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Rethinking Peace and Conflict Studies

Series Editor: Oliver P. Richmond, Professor, School of International Relations,

University of St. Andrews, UK
Editorial Board: Roland Bleiker, University of Queensland, Australia; Henry F.
Carey, Georgia State University, USA; Costas Constantinou, University of Keele,
UK; A.J.R. Groom, University of Kent, UK; Vivienne Jabri, King’s College
London, UK; Edward Newman, University of Birmingham, UK; Sorpong Peou,
Sophia University, Japan; Caroline Kennedy-Pipe, University of Sheffield, UK;
Professor Michael Pugh, University of Bradford, UK; Chandra Sriram,
University of East London, UK; Ian Taylor, University of St. Andrews, UK;
Alison Watson, University of St. Andrews, UK; R.B.J. Walker, University of
Victoria, Canada; Andrew Williams, University of St. Andrews, UK.

Titles include:
Roland Bleiker
Morgan Brigg
Responding to Difference
Susanne Buckley-Zistel
Remembering after Violence
Karina Zofia Butler
Jason Franks
Vivienne Jabri
James Ker-Lindsay
Roger Mac Ginty
Hybrid Forms of Peace
Roger Mac Ginty
The Rejuvenation of Stalled Peace Processes and Peace Accords
Carol McQueen
Iraq, Bosnia and Rwanda
Audra L. Mitchell
Violent Peace and Peaceful Conflict in Northern Ireland

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Sorpong Peou
Cambodia and Beyond
Sergei Prozorov
The Limits of Integration
Oliver P. Richmond
Bahar Rumelili
Chandra Lekha Sriram
Power-Sharing, Armed Groups and Contemporary Peace Negotiations
Stephan Stetter
Reconstructions in Regional Politics

Rethinking Peace and Conflict Studies

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International Peacebuilding
and Local Resistance
Hybrid Forms of Peace

Roger Mac Ginty

Reader, School of International Relations,
University of St Andrews, UK

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© Roger Mac Ginty 2011
All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission of this
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A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Mac Ginty, Roger, 1970–
International peacebuilding and local resistance : hybrid forms of
peace / Roger Mac Ginty.
p. cm.
Includes index.
ISBN 978–0–230–27376–4 (alk. paper)
1. Peace-building. 2. Nation-building. 3. Government, Resistance to.
I. Title.
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Printed and bound in Great Britain by
CPI Antony Rowe, Chippenham and Eastbourne

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For Mrs Mac Ginty and Patrick

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List of Illustrations viii

List of Abbreviations ix

Acknowledgements x

Introduction 1

1 The Liberal Peace 19

2 Indigenous Peacebuilding 47

3 Hybridity 68

4 Hybrid Security: Afghanistan 91

5 Hybrid Economy: Iraq 115

6 Hybrid Statebuilding: Bosnia 134

7 Hybrid Governance: Lebanon 158

8 Hybrid Civil Society: Northern Ireland 183

Conclusion 207

References 213

Index 237


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1 Origin and gender of presenters at the 2008 and 2010

International Studies Association Conventions 5
2 Origin and gender of contributors to leading peace and
conflict journals, 1999–2009 5
3 Percentage electoral turnout in selected parliamentary
elections after peace accords 8
4 Indigenous versus international peacebuilding 54


1 The hybrid peace 9

2 An overly stylised liberal peace ‘silo’ or transmission chain 33
3 Overlaps and non-overlaps between the local and the
international 88


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ADR alternative dispute resolution

BiH Bosnia-Herzegovina
CIA Central Intelligence Agency (US)
CPA Coalition Provisional Authority (in Iraq)
DDR demobilisation, disarmament, and reintegration
GDP gross domestic product
IBL institutionalisation before liberalisation
IFOR Implementation Force (NATO)
ILO International Labour Organisation
IMF International Monetary Fund
INGO international non-governmental organisation
IRA Irish Republican Army
ISAF International Security Assistance Force
LCY League of Communists of Yugoslavia
LTA Lebanese Transparency Association
NARP National Administrative Rehabilitation Programme
NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
NGO non-governmental organisation
OECD Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
OHR Office of the High Representative (UN)
OMSAR Office of Minister of State for Administrative Reform
OSCE Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
SFOR Stabilization Force (NATO)
SFRY Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
SSR security sector reform
UNDP United Nations Development Programme


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I am immensely grateful to all those who have eased the passage of this
work. My first debt of gratitude is owed to those who put up with my
presence and tiresome questions during the fieldwork. The whole prac-
tice of fieldwork is often yet another imposition on people who just
want to get on with their lives. Other debts are due to my colleagues
and students at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the School
of International Relations, University of St Andrews, who have helped
shape my thoughts on how we approach contemporary peacemaking.
Thanks are due to Alison Watson, Andrew Williams, Emily Pia, Gurch
Sanghera, Ian Taylor, Jaremey McMullin, and Stefanie Kapler. Past and
present PhD students, and students on the MLitt in Peace and Conflict
Studies course, deserve special mention for stretching my knowledge
and exposing the holes in my assumptions. Thanks are also due to my
School of International Relations colleagues Fiona Oviatt, Gillian
Fleming, John Anderson, Mary Kettle, Wendy Boyter, and Yee-Kuang
Heng, who have made life easier (most of the time).
Outwith St Andrews, Alp Őzerdem, David Chandler, Elida Jacobsen,
John Heathershaw, Kristofer Liden, Mike Pugh, Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh,
and Tim Jacoby have all contributed to my thinking on this topic. Abdul
Hai Sofizada, Audra Mitchell, Cathy Gormley-Heenan, Christine
Hamieh, Kris Brown, Gráinne Kelly, Malaiz Daud, Neil Best, and Sean
Byrne were very kind in reading draft chapters. Obviously all omissions
and errors are mine. Oliver Richmond deserves special mention for his
encouragement, and as many of the ideas in this work are shamelessly
‘borrowed’ from him. As always, John Darby’s sage wisdom, generous
humour, and friendship are appreciated. I am very grateful to St Andrews
Peace and Conflict MLitt student Surabhi Agrawal for drawing the dia-
grams. St Andrews undergraduate students Caroline Hargreaves,
Cassandra Howe, Catie Serex, Chris Martin, Christine Grant, Claire Mc
Haffie, Erika Freyr, Julia Watson, Laura Sharkey, Laura Thompson, Sheila
Gregson, and Stephanie Twigg undertook the gargantuan task of wad-
ing through ISA convention directories and a decade’s worth of journals
to provide the data for Tables 1 and 2. Thanks are due to Hilda McNae,
a wonderful librarian at St Andrews, and to Liz Blackmore and Christina
Brian at Palgrave, and Vidhya Jayaprakash at Newgen. European Union
Seventh Framework Programme grant 266931, ‘Cultures of governance

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Acknowledgements xi

and conflict resolution in Europe and India’, allowed me to grapple with

many of the issues covered in this book. In the real world (and there is
one out there), very many people have provided much-needed distrac-
tion. I am especially indebted to the people of Tweedyland, who have
been all too generous in providing distraction. Prominent in this regard
has been Dave Taylor, with his invaluable advice on onion growing.

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We are all hybrids. Our polities, societies, and economies are the result
of long processes of hybridisation. Our cultures are intertwined. The
story of human development contains much mixing of norms and prac-
tices. Individuals, societies, and institutions engage in everyday conflict
management or the quiet recognition of the legitimacy and rights of
others, and in the process recognise the hybridity of society. The evi-
dence of our mixing is in our DNA. Yet, despite this evidence, many
accounts of human social and political behaviour emphasise particu-
larism, or the uniqueness of groups. Whether through national stere-
otypes, essentialist descriptions of particular groups, or the use of lazy
catch-all categories, there is a widespread tendency in the academic,
media, and policy worlds to over-homogenise groups. Conflicts are often
presented as though they are between homogeneous dyads: the interna-
tional community versus the Taliban, the government of Yemen versus
Islamists, Basque separatists versus the Spanish government. Consider
the first of these examples. The term ‘international community’ is used
with promiscuity, yet few stop to ask questions about the membership
of this ‘community’. Whom does it actually represent? Similarly, many
Afghans are confused by the western use of the term ‘Taliban’, which
conflates a heterogeneous range of groups into a single category.
This book is purposively normative and aims to contribute to the
radical critique of dominant forms of peacemaking and peacebuild-
ing intervention. There is little point in being timid in speaking about
peace. Peace, and the ways in which we study it, demands urgent
review. To a certain extent, this review of peace as a practice and a
concept is already under way in the form of vigorous debates between
critics of internationally sponsored peace interventions and those who
defend peace. But, as we will see, these debates are prone to caricature,

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2 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

and often the blasts and counter-blasts from each side fail to connect
with each other. This book hopes to contribute, in a modest way, to
the critique on approaches to peace but hopes to do so in a way that is
Much of this book is driven by a concern that we have an incom-
plete understanding of peace and conflict environments. In turn, par-
tial understandings have implications for how we understand conflict
actors and assess their claims. This work seeks to counter three recurring
deficiencies in our understandings of violent conflict. Firstly, there is
a tendency in much academic and policy literature to produce overly
neat analyses of conflicts. These conflict summaries often conform to a
linear timeline, are organised around a small list of conflict issues such
as ‘drugs’ or ‘ethnicity’, and have a neat ‘cast list’ of actors. Secondly,
accounts of conflict are often too static, focused on the apparently
unchanging nature of attitudes and the almost timeless antipathy that
conflict actors have towards each other. Thirdly, dominant accounts of
conflict are often top-down or overly restricted to principal actors such
as governments and armed groups. As a result, the agency and diversity
of local-level actors are often overlooked. This book recommends the
concepts of hybridity and hybridisation as a way of overcoming hegem-
onic narratives of conflict and internationally supported peace interven-
tions. The lenses offered by hybridity and hybridisation promise more
nuanced understandings of conflict and peace interventions. In particu-
lar, they encourage us to critically question the contents and fixity of
categories, and to be aware of the fluidity of conflicts and their actors.
The deployment of hybridity and hybridisation seeks to counter two
other trends that have been discernible in the academic literature on
peace and conflict in recent years. The first trend has been the ten-
dency of critiques of the liberal peace (or the dominant form of inter-
nationally sponsored peace-support intervention) to award this form
of peacemaking excessive coherence and power. Certainly the liberal
peace is capable of projecting its power over wide areas, and it is able
to interfere in many aspects of life in societies emerging from violent
conflict. Yet, as the case studies in this book illustrate, the liberal peace
also has ‘feet of clay’. It is prone to distraction, suffers from shortages of
material and social capital, and has been confronted by resistance from
local actors. The lenses offered by hybridity and hybridisation help us
to reappraise the liberal peace and move some critiques of it beyond the
level of caricature.
The second trend in the literature has been the romanticisa-
tion of local, indigenous, customary, and traditional approaches to

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Introduction 3

peacebuilding and development. Confronted by the failings of the lib-

eral peace, and the high costs of international peace-support and devel-
opment interventions, many observers have identified ‘the local’ as the
saviour of international efforts. Local ‘ownership’ and ‘participation’
were regarded as ways of enhancing the success and sustainability of
peace and development initiatives. In turn, they could reduce depend-
ency on external support. In some cases, the rush to embrace all things
local and indigenous has meant that these approaches to peacebuilding
and development have been spared critical scrutiny. The concepts of
hybridity and hybridisation allow us to interrogate categories such as
‘local’, ‘indigenous’, and ‘international’.
Like all academic works, this one is based on a series of assumptions,
some explicit, others implicit. Apart from the obvious assumption that
anyone will be interested enough to read on, a key assumption relates to
the importance of the ideas that lie beneath political, economic, social,
and cultural activity. As a result, it is important that we have an under-
standing of the origins and varieties of liberalism before unpacking the
liberal peace. A related assumption is the importance of adopting a long-
term historical lens. Much contemporary academia and commentary is
ahistorical in the sense of being incurious about the past, and can adopt
an overly linear view of history. This work does not pretend to have the
historical depth that archival research could bring to bear on the sub-
ject, but it does recognise the importance of context. Many accounts of
liberal peace interventions tend to begin with the intervention itself or
with the immediate crisis that precipitated intervention. There is also
a risk that observers focus too heavily on ‘exceptional moments’ or the
headline events that eclipse the long-term trends. Such a risk attends all
study of civil war. As a result, this work does not assume that societies
that have undergone liberal peace interventions can be defined only
by civil war, sectarianism, violence, or societal fracture. Upsurges in
tension and violence are often episodic, and may not represent a longer-
term history replete with tolerance and nuance. Just as there are decisive
‘breaks’ such as partition or regime change, many societies experience
historical continuities, or long-term trends that persist despite violent
conflict and other ruptures. As an (admittedly tokenistic) recognition
of these continuities, the case study chapters open with epigrammatic
historical quotations designed to illustrate the continuing relevance of
the lessons of history.
A further assumption that guides this work is the recognition of
the limitations of the analytical and discursive tools at our disposal.
Although many disciplines and methodologies are open to us, all

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4 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

research faces constraints and factors that encourage conformity to cer-

tain codes of practice and expression. Many of these constraints are
there to encourage responsibility among the research community, and
to facilitate communication between disciplines. But styles of research
and discussion are deeply ethnocentric. Research and publication on
peace and conflict is dominated by the global north. This domination is
material (the location of well-resourced publishers and universities) and
conceptual (the origins of the paradigms and methodologies regarded
as ‘legitimate’ for our research). Less than 4 per cent of all presenters at
the International Studies Association Conventions in 2008 and 2010
(the world’s largest international relations academic conference) were
affiliated to institutions in the global south (see Table 1). Around a third
of all presenters were female. It seems difficult to make the case that a
form of academic study so comprehensively dominated by white men
from the global north should be taken seriously. Similarly, leading jour-
nals in the study of peace and conflict are dominated by scholars based
in the global north, and indeed by men (see Table 2). The need to be
affiliated with ‘respected’ academic institutions speaks volumes about
the limiting of debates and the erection of barriers of inclusion and
exclusion. Despite the global north’s research dominance it is worth
questioning the extent to which scholars from the global north (includ-
ing myself) have the antennae with which to analyse on-the-ground
phenomena in societies emerging from civil war. This is more than a
matter of translators and gatekeepers; it relates to the ways in which
knowledge is collected, expressed, and legitimated. The discipline of
international relations, for example, tends to steer researchers towards
analyses that concentrate on formal political institutions and actors.
Our research antennae are attuned (pre-programmed by disciplinary
conventions) to pick up certain signals. At the same time, they are
attuned to miss certain signals. This means that immense quantities
of social, political, cultural, and economic phenomena – many of them
doubtless highly significant – pass unnoticed. For example, research-
ers from the global north may be acculturated to analysing political
actors according to very conventional, ethnocentric criteria. Yet many
political actors, especially at the local level, do not conform to such
conventions because they do not organise into formal political parties
or develop platforms based on a manifesto that draws on recognisable
political claims. To some extent, some varieties of anthropology and
sociology are well placed to capture these dynamics, but the scholarly
community in the global north has to realise it is often only scratching
the surface of the phenomena that it wishes to study. The lens offered by

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Introduction 5

Table 1 Origin and gender of presenters at the 2008 and 2010 International
Studies Association Conventions

Percentage of presenters
based at institutions in Percentage of female
the global south presenters

2008 3.4 34.5

2010 3.9 36.6

Table 2 Origin and gender of contributors to leading peace and conflict

journals, 1999–2009

Percentage of contributors based at Percentage of female

institutions in the global south contributors

Cooperation and 1.6 26.8

International 4.0 27.8
Journal of Peace 3.4 23.4
Security Dialogue 5.4 19.1

hybridity encourages us to pay attention to local actors, and reminds us

that the actions employed by local actors need not conform to conven-
tions of acceptable and unacceptable political behaviour as prescribed
by actors from the global north.

