permits a belligerent nation to detain individuals and prevent them
from re-entering combat if still deemed a threat. UBL’s ability to orchestrate attacks on the United
States and its assets abroad was a threat to American and international security. Restricting UBL’s
capacity to remain as the head of al-Qaeda was an imperative aspect of US counterterrorism policy.
The instructions of “capture or kill” would allow for the US to detain bin Laden and remove him
from his status as a leader. Initially, Reuters journalist Mark Hosenball reported that the SEALs
were operating under kill orders (Scherer 2011). This was quickly countered when a White House
official clarified the US capture or kill protocol for targeted missions against high-value targets.
This official commented, “No U.S. forces go in and if someone surrenders to them, will kill them”
(Scherer 2011). This is not to say there was no expectation of resistance. White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan commented, “We certainly were planning for the possibility, which
we thought was going to be remote. If we had the opportunity to take him alive we would’ve done
that”(Scherer 2011).

During the raid, UBL did not surrender and there are some accounts stating UBL fired at
the SEALs. While he was unarmed when found in the top room, the official reports states he used
a civilian as a human shield and lunged for a weapon (Ferran 2012). After being attacked during
the raid, the SEALs were permitted to fire in self-defense. In this case, it is also important to note
that the Prisoner of War and hors de combat protections of the Geneva Conventions do not apply
to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Al-Qaeda and Taliban are classified as unlawful combatants because
they do not openly carry weapons, wear a recognizable uniform or respect the laws and customs of
war (Bellinger 2006).

Finally, despite UBL being killed, ONS was not an assassination. Suspicion that ONS was
a cover for an assassination increased due to heavy CIA involvement. Yet, Article 12.11 mandates:

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

“No person employed or acting on behalf of the US government shall engage in an assassination.”
(United States). Harold Koh distinguishes between an assassination, and this type of targeted mission: “A state that is in an armed conflict or in legitimate self-defense is not required to provide
targets with legal process before the state may use lethal force”(Friedman 2011). The AUMF of
2001 established that the United States was in a legal armed conflict with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

After Anwar Al-Awlaki, a US citizen, was killed in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder presented three criteria that needed to be satisfied to permit a US targeted
killing against an American citizen. These criteria can be applied in the justification of a targeted
killing of a non-American engaged in armed conflict with the United States. These qualifications,
as Eric Holder states, include:
“First, the US government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual
poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; second, capture is not feasible; and third, the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with the applicable law of
war principles”(Coll 2012)

Additionally, this is not the first mention of a targeted operation against UBL. Following
the al-Qaeda orchestrated bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the
United States immediately responded with cruise missiles at UBL’s training camps in Afghanistan.
President Bill Clinton also authorized “covert operations to capture the al-Qaeda leader if possible,
and kill him, if necessary” (Friedman 2011). This use of force was legally permitted as the U.S.
argued that acting against al-Qaeda was “pre-emptive self defense” because they were the victims
of the planned embassy attacks (Friedman 2011). There is no indication that this military authorization was ever overwritten; this authorization was still active when ONS was conducted.

Finally, this targeted mission and UBL’s subsequent death raises ethical questions as well
as legal ones. States have extra-territorial human rights obligations, the most important of which is
to limit the number of civilian casualties. Targeted killings, whether through use of SOF or drone
technology, have become a subject of debate among human rights activists. I am not arguing that
all targeted operations are legal and/or ethical; however, ONS satisfies the distinction and proportionality aspect of just war theory. When interviewed post-ONS, CIA director Leon Panetta
stated proportionality and distinction were taken into account when planning this raid. Options
of B-2 bombing raids or cruise missiles were on the table as possible methods of action, yet were
ultimately disregarded because there was “too much collateral” (Calabresi 2011). Al-Qaeda employs techniques making targeted strikes more humane and proportional. For example, al-Qaeda
hides among the civilian population and uses civilians as their shield. When taking action against
UBL, an ONS-style targeted mission is more humane and proportional than a large-scale air raid
or ground invasion of Pakistan. At the conclusion of ONS, only 4, including UBL, of the 20 individuals in the compound in Abbottabad were killed.

Operation Neptune Spear, under the CIA’s direction, executed by members of Navy SEAL
Team 6, was a legal targeted raid against an enemy commander and a threat to international security. Questions of the legality of the raid on Usama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad were
sparked by Pakistan’s claim that its national sovereignty had been violated. This paper seeks to
make a case that the raid on UBL’s compound was a legal act of war. The primary evidence in
this case is international and domestic legislation. However, rather than looking at the specific
wording of the legislation, to answer this question, I looked at the way in which the guiding principles behind the law are applied in this circumstance. This type of legal analysis is a byproduct of


the evolution of warfare and technology, juxtaposed with the stagnant legislation. Three separate
legal elements must have been satisfied in order for this raid to be considered legal. First, Pakistani sovereignty must not have been violated. Second, the United States must have had just cause
when undertaking this targeted mission. Third, UBL must be an enemy combatant, and not have
achieved hors de combat status.