The liberal peace in crisis?

The liberal peace, or liberal internationalism, is used as the principal

frame of reference for this work. This is the case because of the con-
tinuing use of liberal rhetoric by leading states, international organi-
sations, international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), and
international financial institutions to justify peace-support interven-
tions. Interventions have been justified in the name of freedom, human
rights, and democracy. Liberal internationalism is the dominant form
of internationally mandated intervention, and has left its mark on doz-
ens of societies that have emerged from violence or authoritarianism
in the post-Cold War era. As a result, a substantial evidence trail is in

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6 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

A key aim of this book is to reassess our understanding of the liberal

peace and to move away from caricatures that inflate its coherence and
strength. Part of this reassessment is a recognition of the varieties of
liberal peace on offer. As the case study chapters in this volume show,
different types of liberal peace have been promoted to different degrees
in different locations and circumstances. The emphasis on processes of
hybridisation allows us to illustrate the fluidity and dynamism of the
liberal peace. The varieties of liberal peace, and its ability to adapt over
time and according to circumstance, present us with a potential catego-
risation problem: is the ‘liberal peace’ category too broad to be analyti-
cally useful? Clearly the coercive liberal peacemaking in Afghanistan
is very different from the more persuasive forms of liberal peacebuild-
ing found in Northern Ireland. As the case study chapters illustrate,
commonalities abound, not least in the familiar cast list of states and
institutions that promote liberal peacebuilding, the familiar script of
liberal rhetoric, and the familiar policy prescriptions. In other words,
the category retains validity as an analytical device.
Despite the dominance of the liberal peace, it faces at least four threats.
The first of these relates to the practical shortcomings of this form of
peacemaking and peacebuilding when ‘in the field’. While it has to be
recognised that international peace-support interventions have helped
save and improve many lives, and have helped prevent the re-occur-
rence of violent conflict in some locations, this form of peacemak-
ing has also had unexpected and counterproductive outcomes. These
are most visible in the violent conquests and occupations of Iraq and
Afghanistan, but are to be found in virtually all sites of liberal interven-
tion. These shortcomings range from the failure of electoral democracy
to take root to the inequities arising from models of economic develop-
ment that prioritise international markets over local ones and reinforce
the immiseration of entire populations. A second (and related) threat
facing the liberal peace is its own crisis of confidence. Even the most
ardent liberal interventionists are aware of its ‘reverse-Midas touch’ ten-
dencies, and the high (often unanticipated) costs of intervention. As a
result, there are signs of a tempering of the enthusiasm of some liberal
interventionists. This crisis of confidence does not amount to an exis-
tential crisis, but it is manifest in a greater timidity on the part of liberal
internationalists in mounting large-scale interventions.
A third threat facing the liberal peace, and a major focus of this book,
comes in the form of non-compliant local reactions to the liberal peace.
This non-compliance can take many forms, ranging from outright con-
scious resistance to non-engagement based on ignorance. As the case

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Introduction 7

study chapters reveal, many local communities are adept at finding

ways to subvert, exhaust, renegotiate, and resist the liberal peace. In
some cases, and on some issues, the liberal peace has withdrawn or
fought back. In other cases there has been peacemaking and reconcilia-
tion. The hybridity and distortion that emerges from these processes of
interaction is a recurring theme in this book.
A fourth threat to the dominance of the liberal peace comes in the
form of ‘non-liberal’ forms of peacemaking and peacebuilding by actors
powerful enough to impose their own variety of peace without much
reference to the liberal peace. For example, geo-strategic reasons enable
powers such as China, Russia, and Israel to impose their own ‘solutions’
to problems within or adjacent to their borders. All three are guilty of
the most egregious forms of human rights abuse and denial, but remain
It is important to stress that criticisms of the liberal peace made in
this work are not criticism for criticism’s sake. The good intentions of
tens of thousands of humanitarian and peace-support practitioners are
not in doubt. Nor can we detract from the lives saved and improved
through the efforts of international actors. Yet, because this form of
peacemaking operates at a systemic level, and because it seeks to univer-
salise values and practices, it demands critical scrutiny. Some scholars
argue that liberal internationalism is inherently flawed, while others
argue that it can be ‘rescued’. This work does not seek to rescue or con-
demn liberalism per se. Instead, it seeks a new understanding of how lib-
eral internationalism operates, especially in its dealings with the local.
We should be under no illusions, however, about the scale of the
problems facing the liberal peace, or about its institutional myopia,
which means that it is trapped in a cycle of offering liberal institution-
alist prescriptions for whatever the problem is. By way of illustration,
take the example of electoral turnout in elections in societies that have
experienced liberal peacebuilding. Electoral democracy has been a sta-
ple in liberal peace interventions, and elections have become accepted
elements of political and governance practice in a number of societies.
As Table 3 demonstrates, however, it is clear that electoral democracy
has failed to persuade electors in some post-peace accord societies that
it is a useful vehicle for political representation. The post-accord elec-
toral surge gives way to apathy as electors fail to see a link between
their own economic or political condition and their trip to a polling
booth. The dramatic fall-off in electoral turnout in Mozambique speaks
of the failure of this system of politics. Invariably, however, the liberal
prescription is more elections.

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8 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

Table 3 Percentage electoral turnout in selected parliamentary elections after

peace accords

Turnout Turnout

Bosnia-Herzegovina 70.74 (1998) 36.75 (2006)

El Salvador 89.18 (1997) 53.58 (2009)
Kosovo 49.52 (2004) 44.90 (2007)
Mozambique 87.89 (1994) 36.34 (2004)

Hybridity, distortion, and resistance

The concepts of hybridity, distortion, and resistance run through this

book. They are used as a means of capturing the complexity and nuances
of conflict, and as a reaction to what the author believes are overly sim-
plistic accounts of conflict and liberal peace intervention. The concepts
are useful for furthering the critique of the liberal peace. Hybridity
is taken as the composite forms of social thinking and practice that
emerge as the result of the interaction of different groups, practices, and
worldviews. It is not the grafting together of two separate entities to cre-
ate a third entity. Instead, it is assumed that norms and practices are the
result of prior hybridisation. This helps move us away from notions of
discrete categories that are somehow pristine and insulated from social
negotiation and interaction over the millennia. An understanding of
the extent of hybridity among actors, modes of operation, and world-
views helps us transcend caricatures of the liberal peace as an entirely
alien form of peacemaking that intrudes into entirely indigenous con-
texts. The on-the-ground picture is much more complex, and involves
heterogeneity within categories.
This book proposes a four-part model as a way of conceptualising
the process of hybridisation in societies experiencing international
peace-support interventions. The model helps us visualise the interplay
among the factors that make up hybrid forms of peace. These four fac-
tors are best conceived as constantly interacting in variable geometry,
sometimes conflicting and sometimes cooperating:

● the compliance powers of liberal peace agents, networks, and

● the incentivising powers of liberal peace agents, networks, and

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Introduction 9

● the ability of local actors to resist, ignore, or adapt liberal peace inter-
ventions; and
● the ability of local actors, networks, and structures to present and
maintain alternative forms of peacemaking.

The interstices between these four factors can be called ‘the hybrid
peace’, or a place in which social processes come together to form fusions
and composites (see Figure 1). The hybrid peace is not static; instead, the
processes of hybridisation mean that it is a constantly changing condi-
tion. An implication of the notion and process of hybridisation is that
few actors are able to chart and maintain a unilateral course. Instead,
actors in peace and war situations must take account of the circum-
stances created by other actors. As a result, this book uses the concept
of ‘distortion’ to illustrate how the strategies and worldviews of actors
are refracted by their contact with others.
All social environments entail hybridisation and distortion. The pecu-
liar circumstances of war, peace interventions, and post-war reconstruc-
tion, however, can accelerate and further distort this hybridisation. The

Ability of liberal peace

agents to enforce
acceptance of liberal

Ability of
Ability of liberal peace
local actors agents to
to ignore, incentivise
resist, and Hybrid Peace
subvert, the engagement
liberal peace with the
liberal peace

Ability of local actors

to present alternatives
to the liberal peace

Figure 1 The hybrid peace

9780230_273764_02_int.indd 9 3/30/2011 9:40:08 AM

10 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

case study chapters illustrate how international peace-support interven-

tions along five issue areas (security, economic reform, constitution-
making, governance, and civil society) became distorted as they
interacted with local actors on the ground. This was not a case of discrete
international policies that were prefabricated in a hermetically sealed
liberal peace laboratory being applied to contexts rendered completely
ravaged by war or in which traditional or indigenous actors existed bliss-
fully unaware of exogenous influences. Instead, liberal peace policies
and their advocates are themselves the product of prior hybridisation
and attempt to influence already hybridised environments that have
experienced civil war or authoritarianism. Further hybridisation ensues
as (the already hybrid) local and international interact, conflict, and
cooperate. The picture that emerges is complex but, it is argued, much
more accurate than attempts to explain conflict that are based on dis-
crete sets of actors and linear historical narratives. This book attempts
to offer a form of ‘refraction’ or a way of seeing conflict and peacemak-
ing that helps us see the distortions and fractures that are often missing
from overly simplified meta-narratives.
The lens offered by hybridity allows us to more easily recognise the
agency and diversity of local actors in peace and conflict situations.
There is a tendency in much academic and policy literature to con-
centrate on (and take seriously) formal and elite political actors. Many
accounts and analyses of peace-support interventions may focus on
international interveners (for example, UN peacekeepers or EU High
Representatives) and local elites (for example, the president and gov-
ernment in the aftermath of the civil war). Such analyses exclude vast
swathes of societies that are emerging from war. They are overly reduc-
tive, elitist, and ethnocentric and have a bias towards formal forms of
political and economic environment. A focus on hybridisation encour-
ages us to look beyond national capitals to the forces that confront,
resist, ignore, disobey, subvert, exploit, and string-along the liberal
peace. Thus this work does not see liberal peace interventions as neat
silos or top-down transmission chains that flow from international elites
in the World Bank or United Nations Headquarters to national govern-
ments in societies undergoing liberal peace interventions and thence
downwards to municipalities, communities, and individuals. Instead,
the picture is much more ragged, with multiple actors interacting – with
varying degrees of cooperation or hostility – on multiple levels and on
multiple issues. Moreover, the traffic is not one way. Through their own
agency (something that many outside observers are singularly unsuited
to observe) local actors are able to resist, ignore, engage with, disengage

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Introduction 11

from, and exploit the liberal peace. The concept of hybridisation allows
us to see the blowback suffered by the liberal peace. It is not always
the case of the liberal peace setting the agenda and local actors react-
ing to that agenda. Instead, local actors are able to exploit the liberal
peace and the resources attached to it. The strength and extent of the
blowback in some circumstances is not only capable of changing the
nature of the peace that is being implemented; it also has the capacity
to change the identity of liberal peace actors.
So, rather than a ‘liberal peace’ or a ‘local peace’, this book argues that
hybrid forms of peace are in existence. These hybrids are awkward, con-
stantly changing, and difficult to describe, but then that is the human
condition and we should not assume that peace should be easy to cap-
ture. Importantly, there are hybrid peaces. The very act of recognising
the plurality of peace can be taken as a criticism of the monopolising
instincts of the liberal peace, and other forms of peace that are con-
vinced of their own superiority.

Plan of the book

The main aim of the book is to recommend the lenses offered by hybrid-
ity as a way of understanding contemporary contexts defined by civil
war and peace interventions. The book is an extended exercise in con-
ceptual scoping, whereby a concept is constructed and then applied
to empirical cases. The first three chapters are conceptual and unpack
three core sets of ideas that combine to give us an understanding of
hybridity and processes of hybridisation. Chapter 1 presents an over-
view of the baseline form of international peace-support intervention:
the liberal peace. The liberal peace is chosen as the baseline because of
its dominance as the preferred method of peace-support intervention
by leading states, leading international organisations, and the interna-
tional financial institutions. It is recognised that there are varieties of
the liberal peace (liberal peaces) ranging from a coercive liberal peace-
max to a soft-touch liberal peace-lite. Yet, significantly, these forms of
intervention are justified using the language of liberalism – hence the
use of the term ‘liberal peace’. The chapter is also aware that alterna-
tives to the liberal peace exist, for example forms of ‘peace’ promoted
by Russia in Chechnya or by China in Tibet. Despite the persistence
(or even growth) of these non-liberal forms of peacemaking, the liberal
peace remains the baseline form of international peace intervention
because of its capture of leading international organisations such as the
UN, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), and the EU.

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12 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

Chapter 2 departs from the top-down focus of the liberal peace by

examining indigenous approaches to peacebuilding and dispute resolu-
tion. The chapter unpacks notions of indigeneity, questions the ‘redis-
covery’ of all things local and traditional, and examines specific types
of dispute resolution used in reconciliation following civil war. The use
of indigenous and traditional approaches to peacebuilding in contem-
porary violent conflicts raises a number of issues, including the extent
to which indigenous approaches that are sponsored by international
actors can really be considered indigenous. The value of authenticity is
worth questioning, however, especially if measured against the bench-
mark of utility.
After this examination of top-down (liberal internationalist) and
bottom-up (indigenous) approaches to peacebuilding, the way is then
set to discuss how these different approaches to peace interact and
what forms of peace they produce. Thus Chapter 3 discusses the hybrid
peace. This chapter involves an unpacking of the concept and uses of
hybridity. It also involves the construction of a four-part model that
helps visualise the dynamics that combine to create a hybrid peace.
The model argues that the hybrid peace is formed at the interstices of
four constantly changing variables: liberal peace assertiveness; liberal
peace incentives; the ability of local actors to resist, subvert, negotiate
with, and ignore the liberal peace; and the ability of local actors to cre-
ate alternatives to the liberal peace. Like all models, this represents an
abstraction and simplification, yet the model has the potential to allow
us to view conflicts more holistically. Firstly, it encourages us to recog-
nise the fluidity of peace and conflict settings and actors. Secondly, and
linked to this fluidity, the model encourages us to see peace and conflict
through a longer-term lens rather than as a series of episodes. Thirdly,
it reminds us of the need to see beyond elite-level conflict actors. Many
critiques of the liberal peace, and analyses drawing from international
relations scholarship, tend to focus disproportionately on international
and formal political actors.
The three conceptual chapters are followed by five case study chap-
ters, each of which adopts the lens of hybridity to examine a par-
ticular aspect of the liberal peace in a different society undergoing a
liberal peace transition. The five aspects or pillars of the liberal peace
are security, economics, statebuilding, governance, and civil society.
These are respectively applied to Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Lebanon,
and Northern Ireland. The pillars have formed both the means and
the ends of the liberal peace. Thus, for example, the liberal peace
has sought to embed itself by building the civil society capacity in

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Introduction 13

societies emerging from violent conflict and regards a vibrant civil

society as an indicator of a liberal and peaceful polity. Liberal peace
interveners have attempted to perfect the ‘mix’ of the five pillars,
placing different emphases on different ingredients according to
As a collective, the case study countries provide good coverage of the
different types of liberal peace intervention witnessed over the past two
decades, as well as the different circumstances faced by liberal peace
interveners. While Iraq and Afghanistan represent coercive peace-
building, Northern Ireland provides an example of liberal peace-lite.
There is variance in the type of liberal peace actor that took the lead in
the interventions: the US military (Afghanistan and Iraq), the United
Nations (Lebanon), the European Union (Bosnia), and the British gov-
ernment (Northern Ireland). The regional circumstances covered by the
case study countries differ enormously too: Northern Ireland is within
the European Union, and indeed is part of the United Kingdom –
one of the leading promoters of the liberal peace; Lebanon, Iraq, and
Afghanistan occupy fault-line positions in geo-strategically sensitive
parts of the world; Iraq and Afghanistan are resource rich, while Bosnia-
Herzegovina, Lebanon, and Northern Ireland have few valuable natural
resources; potential regional hegemons prowl around Lebanon (Egypt,
Israel, and Syria), Iraq (Saudi Arabia and Iran), and Afghanistan (India,
China, and Iran). The five case study countries also represent very differ-
ent types of conflict, with Northern Ireland’s low-level ethno-sectarian
conflict being of a very different scale from the high-intensity military
operations waged by the US and its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan. The
obvious omission in terms of case study countries is an example from
Latin America or Africa. In part, this comes down to the comfort zone
of the author, who has conducted fieldwork in Bosnia, Lebanon, and
Northern Ireland. A certain familiarity with the Afghan and Iraqi cases
has come from their prominence in the news and in academic discus-
sion. Rather than present inauthentic African or Latin American case
studies, a decision was made to confine the case studies to areas on
which the author has a certain level of confidence. In any case, the pri-
mary purpose of the country case studies is to reveal the hybridisation
of a particular aspect of the liberal peace, whether security, economics,
statebuilding, governance, or civil society.
It is hoped that the different perspectives adopted by each of the
case study chapters will combine to give a holistic picture of the liberal
peace and the different ways in which it has been implemented and
advocated in different areas. Chapter 4 focuses on the promotion of the

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14 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

monopoly of violence as part of liberal peace efforts. Demobilisation,

disarmament, and reintegration (DDR) and security sector reform (SSR)
have been staples of liberal peace statebuilding efforts. This is in keeping
with hegemonic notions of liberalism in which individuals vest their
rights in a unified but representative state. The state becomes the ‘keeper
of rights’, ready to arbitrate between citizens and protect the citizen
from threats. Liberal peace interventions have thus sought to empower
the state as the centralised authority that offers uniform rights to all
citizens. These interventions have also sought to restrain the state – an
especially important function of peace-support interventions in socie-
ties emerging from civil war or authoritarianism. Chapter 4 examines
how the rhetorically absolutist liberal peace aim of a monopoly of vio-
lence vested in the state was diluted by the peculiar circumstances of
post-Taliban Afghanistan. The continuing power of warlords, contra-
dictions in Afghan and international statebuilding strategies, and the
resurgence of the Taliban all combined to leave a very fragmented secu-
rity environment. Security was hybridised as warlords were co-opted by
the Afghan state and by the United States to counter the Taliban. The
Afghan state did not attain a monopoly of violence; in part this was
because the international statebuilders prevented this from happening
because of their own security needs.
Chapter 5 concentrates on a key pillar of liberal peace interven-
tions – restructuring the economy. The evidence of many liberal
peace interventions suggests a bias towards neo-liberal economic pre-
scriptions. Critical literature on liberal peacebuilding has highlighted
how neo-liberalism has become mainstreamed into statebuilding and
restructuring. Under international tutelage, shock doctrine economic
restructuring has meant the privatisation of state assets, the lifting of
state regulation on markets, the opening of the country to international
trade, and the downgrading of notions and practices of the state as a
provider of welfare. Chapter 5 uses the example of Iraq to illustrate how
the United States planned for its regime change intervention to include
a wholesale overhaul of the economic regime as well as the toppling
of Saddam Hussein. Yet the case study of the post-Saddam economy
reveals a deeply hybridised economy. US-controlled attempts at macro-
economic engineering (privatisation of state assets and the expectation
that Iraqi oil would pay for the reconstruction) failed to produce the
expected results. Moreover, the US, in contravention of its own neo-
liberal rhetoric, ended up sponsoring Keynesian policies based on pub-
lic expenditure by the US and Iraqi treasuries. The chapter depicts a tale
of two economies: the formal economy that the US expected would be

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Introduction 15

the engine of Iraqi reconstruction and the informal economy that the
vast majority of Iraqis have depended upon for survival. No economic
actor was able to steer a unilateral course. Instead, all actors (local and
international) had to take account of the position of others, with the
result that the economy was hybridised (public and private, formal and
informal, old and new technology) and resembled a scene of the distor-
tion of liberal peace ambitions.
Chapter 6 concentrates on the constitutional aspects of statebuild-
ing. Many liberal peace interventions have sought to ‘resolve’ contested
sovereignty through constitutional engineering. This has involved
new constitutions or peace agreements that protect minority rights (El
Salvador), powersharing within the executive functions of government
(Lebanon), electoral systems designed to guarantee plural rather than
majoritarian outcomes (Ivory Coast), commitments to a constitutional
referendum in the future (Northern Ireland, New Caledonia), and the
redrawing of boundaries to reflect political preferences and demo-
graphic ‘logic’ (Kosovo). The thinking behind such initiatives connects
with the liberal belief in the perfectibility of institutions. A techno-
cratic logic means that political problems become design problems: with
enough effort a constitutional, electoral, or cartographic mechanism
can be found that will manage problems without the resort to violence.
Such constitutional engineering has resulted in significant success in
a number of locations. Chapter 6 takes the example of post-Dayton
Bosnia-Herzegovina to argue that internationally sponsored attempts
to manage competing nationalist and identity claims were merely the
latest in a long line of such attempts (whether under socialism or the
Austro-Hungarian Empire). The liberal peace, despite the enormous
resources it brought to bear on the former Yugoslavia, was unable to
start afresh. Instead, its attempts at constitutional engineering were
built on previous attempts, and resulted in a hybridised constitutional
environment. While liberal peace rhetoric may discount previous dis-
pensations as ‘non-liberal’ and therefore illegitimate, circumstances on
the ground meant that there was no blank canvas. The politics of post-
Dayton Bosnia-Herzegovina had significant continuities with those of
previous regimes. This leads us to reappraise notions of the liberal peace
as all-powerful, and invites criticisms of its motif that design perfection
can erase ‘non-liberal’ identities and practice.
Liberal peace statebuilding and peace-support interventions have
been described as ‘peace by governance’. This alludes to the central-
ity of the role accorded to governance reforms. In a sense, governance
provides the essential ‘software’ or operating system that patterns the

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16 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

practices of governments, and informs the relationships between gov-

ernment, citizens, businesses, and civil society. Chapter 7 examines how
liberal peace agents have attempted to use governance programming as
part of wider statebuilding and peace-support agendas. The argument
is made that under the rhetoric of ‘transparency’ and ‘efficiency’, pecu-
liarly western forms of governance are introduced. Moreover, although
often heralded in neutral or progressive language, many of the sys-
tems of governance introduced through liberal peacebuilding have the
potential to radically alter the nature and orientation of the state. In
keeping with the other case studies in this book, the case of govern-
ance programming in Lebanon suggests the need for a reappraisal of
our understanding of the liberal peace and critiques of it. While much
governance programming was externally driven, many Lebanese were
interested in governance reform. Indeed, one of the most strident oppo-
nents of corruption was Hezbollah, the Shiite politico-religious group
designated ‘terrorist’ by the United States and its allies. As the chapter
shows, the governance agenda is hybridised: no actor is able to steer
a unilateral course, and the governance environment and agenda are
constructed by internal and external actors.
The final empirical chapter (Chapter 8) focuses on civil society, another
stalwart of the liberal peace. Virtually every liberal peace intervention
has involved civil society capacity-building programmes that have
attempted to bolster non-state actors that can act as a bulwark against an
over-concentration of power in the hands of the state. According to the
liberal catechism, an empowered and alert civil society can assist in the
promotion of tolerance and diversity, and can offer an avenue for social
entrepreneurs to develop progressive agendas. In societies emerging from
violent conflict, civil society capacity-building has involved the inter-
national sponsorship of human rights non-governmental organisations
(NGOs), the encouragement of diversity in the media, and the open-
ing up of democratic and political space beyond the limited opportuni-
ties offered by electoral and party politics. Faced with non-compliant
governments in societies emerging from war, liberal peace interveners
have found civil society actors to be useful proxies for social provision
and the promotion of equality and democratisation agendas. A com-
mon criticism of this civil society engineering by governments from the
global north is that these actors promote a version of civil society that
chimes with their preferred notion of civil society. At the same time,
indigenous expressions of civil society may be overlooked, or acknowl-
edged but ignored, as being ‘non-liberal’. Chapter 8 uses the Northern
Ireland peace process as its case study. Specifically, it examines the case

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Introduction 17

of the Orange Order, a sectarian organisation that – in many respects – is

far removed from the liberal ideals of pluralism and tolerance. Yet the
exigencies of the Northern Ireland peace process meant that the British
government, a custodian of that peace process and an international
sponsor of the liberal peace, was prepared to accept this organisation as
a legitimate member of civil society. Indeed, the British government (in
partnership with the Irish government, the European Union, and allies
within Northern Ireland) created a civil society political economy, in
which certain behaviours and organisations were deemed legitimate or
illegitimate. A picture emerges of a hybrid civil society that contained
both partisan and non-partisan elements. Again the notion of the liberal
peace being doctrinally absolutist requires revision as the aspirations of
liberal peace actors were distorted by on-the-ground exigencies.
Taken together, the empirical chapters show a cross-section of liberal
peace interventions on a broad range of issues. They reinforce the util-
ity of the comparative lens, and the importance of examining socie-
ties in detail. Two cardinal points are contained in all the case studies.
Firstly, the liberal peace is less powerful, omniscient, and coherent than
many observers might be tempted to think. In many cases it has ‘feet of
clay’, with limitations apparent in relation to its reach, attention span,
acceptance, sustainability, and success. This realisation demands a reap-
praisal of our critique of the liberal peace. This does not mean a rollback
from the task of critiquing the liberal peace. Instead, it means that more
sophisticated critiques are required. These critiques should not take as
their starting point an image of an all-powerful Leviathan-like liberal
peace. Instead, the variance and contradictions within the liberal peace
need to be recognised. This leads to the second cardinal point to emerge
from the case studies: the agency of local-level actors in the face of
liberal peace interventions. This agency comes in many forms: rene-
gotiation, subversion, non-engagement, cherry-picking, and outright
resistance. In all the cases under review, local actions have forced distor-
tions in the liberal peace, causing it to hybridise and interact with local
forms of governance, civil society, economic organisation, and security.
Crucially, the case study chapters illustrate that the global north does
not have a monopoly on tolerance and pluralism. One of the core prob-
lems with dominant versions of liberalism and liberal internationalism
has been their hastiness in dismissing other forms of political and social
practice as ‘non-liberal’. Yet ‘local liberalism’ or forms of tolerance and
pluralism can be found in many societies emerging from civil war and
authoritarianism. Because this does not conform to types of liberalism
endorsed or sponsored by the global north it is often overlooked or

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18 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

rejected. Quite simply, many observers situated in the global north do

not have the antennae that enable them to see such local forms of plu-
ralism and diversity. Hegemonic liberal discourse, as well as the ways in
which much policy and academic research is conducted and reported,
actually precludes a lot of meaningful engagement with local societies
and so reinforces this ‘blind spot’ towards local civility.
This is not to say that societies emerging from civil war or authori-
tarianism are oases of liberal calm and goodwill. Clearly many such
societies are fractured and present citizens with urgent security and
welfare problems. Yet, notwithstanding outbreaks of violence and peri-
ods of raised tensions, many deeply divided societies and localities find
some sort of equilibrium. This often works at the micro-level of streets,
villages, and neighbourhoods. It does not rest on a grand political phi-
losophy that can trace its roots back to Mill, Locke, or Rawls. Nor is it
inspired or created by the efforts of liberal internationalism. Instead, it
is often based on prosaic common sense: that people have to rub along
to get along; that mutual self-interest can be sated through tolerance;
that the costs of war outweigh the potential gains of extremism; that
territory and society must continue to be shared. Of course, such ‘peace’
is often uneasy, and is merely an interregnum until the next flare-up. It
could also be argued that such local-level peace is unambitious in that
it does not strive – in a conscious way – towards more holistic forms of
conflict transformation. Yet, unconsciously and implicitly, such forms
of tolerance and pluralism have much in common with notions and
practices of conflict transformation, especially through their focus on

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The Liberal Peace

I really do believe we will be greeted as liberators.