Additionally, Pakistani sovereignty was not violated. Based upon the unwilling and unable
test, international intervention was permitted to address the threat posed by UBL. Additionally,
based upon the US authorizations for force, the War on Terror has no territorial limitations. Thus,
Pakistan is a valid battlefield. The United States is permitted to carry out a targeted operation
because it was constructed to help preserve international peace and security by removing the head
of a known terrorist organization, which is an act in accordance with the principles of the United
Nations. UBL was an enemy commander of an organization with which the United States was engaged in a legal armed conflict. Laws of war permit the targeting of an enemy commander in active
war. Finally, this mission satisfied the jus in bello criteria of distinction and proportionality.

However, this raid demonstrates the changing nature of warfare and indicates that the legislation governing warfare needs to be updated. Controversy ensued following this operation, and the
United States did not publicly outline the legal justifications for this raid. With much of the public
unaware of why this operation was legal, rumors about assassination began to circulate. Al-Qaeda,
while continuing to evolve, has not changed its tactics; they continue to immerse themselves in
civilian populations and engage in unconventional warfare. Two of the Big 3 high value targets
in the War on Terror, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mullah Omar remain at large. It is not unrealistic to
assume that any operation to capture either of these two will resemble ONS, or take the form of
a drone strike. The debate of the legality of drone strikes and targeted missions is ongoing; both
domestic and international policymakers need to re-work authorizations of force. Updated laws
of war are necessary to account for the changing nature of war and technology, focusing on permitting operations that are designed to be effective, but limit the danger to civilians and collateral
damage. This re-working of legislation would recognize that, in conflict against non-state actors,
targeted operations are more appropriate than conventional warfare, because of their adherence to
jus in bello criteria.

The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

Bellinger, John B., III. 2006 “Legal Issues in the War on Terrorism.” Speech at London
School of Economics. London.
Calabresi, Massimo. 2011. “CIA Chief: Pakistan Would Have Jeopardized bin Laden Operation.”
Time Magazine. May 3.
“Charter of the United Nations.” United Nations.
Coll, Steve. 2012. “Kill or Capture.” The New Yorker. August 2.
Crilly, Rob. 2011. “Osama bin Laden ‘protected by Pakistan in return for Saudi cash.” The Telegraph. August 10.
Deeks, Ashley S. 2011. “Pakistan’s Sovereignty and the Killing of Osama bin Laden.” American
Society of International Law 15.11 (May).
Ferran, Lee. 2012. “Former SEAL: Why We Shot Osama bin Laden on Sight.” ABC News. September 10.
Friedman, Uri. 2012. “Targeted Killings: A Short History.” Foreign Policy. August 13. http://www.
International Committee on the Red Cross. “Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional
Koh, Harold Honju. 2011 “The Lawfulness of the U.S. Operation Against Osama bin Laden.”
Opinio Juris. May 19.
Lindlaw, Scott. 2007 “AP: U.S. Gave Troops OK To Enter Pakistan.” Associated Press. August 23.
Ross, Brian, Avni Patel, and Lee Ferran. 2011. “Osama bin Laden Killed: U.S. Intelligence Probes
Possible Pakistani Support System.” ABC News. May 3. April 25.
Ross, Tim. 2011. “Wikileaks: Osama bin Laden ‘Protected’ by Pakistani Security.” The Telegraph.
May 2.
Scherer, Michael. 2011. “Official: bin Laden Mission Was Kill or Capture, Not Just Kill.” Time
Magazine. May 2.
United States. Cong. Senate. Authorization for the Use of Military Force. S.J. Res. 107. Washington: GPO, 2001.
Walsh, Declan. 2010. “Wikileaks Cables: US Special Forces Working Inside Pakistan.” The Guardian. November 30.
Walters, Guy. 2011. “Bin Laden’s great escape: How the world’s most wanted man made fools
of elite troops who’d trapped him in his mountain lair.” DailyMail. April 30.


The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015


The Journal of Politics and International Affairs | Spring 2015

Submission of Manuscripts
The Journal of Politics and International Affairs (JPIA) welcomes submissions from
undergraduates and graduates of any school, class, or major. We seek to publish manuscripts of
the highest quality and papers selected for publication are generally exceptionally written, with
well-developed theses, and exhibit articulate arguments with original analysis. Submissions can
include opinion pieces, short policy analysis, and book reviews.
Papers are typically 10-20 pages in length and have been written for an upper-level course.
Shorter argumentative and current events papers will also be considered for publication.
Manuscripts for consideration should include an abstract of approximately 150 words. Citations
and references should follow the American Policial Science Association Style Manual for Political
Science. All references must be complete, accurate, and up-to-date for submissions to be
considered. References in manuscripts should be sumbitted in the form of footnotes.
Those who submit papers may be asked to revise their manuscript before and after it is accepted
for publication. Submissions must be in the form of a Microsoft Word document and should
be e-mailed to Please include name, university, a shourt biography,
and contact details (mailing address, e-mail address, and phone number). Although papers are
encouraged and accepted on a rolling basis, they will only be considered for publication during
each publication cycle.