US Vice President Dick Cheney before
the 2003 invasion of Iraq
(Cited in Fukuyama 2006: 115–16)

We just obliterated those towns. They’re not there at all. These

are just parking lots right now.
Colonel Jeffrey Martindale, US Army, on
Afghan towns targeted by the United States
‘surge’ in October 2010
(Cited in Partlow and Brulliard 2010)


War outspends peace. In February 2010, the United States was spend-
ing $6.7bn per month in pursuit of its war in Afghanistan, and a fur-
ther $5.5bn in Iraq (Wolf 2010; Stiglitz and Bilmes 2008). This total
was almost equivalent to the entire United Nations budget for a year.
Although outgunned by spending on war and militarism, expenditure
on peace is still substantial, and is augmented by significant outlays in
blood and moral energy. Some headline figures give a picture of the
scale of pro-peace activity: in 2009, the UN had over 100,000 personnel
in the field in seventeen peace missions, while in 2010, World Vision,
a US-based Christian relief, development, and advocacy organisation,
had a US income in excess of $1bn and a presence in over 100 countries
(UNDPKO 2009; World Vision 2010).
The European Union will have spent approximately €1.8bn in its
Peace and Reconciliation Programmes in Northern Ireland and the


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20 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

border counties of the Republic of Ireland in the 1995–2014 period (DFP

2005). In other areas, there has been an explosion of pro-peace activ-
ism by non-governmental organisations: over 400 new peacebuilding
and pro-democracy NGOs were established in Kenya in 2008 follow-
ing electoral violence (Daily Nation 2009). At the institutional level,
many international organisations and the foreign policy bureaucracies
of states have re-oriented themselves in order to engage in a range of
peacekeeping, peacebuilding, peacemaking, peace-enforcement, and
conflict-prevention activities. The chief point is to underscore the scale
of national and international peace-support activities. The scale of
peace-support activities makes it possible to discern patterns, particu-
larly in terms of the actors responsible for pro-peace interventions, the
types of activity they engage in, and the interests they represent.
The most prominent pattern in contemporary internationally sup-
ported peacemaking is the extent to which certain actors (usually
aligned with the interests of the global north) combine to produce a
particular type of peace intervention: the liberal peace. Sometimes
called ‘liberal interventionism’ or ‘liberal internationalism’, the liberal
peace is the dominant form of internationally supported peacemaking.
It reflects the ideological and practical interests of leading states in the
global north, leading international organisations, and the international
financial institutions. It is often justified using the language of liberal-
ism (hence the sobriquet ‘liberal peace’). The types of activity found
in the majority of interventions tend to coalesce around security and
statebuilding agendas. The interests served by many peace interventions
tend to reflect those of powerholders, either within the state emerging
from violent conflict or internationally.
While this chapter explores the contours of the liberal peace, the next
chapter will consider indigenous, traditional, and customary forms
of peacemaking. Chapter 3 will then discuss how these two forms of
peacemaking (liberal and local) come together to form composite or
hybrid types of peace. Subsequent chapters are case studies that illus-
trate the processes whereby hybridity comes about. The current chapter
begins with a note on the term ‘liberal peace’ and then discusses how
critical analyses of the liberal peace fit into the peace studies tradition.
The chapter then considers how liberalism’s intellectual heritage has
contributed to a peculiarly western liberal form of peacemaking. The
following sections then discuss the liberal peace in action: its actors
and structures, and its manifestations. The chapter ends with a critique
of the liberal peace, and particularly of how its liberal intentions often
result in illiberal outcomes.

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The Liberal Peace 21

A note on terminology

Three objections to the use of the term ‘liberal peace’ are worth review-
ing. The first concerns the obvious riposte that the term ‘liberal peace’
describes a form of peacemaking that is not particularly liberal. In other
words, since the liberal peace is often deeply illiberal in its manifesta-
tions why persist in calling it a liberal peace? The term ‘liberal peace’
is used in this work because the actors who promote it often describe
themselves as being liberal, and use the liberal rhetoric of emancipa-
tion and pluralism to justify their actions. US President George W. Bush
pointed to the long tradition whereby Americans ‘sacrifice for the liberty
of strangers’ (USGOVINFO 2003). For Tony Blair (2006), British involve-
ment in post-Saddam Iraq was justified to ‘empower the Iraqi leadership
that wants to take responsibility’, and was ‘committed to non-sectarian
government and democracy’; all core values in the liberal canon.
Notwithstanding the Wilsonian tradition in the United States, a sec-
ond terminological issue concerns the use of the word ‘liberal’ among
some US audiences. For some, particularly those on the political right,
the term ‘liberal’ is a pejorative description applied to political oppo-
nents and their ideas. Various shock-jocks and right-wing commenta-
tors use the term ‘liberal’ to note moral laxness, a lack of patriotism,
or left-wing sympathies. Book titles such as Guilty: Liberal ‘Victims’ and
Their Assault on America or Secular Sabotage: How Liberals Are Destroying
Religion and Culture in America illustrate the point (Coulter 2009;
Donohue 2009). One of the unfortunate side-effects of this capture
of the word ‘liberal’ in partisan political debates is that some politi-
cal scientists and international relations scholars in the United States
have shied away from the use of the word ‘liberal’ and the term ‘liberal
peace’. This is a relatively recent and US-specific phenomenon, and it
should not deter us from connecting with discussions on the relation-
ship between liberalism and war which have a much longer historical
pedigree (Williams 2005).
A third concern relates to the narrow use of the term ‘liberal peace’ in
some studies that seek to establish a correlation between the trading and
political stances of states and their propensity to go to war. Essentially
the debates revolve around whether states that trade with each other go
to war with one another, and whether democracy can be an indicator of
foreign policy aggressiveness or passivity. These debates usually use the
term ‘democratic peace’, though sometimes ‘liberal peace’ (Doyle 1983;
Goldsmith 2007; Hegre 2005; Spiro 1994). As used in this work, the
term ‘liberal peace’ refers to a much broader phenomenon. Certainly,

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22 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

attitudes to trading and the nature of a state’s political organisation

are important. But, as used in this book, the term ‘liberal peace’ also
encompasses the socio-cultural norms associated with peacemaking,
the ideas that underpin a particular form of peace, and the interna-
tional and national structures used to promote this version of peace.
The term ‘liberal peace’, as used in this book, seeks to capture the total-
ity of internationally mandated peace-support interventions, and so is
very different from the use of the term in many econometric studies,
which tend to have a narrow and uncritical focus on the interrogation
of datasets of international trade statistics. Moreover, many studies
of trading relations between states and their implications for conflict
seem to miss a fundamental point: most contemporary violent conflict
occurs at the intra-state level, or if internationalised does not constitute
a formal war between states. As a result, studies that are restricted to
inter-state relations (such as trade) have limited explanatory power for
contemporary violent conflict.
The term ‘liberal peace’ is used in this work to refer to the domi-
nant form of peacemaking as promoted by leading states, interna-
tional organisations, and international financial institutions through
their peace-support interventions. It is a potentially broad umbrella, as
it is interested in the ideology of peacemaking, the structural factors
that enable and constrain it, its principal actors and clients, and the
manifestations of this form of peacemaking. The term ‘liberal peace’
has become commonly used in recent critical peace studies literature
(Chandler 2004b; Fanthorpe 2006; Franks and Richmond 2008; Mac
Ginty and Richmond 2009; Petersen 2009), though the term harks back
to earlier historical accounts of peacemaking (Howard 1978). It also
connects with long-standing ideological debates on the relationship
between liberalism and war (Ceadal 1987; Williams 2005).

The critical tradition within peace studies

It is tempting to automatically place peace studies within the critical

tradition. Many elements of the discipline, and many of its seminal
contributors, have been critical and questioning of orthodoxy (Forcey
1983; Stephenson 1999). Much of peace studies is antithetical to
realism (Wallensteen 2009), and it is concerned with issues that are
often overlooked by dominant paradigms. For example, peace stud-
ies has embraced enquiry into underlying structures that lead to and
maintain conflict, and is interested in issues of underdevelopment
and social exclusion. These issues, and the level of analysis that they

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The Liberal Peace 23

favour (individuals, communities), are often overlooked by orthodox

approaches to political science and international relations. Peace stud-
ies has been self-consciously inter-disciplinary, and has profited from
linkages with what are often regarded as ‘radical’ strands of research,
such as feminism and environmentalism. Much of peace studies has
been acutely political and deliberately normative. Some critics of peace
studies charge that the discipline has gone ‘far beyond the boundaries
of careful and value-free academic discourse’ and that ‘idealist models
tend to be presented uncritically’ (Steinberg 2007: 788). This is indeed
the case, but in many ways it is the purpose of peace studies to be pro-
vocative. While there is a noble tradition of ‘peace science’, or scientific
(biological, psychological, and economic) studies into war and violence,
much of peace studies has been unashamedly normative. The starting
point for many peace studies scholars is that orthodox paradigms that
dominate the study of international relations are not neutral. Instead,
they argue, such paradigms are often embedded within power struc-
tures and betray bias.
Yet the radicalism long associated with peace studies has been ebbing.
Much of what masquerades as peace studies actually fits comfortably
within non-critical and orthodox paradigms. The de-radicalisation of
peace studies is not a recent phenomenon. Hermann Schmid (1968)
pointed to the dangers of being seduced by orthodoxy when he
launched a withering critique of the cosy conservatism exemplified by
some who regarded themselves as ‘peace studies scholars’. His criticisms
even extended to Johan Galtung, a self-proclaimed ‘founder’ of peace
studies. Schmid was concerned about the willingness of some peace
studies scholars to unquestioningly accept as given the essentially con-
servative parameters of states, the international political system, and
the international political economy. He identified the dangers whereby
‘peace research becomes a factor supporting the status quo of the inter-
national power structure, providing the decision-makers of the system
with knowledge for control, manipulation and integration of the sys-
tem’ (1968: 229). For Schmid many of the analyses and interventions
advocated by peace studies scholars amounted to a ‘problem-solving’
approach, content to deal with the manifestations of conflict but unin-
terested in the structural and underlying causes of conflict. He observed
that unless the systemic precipitants of conflict were identified, then
conflict and exclusion would continue.
Schmid’s warnings proved prescient. Many of those professing an
interest in peace studies in the post-Cold War era have little in com-
mon with the radical and critical traditions of the founders of peace

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24 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

studies in the 1950s and 1960s. Most current studies into the causes of
violent conflict and the determinants of conflict de-escalation – both
traditional concerns of peace studies – are deeply uncritical, and uncu-
rious about wider systemic issues. A cursory glance at the contents pages
of the Journal of Peace Research over the past decade will bear this out:
the vast majority of articles are not interested in the fundamental and
inherently normative questions of legitimacy associated with peace and
war. The problem-solving approach that characterises many studies of
contemporary peacemaking is chiefly interested in issues of efficiency:
how to better implement peace agreements; how to reform states and
institutions; how to increase the effectiveness of INGOs charged with
reconstruction tasks; how to more accurately count war-related fatali-
ties or refugees. Wider questions about the legitimacy of peace agree-
ments, states, and the international structures that underpin them are
left unasked. The de-radicalisation of peace studies has been enhanced
by the drive within many universities to secure research funding. Since
states and international organisations are the most common sources of
such funding, it is unsurprising that the research agendas this fund-
ing shapes are conservative. While there are countless research projects
on ‘peacebuilding’ or the problems of violent conflict, such as child
soldiers, displacement, or security sector reform, the nature of many
of these projects means that they are concerned with narrowly com-
partmentalised issues rather than broader systemic questions. Such
research agendas rarely encourage the big questions about power and
equity that have traditionally lain at the heart of peace studies. Instead,
they are often concerned with functional and technocratic matters.
These matters are often important and can have a real bearing on the
quality of life or peace in conflict-affected areas. But without address-
ing fundamental and underlying issues, problem-solving scholarship
risks having the long-term benefits of a sticking plaster. Radicalism
and blue skies thinking have not prospered in an era of consultancy
research. Interestingly, the notion of imagination, or imagining peace,
has played a significant role in peace studies (Boulding 1983; Lederach
2005; Mac Ginty 2006a: 97–8). A research culture conditioned by evalu-
ation reports and the need to keep donors sweet in order to gain repeat
consultancy contracts leaves little room for imagination.
The numbing of the critical tradition within peace studies has been
enhanced by conceptual drift. Peace studies, from the 1950s to the
1980s, was a small and often distinctive academic discipline. The 1990s
and beyond, however, have witnessed many more scholars and research
institutions take up the mantle of ‘peace’ research, to the extent that

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The Liberal Peace 25

peace studies has become diluted. This is exemplified by the careless

elision of ‘peace’ and ‘conflict’ to create the generic ‘peace and con-
flict studies’ common to many Master’s programmes. ‘Peace and con-
flict’ has become a catch-all category, containing many components
far removed from the perspectives of peace studies pioneers such as
Kenneth and Elise Boulding or Adam Curle.
The critical tradition of peace studies has been maintained, in part,
by a mainly European and developing world group of scholars who
have identified the liberal peace as an analytical framework within
which to critique orthodox forms of peacemaking (Richmond 2005,
2008; Chandler 2006; Cooper 2007; Jahn 2007; Duffield 2007). These
scholars do not constitute a homogeneous group. Yet they continue
the radical tradition in peace studies by rejecting the problem-solving
approach and by maintaining an interest in fundamental rather than
proximate conflict causation and maintenance factors. This criti-
cal scholarship does not accept that peace is normatively good in all
instances; it is interested in the quality of peace that follows interna-
tional peace-support interventions. Many of the critical scholars are
also sceptical of the liberal foundations of peace and the ability of
liberal institutionalism (or constant reform around the statebuilding
model in an attempt to coax post-conflict states into resembling a com-
pliant, market-oriented polity) to bring about sustained, high-quality
peace. The liberal peace, as well as being a prescriptive form of peace-
making, provides an analytical vehicle, or a way of seeing the world.
Importantly, the liberal peace concept allows observers to make link-
ages between apparently unconnected processes of peace intervention.
Peacebuilding in Liberia may seem far removed from that in Lebanon,
but with the assistance of the liberal peace lens it is possible to identify
the structural and ideological factors that tie apparently unconnected
peace endeavours together.

Liberalism, war, and peace

The task of discussing the contribution of liberalism to the conceptuali-

sation and promotion of peace and war is complicated by the extremely
variegated nature of liberalism. There are, in fact, multiple liberalisms.
The ideology does not possess a neat genealogy that follows a simple tra-
jectory from the Enlightenment to the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights and beyond. Instead, the evolution of liberalism is packed with
contradictions and the thwarting of noble ideals as they meet the cold
realities of social strictures, government budget cycles, and legislative

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26 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

timetables. Doyle (1997: 206) is correct in noting that ‘there is no

canonical description of liberalism’. It is possible, though, to identify
at least six elements that recur in discussions of liberalism with such
frequency that we can call them ‘liberalism’s core’. Firstly, liberalism
recognises the individual (rather than the state, kin group, or profes-
sional association, etc.) as a primary unit in society. In some cases indi-
vidual sovereignty can be overridden by the state or the economy, but
the identification of the individual as a largely sovereign political actor
sets liberalism apart from other ideologies that rest on strict hierarchies
or rigid collectives. Secondly, it supports notions of tolerance, diversity,
and equality of opportunity. Thirdly, it is interested in the promotion
of freedom, particularly individual freedoms, and believes these to be
universal. Fourthly, it is an optimistic ideology, believing in the reform-
ability of individuals and institutions. To this end liberalism can be said
to be a key driver in ‘modernisation’ projects, often believing that tech-
nology and institutional reform help individuals, societies, and organ-
isations tackle their problems. Fifthly, liberalism is convinced of the
rationality of individuals and collectives, trusting them to make adept
choices that will maximise benefits and reduce harm. So, for example,
many liberals would hold that, if given the choice, citizens would vote
to avoid war. A final key element of liberalism has been its defence of
property and the law, or the promotion of free markets and state-based
societal organisation. Different thinkers and eras have awarded differ-
ent emphasis to the various elements of the liberal canon. Eric Herring
(2008: 48) gives a good summary of liberalism as operationalised in
the contemporary world: ‘A formal and informal commitment to prin-
ciples and practices of individual rights and responsibility in the con-
text of equality of opportunity, the rule of law, freedom of expression
and association, a mainly market economy and governments chosen in
multi-party free elections.’
A series of possible contradictions run through the heart of liberal-
ism. For example, some liberals may advocate interventionist stances,
believing that mandated actors should intervene in the affairs of indi-
viduals, communities, and states in order to induce reforms or protect
rights. Other liberals may adopt a much more laissez-faire or strictly
libertarian approach which is antithetical to regulation or interference
by others. All these potential contradictions rely on essentially politi-
cal judgements to identify which set of liberties are to be protected
(Gray 2000: 82). These judgements are often embedded in layers of
cultural bias, and those making decisions may be unaware that in
championing one set of freedoms, another set of freedoms is denied.

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The Liberal Peace 27

Perhaps one of the starkest examples of competing sets of freedoms is

between western forms of political organisation on the one hand and
non-western indigenous forms on the other, particularly in societies
undergoing internationally sponsored statebuilding programmes. In
post-Taliban Afghanistan, for example, many western liberals saw it
as automatic that voting rights should be extended to women. Yet in
extending the franchise, traditional norms (albeit deeply patriarchal
and offensive to western liberals) are overridden. Liberalism’s diffi-
culty is that the ‘right’ balance of freedoms differs according to the
individual, society, organisation, or state in question. Further fuelling
this difficulty is the fact that internationally sponsored peace inter-
ventions, by their very nature, are prescriptive, prescribing particular
means and ends that shape the types of freedoms to be advanced and
There has been much debate on the links between liberalism, peace,
and war. A prominent strain of thought has sought to make links
between the type of economic and political organisation within a state
and liberal outcomes. This strain of thinking attests that a free econ-
omy and a democratic state allow individuals to express their freedoms
within the state. This state-bounded liberalism is then, apparently,
mirrored externally in the state’s international relations, with liberal
states eschewing international aggression. This forms the basis of the
‘democratic peace thesis’, which argues that liberal states (that is, states
with free markets and democratic politics) do not go to war. It is, of
course, complete rubbish (Mac Ginty 2006a: 42–5). Liberal states do
indeed enjoy ‘a separate peace’ in that they do not go to war against
one another (Doyle 1995: 86). But they are regularly involved in con-
frontations with states they deem non-liberal, often under label of
‘rogue’, ‘failed’, or ‘evil’. Despite liberal states’ track record of involve-
ment in violent conflict, the comforting notion that liberalism is
intrinsically peace-promoting has been persistently attractive to many
governments and international organisations. As Richmond (2008:
292) observes, the notion of the democratic peace is based on the not
very firm footing of hope and assumption: ‘Much hope is placed upon
the assumed “natural” desire of civil society for peace, as a collective
will.’ The apparent ‘victory’ of liberalism with the end of the Cold War
reinforced the notion that it was an invincible and infallible political
ideology and could serve as the foundations for domestic and interna-
tional policy (Cochran 1999: 145).
An emboldened liberalism has provided the intellectual underpin-
ning for a series of international peace-support programmes in the

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28 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

post-Cold War world (Cooper 2002). Crucially, liberalism has pro-

vided a recipe for international intervention. Firstly, its concern with
the condition of citizens within states has encouraged an ambigu-
ity about the sovereignty of certain ‘non-liberal’ states. Thus human
rights within the territory of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq became a legiti-
mate concern for apparent liberals in other states. For geo-strategic
reasons, the human rights of citizens in Saudi Arabia, Burma, and
Turkmenistan were less of a concern. Secondly, the liberal belief in
the reformability of individuals and institutions means that liber-
als are predisposed to intervene, whether through advice or through
more coercive or incentivised actions. Thirdly, liberals are convinced
of the superiority of their own form of social, political, and economic
organisation. Their rubric for making such an assessment is based on
the ‘successes’ delivered by free markets, individual liberty, and demo-
cratic forms of political organisation. As Williams (2006: 5) observed,
liberals believe ‘quite sincerely in the creation of a better world and
that they are the exemplars of what that world should look like’. By
believing that their forms of political, economic, and social organisa-
tions are superior to those of others, many liberals regard themselves
as insulated from criticism. The danger is that liberal intervention-
ism can become a steamroller, pushing aside indigenous norms, pre-
scribing particular forms of political and economic organisation, and
limiting certain freedoms in the name of other freedoms. Liberalism,
as operationalised by leading states, international organisations, and
international financial organisations, can be so caught up in its own
hubris that it fails to see how it comes to resemble realism. Mayall
(2006: 96) notes how both liberals and realists share ‘the assumption
of the self-evident and non-problematic state’.
Williams (2006: 2) has identified the development of a ‘new liberal
militancy’ in the wake of 9/11. Certainly a number of states and inter-
national actors displayed an exuberant confidence in the abilities of
their anointed version of liberalism to save the world. Liberal remedies
offered salvation from war, poverty, disease, and so-called terrorism.
Liberalism had become a kind of magic dust that if spread within states
and economies would produce harmony and prosperity at the inter-
national level. A key problem, however, was that the states and inter-
national actors who were in the vanguard of liberal internationalism
were prescribing a particular form of liberalism. Three dimensions of
this version of liberalism are worth highlighting: its tendency towards
militarised or coercive interventions, its neo-liberal interpretation of
economics, and its ethnocentrism.

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The Liberal Peace 29

The first of these dimensions, liberalism’s predilection for militarised

or coercive interventions, is summed up by Christopher Layne (2006:
121–2) with reference to the United States:

Far from being a theory of peace, democratic peace theory causes

the United States to act like a ‘crusader state’. America’s crusader
mentality springs directly from liberalism’s intolerance of compet-
ing ideologies and the concomitant belief that – merely by existing –
nondemocratic states threaten America’s security and the safety of
liberalism at home. According to Wilsonian precepts, the best way to
deal with such states is to use America’s power to bring about regime

It would be wrong to characterise liberal states as trigger-happy: only a

few use direct violence. More generally, liberal states resort to a range of
coercive mechanisms, most of which mediate coercion through inter-
national institutions and use indirect violence through sanctions or
financial pressures. Many of these coercive techniques are so deeply
embedded in international architecture that they are often regarded as
mere ‘rules of the game’. In this way, their disciplining effect is often
overlooked. The chief point is that despite its mantra of toleration, the
dominant version of liberalism can be intolerant of deviation from its
norms, and has constructed an elaborate system of control, together
with a sophisticated intellectual rationale for that control. The bias in
favour of security-led approaches towards peace has intensified post-
9/11, and, as David Keen (2008: 172) reminds us, security-led approaches
are ‘inherently violent’, at least in the sense that they are prepared to
justify violence in the name of a greater goal.
A second dimension of the currently dominant version of liberal-
ism worth highlighting is its neo-liberal interpretation of economics.
Liberalism has a long tradition of seeing the emancipatory potential of
economic freedom. Free markets, according to this thinking, offered
potential for individuals and groups to lift themselves out of poverty,
and for states to raise taxes in order to offer social provision. In pos-
sible contradiction with this has been the equally long liberal tradi-
tion that has regarded the state as the best institution for protecting
civil liberties and furthering social justice (Bronner 2004: 152). The bal-
ance between economic freedoms and the power of states to regulate
the market has always been difficult to strike. Since the early 1980s,
however, the libertarian side of the argument has held sway among
many leading states and international organisations (Mac Ginty and

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30 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

Williams 2009: 11–13). The state was thought to retard the market
(Dorn 1998: 13; Bauer 1998: 36). The prescriptions were predictable and
have remained largely unchanged in the decades that followed: pare
back the state and attempts to regulate the market, privatise state assets,
lift exchange controls, and monetise transactions. Bronner (2004: 156)
observes how ‘the last decades have witnessed a devastating rollback of
redistributive policies and an equally devastating assault on the ideol-
ogy of the welfare state’. In the libertarian view, free markets were to
be privileged and the state, potentially a buffer against an unfettered
market, was rendered into a stooge for further capitalist accumulation
(Harvey 2003: 190). The triumph of neo-liberal interpretations of eco-
nomics has had a very real impact on the reorganisation of economies
emerging from war. The ‘shock doctrine’ (Klein 2007), or rapid pro-
grammes of privatisation and marketisation, has become the staple tool
deployed by the international financial institutions. Although such
interventions, or ‘madcap schemes’ as Gray puts it (2003: 115), have had
disastrous human consequences, their neo-liberal underpinnings have
become orthodoxy. According to Harvey (2005: 3), ‘Neo-liberalism has,
in short, become hegemonic as a mode of discourse. It has pervasive
effects on ways of thought to the point where it has become incorpo-
rated into the common-sense way many of us interpret, live in, and
understand the world.’ The widespread acceptance of the free market
was evidenced in the midst of the global economic crisis from 2008
onwards when leading states and international financial institutions
advocated economic recovery via debt-fuelled spending – precisely the
strategy that had resulted in the crisis in the first place. This underlined
the extent to which neo-liberal economic interpretations had achieved
‘value imperialism’, or mass acceptance (Miller 2008: 1124).
A third dimension of the currently dominant form of liberalism is
its ethnocentrism, or its tendency to regard western social, political,
and economic mores as fit for purpose in non-western contexts. Gray’s
observation (2003: 1) that ‘Western societies are governed by the belief
that modernity is a single condition, everywhere the same and always
benign’ is indicative of the single-transferable mentality that underpins
much contemporary liberalism. Usually liberals hold such universalist
views with the very best of intentions; some rights are so important
and intrinsic to human freedoms and wellbeing that they should not
be constrained by borders. Moreover, the liberal faith in the ability of
humans to use reason means that people are to be trusted to coop-
erate and retain a sense of proportion in using and protecting their
rights (Sterling-Folker 2006: 55). Despite the good intentions, however,

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The Liberal Peace 31

liberalism is essentially an interventionist and expansionary project

through its attempts to reform individuals and institutions. This project
is particularly problematic when it clashes with local customary norms
and practices. Often, however, the conflict is very uneven and takes the
form of one set of norms overwriting another set of norms. The cultural
and material power that liberal states, international organisations, and
commercial interests are able to mobilise is often hugely superior to
indigenous forms of organisation. Liberalism has played an immense
role in the extension of empires, and in the appropriation of land,
resources, and culture. Yet liberals may not see such linkages. They
may genuinely regard liberalism as having an unblemished historical
record. In modern times, they may see their endeavours as liberating
and emancipating rather than as some sort of ‘neo-colonial civilizing
mission’ (Selby 2008: 13). It is difficult, however, to think about liberal-
ism without also thinking about power relations, and about how liberal
rhetoric and intentions may mask a series of projects linked with exten-
sion of power.
It is important that we are not too curmudgeonly in the face of the
fruits potentially on offer from liberalism. Many of the criticisms lev-
elled at liberalism are not so much concerned with its essential princi-
ples as with the manner, pace, and extent to which they are pursued.
Thus, for example, many of those who criticise liberal interpretations of
economics can see the potential benefits of the market for incentivising
individuals, encouraging efficiency, and raising tax revenues for states.
Their problem, however, is with the particularly rapacious implications
of neo-liberal economics, in which the market is king and the social
costs of unregulated trade are overlooked. Thus, some critics of the lib-
eral peace wish to ‘rescue’ liberalism from itself. They see their task as
salvaging those parts of the liberal project that are worthwhile (such
as the mainstreaming of ideas of pluralism and toleration) while rid-
ding liberalism of its more libertarian tendencies. For them, the funda-
mental contours of liberal intervention should remain unchanged, but,
within these contours, interventions should be made ‘sharper, faster
and lighter’ (Copeland 2009: 205). Other critics, however, see liberal-
ism as being fatally damaged and unable to overcome its addictions to
uninvited intervention, neo-liberal economics, rigid institutionalised
prescriptions, and western state-based models of political organisation.
Rather than reform liberalism, they advocate a more radical departure.
Richmond (2009a), for example, sees the need for a ‘post-liberal peace’,
or a means of making and sustaining peace that can transcend the hier-
archies and power relations hardwired into the liberal peace.

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32 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

Liberal peace actors and structures

The task now is to translate how liberalism as an ideology and as a

way of organising polities, economies, and societies promotes its ver-
sion of peace in societies experiencing conflict. The principal agents
of the liberal peace are leading states from the global north, leading
international organisations, and the international financial institu-
tions. These actors rarely operate alone; instead, the liberal peace pro-
duces a complex chain of delegation and co-option so that the principal
actors are assisted by numerous accomplices. This chain largely oper-
ates downwards from the leading states and international organisations
through to national elites and further downwards to municipal and
local elites. Yet the focus of this book on local agency and the power of
local agents to hybridise politics and peace means that we should not
conceive of overly neat silos through which resources are channelled
and ideas transmitted in a prescribed way. The picture is messier. The
silos are rarely neat sequences of discrete actors and, as will be discussed
in subsequent chapters, the transmission chains sometimes allow for
feedback, resistance, and the bottom-up conduction of ideas and prac-
tice. Figure 2 is an overly neat version of the liberal peace transmis-
sion chain. While international actors often wield significant power,
a messier diagram (and therefore one unlikely to be accepted by the
publisher!) would be required to accommodate the two-way direction
of interaction.
It is worth demonstrating the dominance of western or western-
oriented actors in the liberal peace. This is most obviously revealed in
cases where leading western states (usually the United States and the
United Kingdom) have deployed military power and logistics in the
name of apparently liberal goals. In the post-Cold War world, United
States military preponderance reached truly staggering proportions. US
strategic doctrine means that it must be capable of fighting two-and-a-
half wars simultaneously. Its unrivalled ability to project hard power
was demonstrated during the civil war in the former Yugoslavia. United
Nations and European attempts to encourage or coerce the parties to
reach an agreed settlement came to nothing until American airpower
was brought to bear in Operation Deliberate Force. During the 1999
NATO air assault on Serbia, 99 per cent of all targets were chosen by
the United States, the US flew the majority of missions, and virtually all
of the precision guided munitions used were manufactured in the US
(Kagan 2003: 46). The invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, while
nominally conducted by a ‘coalition of the willing’, was a United States

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The Liberal Peace 33

Leading states, international organisations, and

international financial institutions

National governments





Communities and Individuals

Figure 2 An overly stylised liberal peace ‘silo’ or transmission chain

show. The US did not require the assistance of coalition members such as
Afghanistan, Albania, Eritrea, and Bulgaria to topple Saddam Hussein’s
regime (Schifferes 2003). It was American military surges that ‘saved’
Iraq and Afghanistan from militants. In 2008, the United States spent
$607bn on its military, or 41 per cent of total world military spending.
This figure amounted to seven times Chinese military spending and
over ten times Russian spending (SIPRI 2009). To put American mili-
tary might into perspective, the US Marine Corps alone has more attack
aircraft than the Royal Air Force, and more personnel than the entire
British Army (Bacevich 2005: 16).
Behind the United States, there are a range of second-order states that
have been willing to deploy military forces in the name of liberal goals.
The majority of these states are western; they include Australia, Britain,

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34 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria,

Norway, and South Africa. Such deployments are usually part of wider,
western-led coalition operations and take place under the banner of
international organisations. While the imprimatur of international
organisations, particularly the UN, may give the impression of univer-
sal legitimacy for a particular peace-support intervention, it is worth
noting that leading western states often have controlling interests in
international organisations. Three members of the Permanent Five in
the UN Security Council are western states. It is often western states
that are most active in international organisations. As a result, these
international organisations come to represent western interests. For
example, the President of the World Bank has always been an American,
and the Director of the International Monetary Fund has always been a
European. Another example concerns governance projects undertaken
by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Ostensibly
the UNDP operates on behalf of all UN members, and all UN members
have a right to shape the UNDP’s agenda. Yet much of the organisa-
tion’s agenda reflects western goals. Western states and the European
Union have been the most assiduous promoters of governance reforms
in developing world states and have used the UNDP to promote this
agenda. Interestingly, many states that would have much to fear from
governance reforms, such as Saudi Arabia or Syria, have not attempted
to resist the western takeover of the UNDP and the conversion of the
organisation into a tribune of the liberal peace.
The key point is that many international organisations and their pro-
grammes have been ‘captured’ or co-opted by western interests. While
developing world states contribute most personnel to UN missions, these
missions often reflect the interests of major states. In August 2010, the
United States was contributing a mere eighty-seven troops and police
officers to UN peacekeeping operations (or about 0.006 per cent of its
armed forces). Uruguay was contributing almost thirty times more per-
sonnel, but there is no suggestion that the UN or other international
organisations were dancing to a Uruguayan tune (UNDPKO 2010a). The
direction, policies, priorities, funding, and ideological stance of a range
of international organisations, international financial institutions, and
INGOs reflect western interests that fall under the liberal peace rubric.
It is not the contention here that the liberal peace amounts to a das-
tardly plot centrally directed from the United States and a small cohort
of collaborating states. Certainly these states do exert control over the
liberal peace, but it is useful to see the liberal peace as a much broader
and complex system of states and interests operating on multiple levels

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The Liberal Peace 35

(internationally down to the level of individuals) and on multiple issues

(from security to culture). It operates on a coalition basis, with coali-
tions of interested parties coalescing and dissipating around particular
issues. Some actors (leading states, leading international organisations,
the international financial institutions, and corporate interests) form
the core of the coalition more regularly than others. Common interests
in relation to societies emerging from conflict might include stability in
a post-conflict zone, access to markets, and the promotion of forms of
governance that will aid pacification. It is not quite the case that these
are ‘coalitions of the willing’, to use the disingenuous phrase deployed
at the time of the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. Instead, the coalitions
are underpinned by a certain amount of coercion. Often this coercion
is subtle and structural, taking the form of the economic ties that can
be broken only with serious consequences.
Through its incentive and compliance mechanisms, the liberal peace
is able to construct extraordinarily broad coalitions in post-conflict
societies. These coalitions can range from the national government in
the capital city to regional party leaders, municipal workers, and local
communities. Each actor or institution might be drawn into the liberal
peace web by different motives. In many cases these motives are instru-
mental and relate to access to resources or the ability to retain a posi-
tion of power or influence rather than an affinity with the liberal goals
expressed in international policy pronouncements. So, for example, a
national elite may acquiesce to an international peace-support inter-
vention in its own country in order to stay in power, gain international
legitimacy, and access resources in the form of post-war reconstruction
funding. In return for these resources and recognition, the national elite
will be compelled to meet conditions such as implementing governance
reforms in the central and municipal bureaucracy and complying with
payback regimes to international banks. The liberal peace transmission
chain means that an agreement sanctioned in the national capital may
have far-reaching consequences in the rest of the country. For example,
international and national actors may cooperate to regulate the trade of
medicines in an attempt to stymie the informal economy. Such actions
can bring the liberal peace to the household and individual level, lim-
iting the locations where medicines can be purchased, regulating the
quality of medicines, formalising the transaction, and – in all probabil-
ity – increasing the cost (Nordstrom 2004: 101–2).
The liberal peace umbrella can include some unlikely actors. INGOs
that see themselves as radical campaigning organisations may have
to cooperate with core liberal peace actors, such as leading states or

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36 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

military organisations, in order to secure resources or access to at-risk

populations. Simultaneous with facilitating humanitarian or develop-
ment activity by the INGOs, the military organisations may be pros-
ecuting a war. For many INGOs a calculation is required: to what extent
is ‘contamination’ through contact with military forces engaged in
offensive campaigns acceptable if it facilitates more positive humani-
tarian or development ends? The scale and complexity of many peace-
support interventions mean that a very broad range of actors may be
drawn into the ambit of the liberal peace. Although Hamas is listed as a
‘terrorist’ group by the United States and the European Union, it is the
effective authority in the Gaza Strip. Those international organisations,
INGOs, and NGOs permitted by Israel to work in the Gaza Strip must
cooperate with Hamas simply to get business done. Yet US and EU rules
forbid such contacts for their own citizens and organisations funded
by them. A good deal of ‘turning a blind eye’ goes on. For Hamas,
external actors are vital conduits of resources and legitimacy, and so
they actively engage with a wide range of international organisations,
INGOs, and NGOs. The liberal peace chain, and the use of proxy actors
such as INGOs and NGOs, means that there are relatively few degrees of
separation between Hamas and the United States despite the antipathy
between the two.
The liberal peace can be conceptualised as a system of complicity and
mutual interest. Its structures are both formal and informal. Its formal
structures operate through international and regional organisations,
while its informal structures reflect networks of power and influence.
In a sense, it is the coming together of hardware (states and institu-
tions) and software (the operating system). It is the software that shapes
how the computer is used, or programmes the institutions to pursue
liberal goals. To continue the computing metaphor, software can be
updated to suit changing environments. The liberal peace has been able
to evolve through these ‘software updates’. Thus, at various times and
in various locations, it has taken on board (rhetorically or in practice)
notions of human security, democratisation, free-market economics, or
the responsibility to protect.
Perhaps the largest threat to the liberal peace comes from powerful
non-liberal or quasi-liberal political and economic actors, especially
China, Russia, and India. These states control massive populations and
have used brutal methods of suppression. Such states are not alone in
their ambiguous positions on human rights; many second- and third-
tier states, such as Burma, Iran, and Egypt, are authoritarian or routinely
abuse human rights. The significance of China, Russia, and India relates

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The Liberal Peace 37

to their foreign policy ambitions and their ability to project a sphere of

influence under which client states can promote non-liberal forms of
peace. This poses a real barrier to the universal ambitions of the liberal
peace. Given the economic and geo-political growth of China and India,
and the resurgence of Russia, it is worth pondering whether the zenith
of the liberal peace has passed. A number of other states enjoy anoma-
lous positions that exempt them from many of the more intrusive forms
of liberal development or liberal peace. Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia,
for example, routinely flout human rights legislation. Yet all the states
mentioned in this paragraph, whether regional hegemons like China
or closed authoritarian states like Saudi Arabia, have much in common
with the champions of the liberal peace. This is especially so in terms
of their interest in stability and rule-bounded international systems. To
undermine the international political economy that underpins the lib-
eral peace risks destabilising their own economies and systems of gov-
ernance. The Chinese regime, Saudi princes, and Burmese generals all
have an interest in the stability of the dollar and the geo-political order
that the dollar guarantees. When states like Israel engage in aggressive
actions, such as its 2006 war against Hezbollah or its 2010 murder of
Turkish peace protestors, they do so either with the connivance of the
United States or on the basis of a calculation that the repercussions of
aggression can be contained.

Liberal peace manifestations

Although the term ‘liberal peace’ is useful shorthand for the dominant
form of international peace-support interventions, it is important to
note that there is much variety within the liberal peace. While it has
monopolising tendencies, it is not monolithic. Richmond (2005: 217)
conceptualises the liberal peace as sited along an axis with a hyper-
conservative version at one end and an emancipatory version at the
other. In between, there are conservative and orthodox versions. The
key point is that there is no such thing as a typical liberal peace inter-
vention. The liberal peace agenda is promoted with varying degrees of
enthusiasm in different conflict-affected areas. So Iraq and Afghanistan
receive the full regime-change treatment, while Burma and North Korea
do not. Bosnia-Herzegovina is subject to a comprehensive statebuilding
programme, while Somalia is largely allowed to fester in statelessness.
The reasons for variance in the vigour with which the liberal peace is
promoted by western states and institutions lie not only in geo-strategic
interests. Hard-to-define factors such as the political and economic cycle

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38 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

at home, and the public and political willingness to accept military cas-
ualties, also play a part. Although almost never discussed, race must also
play a part: western states are very shy of major military interventions
in Africa. Variance in the promotion of the liberal peace is not only
due to factors constraining or enabling liberal peace agents to project
their power. It also relies on the ability and willingness of actors in
conflict-affected areas to resist the liberal peace. Thus Afghan militants
can thwart many of the ambitions of the liberal peace. Moreover, liberal
peace actors may face competition from rival peace-support actors. For
example, Chinese diplomats may offer economic assistance with fewer
strings attached than that on offer from Brussels or Washington.
The liberal peace becomes manifest in two dimensions. The first
is through the liberal peace as an international system; the second is
through specific international peace-support interventions. In the
former, the liberal peace often manifests itself through international
structures, norms, and regimes and soft power. These forms of the lib-
eral peace are often so deeply embedded in international political cul-
ture that they are not particularly visible; instead, they are the widely
accepted ‘way of doing things’. In this way, the liberal peace is latent and
customary, and it rests on a series of often unchallenged assumptions.
Such assumptions may include, for example, the acceptance of a range
of international organisations and their mandates as being legitimate,
the acceptance that a post-war economy should be organised around
the free market, or the acceptance that a constitutional democracy is
the most appropriate form of post-war polity. Within this systemic con-
text, the liberal peace manifests itself in a second way, through specific
peace-support interventions. The precise manifestations will vary from
intervention to intervention, though often there can be a combination
of soft and hard power elements.
The liberal peace should not be conceptualised as the direct projection
of western values and practices onto states from the global south. To be
sure, there is a significant amount of projection, but this projection is
subject to considerable distortion and variance. Rather than ‘mini-me’
Xerox copies, it is perhaps best to conceive of ersatz copies that dif-
fer from the original. Moreover, rather than the simple extension of
practices and values from the global north to the global south, many
aspects of the liberal peace have been deemed too toxic for the global
north itself. This is especially the case in relation to many neo-liberal
aspects of economic strategy. It was Latin America and Central and
Eastern Europe, not the ‘imperial core’ of North America and Western
Europe, that experienced the ‘shock doctrine’ of neo-liberalism. Forms

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The Liberal Peace 39

of economic management that were road-tested in the global south

were then imposed on other areas of the global south as part of liberal
peace projects.
While there is no ‘typical’ liberal peace intervention, it is possible to
identify commonalities among interventions. This should not be sur-
prising given the regularity with which the same actors (states, inter-
national organisations, international financial institutions, INGOs,
and NGOs) deploy the same strategies (usually associated with state-
building and reinforcing civil society), using the same timelines (often
a series of two- to three-year programmes), and according to the same
liberal principles. The result may be a ‘conveyor belt’ of the same types
of intervention with the same sequencing of elements within them.
The interventions might be modulated to suit local circumstances,
but generally they have formulaic and template-style qualities. Thus a
post-civil war peace accord may be followed by a ‘typical’ set of pro-
grammes on disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration, secu-
rity sector reform, statebuilding, civil society enhancement, economic
recovery, truth recovery, and reconciliation. In caricature-like terms,
it resembles peacebuilding from IKEA, whereby the vision of peace is
made off-site, shipped to a foreign location, and reconstructed accord-
ing to a pre-arranged plan. To continue the IKEA metaphor, the ‘perfect’
post-conflict society is depicted, as though in a catalogue, as a stable,
market-oriented democracy. Pritchett and Woolcock (2004: 191–212)
pithily identified the liberal peace enterprise as ‘getting to Denmark’, a
byword for a generic ‘any state’ with a functioning bureaucracy, devel-
oped economy, and compliant foreign policy.
Two major manifestations of liberal peace interventions are worth
highlighting. The first is the internationalising aspect of the liberal
peace, and the second is its attachment to the modern state as the
principal unit of political organisation. By its very nature liberal peace-
building involves the introduction of resources, personnel, and modes
of practice from outside the country. This book is particularly inter-
ested in the processes whereby international personnel, resources, and
norms interact with their indigenous counterparts. Although the exog-
enous factors may nominally be courtesy of the ‘international com-
munity’, in many cases the largest contributors of resources and mores
will be western states and western-dominated international organi-
sations. This internationalising aspect of the liberal peace may have
far-reaching political, economic, social, and cultural implications. It
has the potential to shape a series of relationships and perceptions
within the post-war society. Relationships between citizens, between

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40 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

citizens and the state, and between the state, citizen, and the market
may be affected by external factors. International actors may see their
interventions as small-scale, innocuous, and ‘neutral’. Yet the interna-
tionalising logic of liberal peace interventions can have a tremendous
cultural impact.
Take the example of the introduction of a paper application form
through which citizens in a local municipality in a post-war society can
apply for a particular service (Hamieh and Mac Ginty 2009: 116). The
introduction of such application forms may be part of the ‘good govern-
ance reforms’ introduced as part of a wider statebuilding programme
led by an international agency such the United Nations Development
Programme. The UNDP governance programme officer (very probably
an international member of staff) may regard such an innovation as
a technical issue. It is merely ensuring that an administrative system
is in place so that the service provider can attempt to demonstrate
transparency, accountability, and efficiency. To a (western) mindset
acculturated to administrative due process performed by a functioning
bureaucracy, the introduction of a paper trail may be sensible and even
‘neutral’. Yet, the locally felt political and cultural implications of such
a seemingly innocuous innovation may be far-reaching. Previously, the
interface between the local municipality and the citizen may have been
personal, with the citizen speaking directly to the relevant functionary
or political figure. This relationship, albeit direct, may have relied on
clientelism and patronage, and may have been prone to a range of polit-
ical and identity-based biases. With the introduction of newly standard-
ised technologies of governance (the paper form and related systems of
administrative due process), the traditional interface between the citi-
zen and the state is rendered obsolete and non-standard. The key point
is that the change, whether for good or bad, occurred at the behest of
international actors and has profound political and cultural implica-
tions for how the business of politics is conducted and how citizens
interact with and perceive the state.
The second major manifestation of liberal peace interventions worth
highlighting is the extent to which they revolve around statebuilding.
Significant international energies are invested in statebuilding in post-
war societies, to the extent that, in some cases, statebuilding seems to
be the only tool in the international toolkit. Call and Wyeth (2008),
although recognising the many complications in statebuilding, refer
to this reductionism as ‘building states to build peace’. The logic is
simple, and has had much success in the past: effective states are vehi-
cles through which citizens can be secured, rights can be protected,

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The Liberal Peace 41

peacebuilding and reconstruction assistance can be distributed, and

property rights can be respected. ‘Weak’ or ‘failed’ states, on the other
hand, are seen as ‘Petri dishes for transnational criminal activity such
as money laundering, arms smuggling, drug trafficking, people traf-
ficking, and terrorism’ (Wainwright 2003: 486). Pirates off the Horn
of Africa, protracted complex social emergencies, and 9/11 have been
associated with statelessness. As a result, leading states and interna-
tional organisations regard statebuilding as a core remedy. For some
commentators, such as Roland Paris, the construction of an effec-
tive state is such an important step on the road towards a sustained
peace that statebuilding should have precedence over the extension of
political and economic freedoms (Paris 2004: 187–8). The voluminous
literature on statebuilding attests to its centrality in liberal peace inter-
ventions (Chandler 2009a; Paris and Sisk 2008; Zaum 2007; Boyce and
O’Donnell 2007).
By reforming post-civil war states into something approximating
western states, champions of the liberal peace are creating recognisable
interfaces with which they can safely interact. ‘Properly’ formulated
states are equipped with sets of institutions (for example, diplomatic
corps, ministries, municipalities) that are amenable to standardised
interactions; they can connect with their counterparts in London,
Washington, or Paris. As will be explored throughout this book, the
newly created states are prone to problems of legitimacy. While provid-
ing a recognisable interface to external actors, their legitimacy at home
may be open to question; the post-civil war government may be popu-
lar in the capital city, or with a particular ethnic or identity group, but
it may owe its power to international might and resources.

Criticisms of the liberal peace

Many of the criticisms of the liberal peace have already been touched
upon in this chapter, will become apparent in the case study chapters
of this book, and have been covered elsewhere by the author and oth-
ers (Mac Ginty 2006a: 33–57; Darby and Mac Ginty 2008: 4–6; Taylor
2009). For the sake of brevity the chief pitfalls of the dominant interna-
tional approach to peace-support interventions can be listed with only
brief explanation:

● Ethnocentric: it is directed from the global north and attempts to

reproduce forms of peace and governance that mirror expectations
from the global north;

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42 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

● Elitist: power is held by political and economic elites at the interna-

tional and national level;
● Security-centric: it privileges order and security over emancipa-
tion and diversity and so can award power to those prepared to use
● Superficial: it primarily responds to the manifestations of conflict
rather than the underlying structural causes. As a result peace is not
● Technocratic: it reduces peacebuilding to a series of technocratic
● Rigid: it is prone to ‘peace by template’ or overly programmed peace
● Short-termist: individual peace-support interventions are often gov-
erned by short-term budget and political cycles. Again, peace is not
● Neo-liberal: it privileges neo-liberal economic interventions and
often overlooks the social cost;
● Illusory: liberal peace interventions may involve much activity, but
the essential power relations within society (between sexes, classes,
and identity groups) may remain largely unchanged;
● Fails to fulfil and connect with local expectations: it is insufficiently
agile to take account of local cultural preferences.

The summary of these criticisms is that the liberal peace often pro-
duces a poor-quality peace in societies emerging from civil war. Direct
violence may have ended, a peace accord may be in place, and interna-
tional peace assistance may be streaming in, but other forms of exclu-
sion and indirect violence persist. On the ground, the ‘peace’ may
be characterised by insecurity, poverty, discrimination, and political
stasis. Many international actors, however, may be poorly placed to
interpret the peace as deficient. The cessation of direct violence, and
the quantity of liberal peace ministrations, may give the impression
of ‘peace’, especially if international staff live in a compound in the
capital city, socialise with others from the international community,
and receive most of their information from government ministries or
via English-speaking local staff. A single context may offer multiple
experiences of peace, and the experience of many international staff
is likely to be partial or limited by relatively short-term contracts and
Criticisms of the liberal peace must be leavened by hard-headed
questions on the availability and viability of alternatives. There are

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The Liberal Peace 43

cases in which it is only states from the global north that have the
logistical capability to prevent or ameliorate humanitarian catastro-
phe. More acutely, military forces from the global north may be the
only actors able and willing to provide the security for humanitar-
ian access. This may derive from the liberal belief in the reformabil-
ity of people and institutions, and a sense of responsibility for other
humans based on a belief in universal rights. The nature of the liberal
peace means that all actors who become involved with it consciously
or unconsciously become compromised. Just as liberalism is emancipa-
tory and actively pushes tolerance, it also has a dark side, especially
when projected as part of a liberal peace intervention. The nature of
this form of peacemaking means that it can be simultaneously eman-
cipatory and humanitarian, and authoritarian. This can be evidenced
by the NATO-led international mission in Afghanistan. NATO troops
can provide security for NGOs in northern Afghanistan while, at the
same time, their colleagues may be bombing villages in the south of
the country. INGOs and NGOs that cooperate with liberal peace agents
for understandable and entirely humanitarian reasons, such as access
to resources, may award legitimacy to military projects (Howell and
Lind 2009: 718–36). The vast majority of actors involved in the liberal
peace genuinely believe in the righteousness of their cause; indeed,
that is part of the liberal condition. Much of the ‘harm’ inflicted by
the liberal peace is unintended. Individual actors (for example, NGO
workers, civil servants on bilateral programmes, UNDP staff) can see
the benefits of their interventions: more children receiving education,
better sanitation, or land mines cleared.
Indeed, it is difficult to be churlish in the face of the obvious good
news stories that emerge from some post-war societies. Take this exam-
ple from Cambodia in which a road-building project was part of the
wider peace-support mission by international actors:

Before the commune council built an all-weather road linking

Chambak village to the outside world, farmers only got rock-bottom
prices for their crops. It was hard for them to get to market ... ‘I was
nearly always in debt and I had trouble finding enough food to feed
my family,’ recalls Kong Chhork. Since the new road was built, farm-
ers’ incomes have significantly improved. Now they sell fresh cassava
instead of the dried variety and net three times the price. ‘I’m no
longer in debt,’ says Chhork proudly, ‘and I can even afford to send
my children to school.’ He’s also been able to buy a two-wheeled
tractor and more land. (Pye-Smith 2009: 32)

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44 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

Alongside the incidences of social improvement are examples of the

brutality of liberal peacemaking. Here villagers recall the aftermath of a
NATO airstrike on two hijacked oil tankers in an Afghan village:

‘We didn’t recognise any of the dead when we arrived,’ said Omar
Khan, the turbaned village chief of Eissa Khail. ‘It was like a chem-
ical bomb had gone off, everything was burned. The bodies were
like this,’ he brought his two hands together, his fingers curling
like claws. ‘There were like burned tree logs, like charcoal. The vil-
lagers were fighting over the corpses. People were saying this is my
brother, this is my cousin, and no one could identify anyone.’ So the
elders stepped in. They collected all the bodies they could and asked
the people to tell them how many relatives each family had lost. A
queue formed. One by one the bereaved gave the names of missing
brothers, cousins, sons and nephews, and each in turn received their
quota of corpses. It didn’t matter who was who, everyone was man-
gled beyond recognition anyway. All that mattered was that they
had a body to bury and perform prayers. (Abdul-Ahad 2009)

The liberal peace presents analysts with an extremely complex peace-

making environment in which the extension of freedom and violence
are used by the same powers in the name of the same project: ‘peace’.
As a result, peacemaking must be open to critical scrutiny, and we must
be able to differentiate between individual cases of peace-support inter-
vention, as well as between the different levels within each case. It is
also important to see the liberal peace in totality, or at the meta-level.
While the liberal peace may be emancipatory at the local level in some
cases, and it may be possible to see real improvements in living condi-
tions, it is also important to keep the meta-level under scrutiny. At this
level, for example, the liberal peace might be regarded as a system that
facilitates the continuation of an essentially conservative international
political system in which the same political and economic interests per-
petuate their own domination.

Concluding discussion

The term ‘liberal peace’ has been used in three ways in this chapter.
Firstly, it is an interpretive vehicle, or a way of seeing the world. In
particular, it is a means of conceptualising the multiple peace-support
interventions by leading states (mainly from the global north), inter-
national organisations, and international financial institutions. These

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The Liberal Peace 45

multiple interventions may seem disparate in terms of their scope, scale,

duration, geographical span, and complexity, but the liberal peace lens
provides us with a way of identifying commonalities in these interven-
tions. This comparative methodology allows us to make generalisations
on the ideology, actors, and consequences of liberal peace interventions.
Secondly, the term ‘liberal peace’ has been used here to identify a system
of intervention, discipline, and power. It is not simply a series of peace-
support interventions. Instead, the term ‘liberal peace’ relates to the
complex international structure of states, international organisations,
international financial institutions, commercial interests, INGOs, and
NGOs that operate according to liberal mores to create the liberal peace.
The liberal peace operates in patterned ways, and many of its parts are
integrated, meaning that it can be conceptualised as a system. Thirdly,
the term ‘liberal peace’ also applies to individual international peace-
support interventions, whether led by the United Nations, NATO, the
African Union, or a coalition of states.
The champions of the liberal peace are able to marshal immense
material and cultural power. It is worth noting, however, that there
are limits to this power. In some cases, local and alternative actors
are able to oppose, defer, deflect, and change liberal peace interven-
tions. Moreover, liberal peace agents may be distracted by political and
economic problems at home. Their ability to project the liberal peace
may be limited by the sphere of influence of non-liberal powers such
as China or Israel. Moreover, there are areas of the world deemed too
marginal by leading states to be worth significant liberal investment. A
key point of this book, therefore, is to move beyond caricatures of the
liberal peace as an all-powerful Leviathan that can globally project its
power in an unchallenged manner. There are limits to this power, and,
as the empirical chapters of this book show, many of these limits derive
from the internal contradictions of liberalism and from the active chal-
lenges mounted by local actors in target states.
Many orthodox and problem-solving approaches to revising the
shortcomings of peace intervention seek to redistribute power. For
example, they may seek to enhance local responsibility and encour-
age ‘local ownership’ and participation. But such power redistribution
is often marginal and does not involve a fundamental rethinking of
the meaning and location of power. It often is a superficial exercise
that encourages local actors to conform to norms and practices estab-
lished in the global north. A key aim of this book is to encourage us
to think about how different groups interpret power – hence the focus
on hybridity. While I do not wish to perpetuate another binary, it does

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46 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

seem that many international peace-support actors are more comfort-

able thinking about and exercising material forms of power (for exam-
ple, the ability to project military force or humanitarian supplies), while
local communities in some settings tend to think about power in terms
of legitimacy and moral standing. This raises important implications
for how local and international actors (and the many categories in
between) engage with one another.
In the light of the practical shortcomings of liberal interventions, and
of mounting academic criticism of the liberal peace (Líden et al. 2009),
three interesting developments can be seen in the academic literature.
Firstly, a spirited defence of the liberal peace is being mounted by those
who believe that liberalism is essentially reforming and that despite the
shortcomings it can be ‘rescued’. Roland Paris (2009, 2010) is perhaps
the most prominent exponent of attempts to ‘save the liberal peace’, and
argues that despite the failings of the liberal peace, it remains the best
system on offer. Secondly, those from a realist perspective regard liberal
internationalism as an expensive folly that states from the global north
can ill afford, especially in the light of geo-political competition from
China and Russia. In this view, the liberal peace is a recipe for exhaust-
ing entanglements with few positive outcomes. Walton (2009: 717, 718)
argues that liberal interventionism has been ‘astrategic’, as even when
‘operations are tolerably successful, as in Kosovo, their diplomatic and
financial costs may well be disproportionate to the strategic rewards
that they offer’. For right-wing commentator Charles Krauthammer
(2009) ‘Clintonian center-left liberal internationalism’ gave way to an
even more weak-willed form of liberalism under President Obama in
which the US was apologetic for its unipolar position. A third strand in
the literature argues that the critique of the liberal peace does not go far
enough. David Chandler (2009b) argues that by using liberalism as the
principal frame of reference, critics of the liberal peace are ultimately
unable to escape from a liberal institutionalist perspective and are con-
demned to offer prescriptions that invariably involve reforming liberal
After this discussion of the theoretical origins of the liberal peace, and
its practical manifestations in the form of peace-support operations,
the next chapter examines indigenous approaches to peace and recon-
ciliation. Chapter 3 then discusses how these top-down and bottom-up
forms of peacebuilding interact to form composite types of peace.

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Indigenous Peacebuilding

There appeared to be among the natives in general great good-

will towards us, and they seemed to be much rejoiced at our
Captain William Bligh, on reaching
Tahiti in 1788 (1792: 62)


Recent years have seen a resurgence of international interest in indig-

enous approaches to peacemaking, peacebuilding, and reconciliation.
Such approaches have become trendy among many international
organisations, bilateral donors, INGOs, and academics as they connect
with wider normative goals of ‘local ownership’ and ‘sustainability’.
Yet there are dangers of romanticising all things local and traditional
without subjecting them to scrutiny. Just like international approaches
to peace support, indigenous approaches can be flawed, counterpro-
ductive, and ineffective. This chapter unpacks notions of indigene-
ity in relation to peacebuilding and reconciliation. It follows on from
Chapter 1, which examined the liberal peace, or top-down internation-
ally endorsed forms of peacemaking that are justified rhetorically using
universal notions of liberalism. This chapter adopts a different level of
analysis, and focuses on local, traditional, indigenous, and customary
forms of dispute resolution and reconciliation that are often bottom-up
in their approach. This paves the way for Chapter 3, which discusses
processes of hybridisation, or the mechanisms whereby local and inter-
national forms of peacebuilding interact to form a composite peace. The
remaining chapters in the book then apply notions of hybridisation to
particular cases.


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48 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

Although much of the chapter is spent examining traditional and

indigenous approaches to peacebuilding, it is important to stress that
these approaches do not necessarily involve specific techniques of dis-
pute resolution or reconciliation. Certainly these approaches often
involve rituals and context-specific symbolic and functional practices.
But the approaches involve much more than specific observable tech-
niques. They must be located in their wider cultural habitus, or the way
that individuals and communities see and interpret the world, com-
municate with each other, and act. Culture is so pervasive that it often
defies neat description. Yet to reduce it to a series of discrete actions,
such as a reconciliation ceremony or a way of dress, seems to risk pre-
senting an episodic and disjointed view of culture. Geertz’s (1993: 17,
20) description of culture as ‘the informal logic of actual life’ is useful,
as is his observation that ‘cultural analysis is (or should be) guessing
at meanings, assessing the guesses, and drawing explanatory conclu-
sions from the better guesses’. In other words, the study of culture is an
inexact science. Moreover, by our use of language and cultural biases,
we inscribe meaning into other groups and risk misrepresenting them
at every turn.
By way of introduction to the ethical and practical issues associated
with indigenous peacebuilding, it is useful to remind ourselves of the
Gacaca courts or tribunals in post-genocide Rwanda. Gacaca (the word
translates as ‘on the grass’) are community-based tribunals in which
community members come together – often on a piece of grass in the
centre of a village – and publicly air their grievances. Gacaca cases are
adjudicated by community elders. They are local and participatory,
draw on customary laws, and conform to cultural understandings of
justice (Daly 2002; Sarkin 2001). In the wake of the genocide, the for-
mal justice system was overwhelmed: over 130,000 suspects were incar-
cerated and the trial backlog was estimated at one century (Tiemessen
1994: 57). The Rwandan government decided to employ Gacaca courts
to try lesser cases, while a UN-sponsored process in Tanzania dealt with
high-level suspects. Many international observers were gushing in their
praise of the Gacaca system, and donor support followed. The Gacaca
courts were lauded as a practical example of local solutions to local
problems. But international support for the Gacaca system meant that
the system had to change to meet donor conditions. As a result, the
courts lost some of the ‘authenticity’ for which they had been praised.
Moreover, international support for local courts clashed with a funda-
mental principle of liberalism: the universal extension of rights. The
sentences handed down by the Gacaca courts varied significantly from

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Indigenous Peacebuilding 49

area to area, which undercut attempts to establish a unified criminal

justice system.
Many of the issues associated with the Gacaca courts resonate
through this chapter: the extent to which apparently traditional
and local practices are truly indigenous, the efficacy of traditional
approaches given the massive dislocation caused by violent conflict,
and the clash between the particularism of local approaches and the
universal ambitions of liberalism. The chapter begins by conceptualis-
ing the terms ‘indigenous’ and ‘traditional’, and discussing interpreta-
tions of the terms. Often these terms are used promiscuously in policy
and academic literature, so it is worth unpacking them in some depth.
The chapter then sketches some of the main attributes associated with
indigenous and traditional approaches to peacemaking, reconciliation,
and dispute resolution. It then notes the renaissance of interest in indig-
enous approaches to peacebuilding, before examining the relationship
between the liberal peace and indigenous peacebuilding. The conclud-
ing discussion examines some of the ethical and practical issues asso-
ciated with indigenous peacemaking, particularly in a wider context
dominated by the liberal peace.

Conceptualising indigenous and traditional peacemaking

Although terms such as ‘indigenous’ and ‘traditional’ are used inter-

changeably in relation to dispute resolution or reconciliation, they do
not hold precisely the same meanings. ‘Traditional’ refers to norms and
practices that draw on long-standing modes of operation. While tradi-
tions can be invented and are capable of change, the expectation is
that traditional techniques and understandings have a lengthy histori-
cal pedigree. As a result of their long-standing antecedence, it is to be
expected that traditional norms and practices will have a cultural reso-
nance among sections of the population and will be able to connect
with folk memory and cultural expectations.
Indigenous norms and practices draw on local resources. The term
‘indigenous’ usually applies in its common usage to peoples that
inhabited a region before it was colonised by actors and technologies
from the global north. In sub-Saharan Africa it often refers to cultural
minorities who have historically been repressed by majority popula-
tions of Africans who control the state apparatus (Hodgson 2002: 1086).
Importantly, indigenous practices need not be traditional. Indigenous
peoples are capable of adopting new techniques; for example, indig-
enous rebels in Chiapas made good use of the internet to promote

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50 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

their cause (Froehling 1997). Often indigenous communities have been

forced to adapt to changing circumstances and engage in processes of
reconciliation and social negotiation to survive or prosper.
The Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Affairs
(1987: 6) identified four common elements in definitions of indigenous
peoples: pre-existence (that is, prior to colonisation or the current
political dispensation), non-dominance of their political environment,
cultural difference from other groups, and self-identification as indig-
enous. The United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations
(established in 1982) emphasised four principles to be considered in
any definition of indigenous peoples: priority in time, with respect to
the occupation and use of a specific territory; voluntary perpetuation
of cultural distinctiveness; self-identification, as well as recognition
by other groups and state authorities, as a distinct collectivity; and an
experience of subjugation, marginalisation, dispossession, exclusion,
or discrimination (Kenrick and Lewis 2004: 8). As these definitional
guidelines suggest, the concept of indigeneity is relational rather than
essentialist. Both definitional guidelines are also political in the sense
that they place the concept of indigeneity in the wider hinterlands of
marginalisation and political circumstances. As Alfred and Corntassel
(2005: 597) note, ‘Indigenousness is an identity constructed, shaped
and lived in the politicized context of contemporary colonialism.’
In addition to these guidelines, many descriptions of indigenous
groups and practices emphasise a link with ecology or resources. The
Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Affairs (1987:
10) refers to this as ‘a custodial concept of land and natural resources:
Mother Earth’. In part, this reflects the romanticisation of indigenous
groups. Nigel Barley’s Innocent Anthropologist (1983) gives a hilarious
insight into how one indigenous community in Cameroon used explo-
sives, poisons, and any means available to catch fish in the nearby river.
As discussed below, the equation of indigenous groups with custodian-
ship of natural resources is by no means automatic. In part, however,
the association of indigenous groups with resource issues stems from
real-life circumstances in which indigenous communities are under
threat from commercial resource extraction or other forms of ‘develop-
ment’ that diminish their livelihood and way of life.
Indigenous peoples and their modes of operation are not static, sus-
pended in time only to be confronted by the intrusion of modernity
(Bebbington 1993: 277). Indeed, it is useful to move away from the
notion of the indigenous and modern spheres as discrete entities that
develop in complete isolation from one another until a cataclysmic

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Indigenous Peacebuilding 51

clash that inevitably ends in the triumph of the modern over the indig-
enous or traditional. There is no inevitability or determinism attached
to western cultural domination (Lucas 1996: 102). Cultural exchange
is a dynamic process that occurs on multiple levels and should not
be conceived of in terms of one-way traffic, or the assimilation of the
colonised by the coloniser. Moreover, hybridity and hybridisation are
understood in this book not as the grafting together of two distinct
entities to produce a third entity. Instead, hybridisation is regarded
as a dynamic and complex process in which prior-hybridised entities
coalesce, conflict, and re-coalesce with other prior-hybridised entities
to produce a context of constant mixing and interchange. Individuals,
communities, businesses, and states are not faced with a straight choice
between the modern and the traditional or indigenous (Castillo and
Furio 2006: 118).
Also important in conceptualising indigenous groups and indigene-
ity is an understanding that indigenous groups are not axiomatically
homogeneous. Diversity can occur within indigenous communities.
Often such diversity is masked, as it is in societies that are routinely
labelled ‘western’ or ‘developed’. It is possible to make distinctions
between rural and urban, or between professional and manual, indig-
enous people or communities (Colloredo-Mansfeld 2002: 638). It is also
possible to identify how some within indigenous communities are more
powerful than others. Indeed, as will be discussed later in this chap-
ter, some indigenous individuals and groups have been able to exploit
their indigenousness by securing international support for their cause
(Colloredo-Mansfeld 2002: 641).

The romanticisation of the local

There is a danger in romanticising all things local, traditional, or indig-

enous. It is possible to develop a simplistic binary narrative in which
‘indigenous’ and ‘traditional’ aspects of society are equated with being
organic, natural, unpolluted, sustainable, authentic, and normatively
good. In contradiction to this, ‘modern’ or ‘international’ aspects of
society may be characterised as being artificial, inorganic, inauthen-
tic, unsustainable, and normatively bad. Such a simplistic binary eas-
ily overlooks the fact that there are traditional and indigenous ways
of warfare, torture, exclusion, and degradation. The simplistic binary
is represented in some literature, policy, and activism, and draws from
caricatures of saintly locals and devilish internationals. As ever, simplis-
tic dyads are a poor fit for complex human societies. The rush to deify

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52 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

all things ‘indigenous’ and ‘traditional’ by some commentators from the

global north is not unlike the faddishness associated with organic food
(Mac Ginty 2010a: 347–9). Although the arguments in favour of organic
food may seem intuitively convincing, the scientific arguments in their
favour are not clear cut. Just as organic foods have become popular,
especially among richer consumers in the global north, ‘indigenous’
and ‘traditional’ approaches to peacemaking, development, and recon-
ciliation have also become trendy. This trendiness, which is discussed
in more detail later in the chapter, should not distract us from rigorous
scrutiny of the efficacy and appropriateness of individual approaches to
conflict amelioration.
Many indigenous and traditional approaches to peacemaking, dis-
pute resolution, and reconciliation are conservative and reinforce the
position of powerholders. Women, minorities, and the young are often
excluded, and an emphasis is placed on conformity and a numbing of
activism, criticism, and radical change. In many cases the indigenous
and traditional approaches are merely containment strategies that, while
local and sustainable, do not have the potential to transform conflicts
by critically examining their basis. Indigenous groups are not above
labelling clearly violent processes (such as lynching criminal suspects
in some Latin American states) ‘traditional’ (Colloredo-Mansfeld 2002:
642). Moreover, indigenous, traditional, and customary approaches to
resolving conflict rely on a socio-cultural environment in which all
the parties to the process respect, understand, and connect with indig-
enous methods. Social and ecological change such as the monetisation
of economies or the destruction of the resources on which commu-
nities depend means that the environment that supports indigenous
approaches to peacemaking simply no longer exists. Urbanisation, one
of the most significant yet underappreciated trends in contemporary
human existence, holds a tremendous capacity to transform social rela-
tions: ‘By the end of 2025, 60 per cent of the world will live in cities;
by 2050, more than 70 per cent; and by century’s end the entire world,
even the poor nations of sub-Saharan Africa, will be at least three quar-
ters urban’ (Saunders 2010: 11).
Most fundamentally from the point of view of this book, the disloca-
tion caused by violent conflict often means that the support environ-
ment required by indigenous approaches to peacemaking is distorted.
In many civil war locations it is revealing that indigenous approaches
were unable to retard the spiral into civil war, communal violence, or
authoritarianism. Other ‘systems’, such as militarism or gang violence,
prevailed and were able to ignore or disrupt indigenous restraints. In

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Indigenous Peacebuilding 53

a large number of cases, states have deliberately sought to disrupt the

social fabric of communities by destroying villages. The British, Israeli,
Sri Lankan, Romanian, Burmese, Turkish, Sudanese, and Guatemalan
states, among many others in the post-Second World War period, have
all sought to obliterate entire communities in the hope of weakening
the resolve of their opponents. A large number of post-conflict societies
play host to significant numbers of urban youth who are disconnected
from the extended family networks, and the village elders, that may
have provided restraints on conflict.
In some locations, the availability of automatic weaponry has meant
that intra-indigenous conflicts have become more deadly. Cattle-
raiding among pastoralist communities in parts of Kenya, Tanzania,
and Uganda, for example, had been linked to rites of passage transitions
for young men, and those involved used traditional weapons. Automatic
weapons, and the monetisation of the cattle trade to satisfy the demand
of meat-based diets, have transformed an indigenous and traditional
practice. The AK-47 has become ‘a change agent’ (Mirzeler and Young
2000: 407). Elders or women who might traditionally have been able to
act as a restraint on any escalation of the conflict are no longer able to
play such roles as the violence has transformed into gang-based crime
(Fleischer 1998).
Any analysis of the utility of indigenous, customary, and tradi-
tional approaches to conflict resolution needs to contextualise these
approaches in their conflict and post-conflict settings. Many societies
have undergone extended and traumatic dislocation as a result of war
and authoritarianism. As the empirical chapters in this volume show,
internationally supported peace interventions also have the capacity to
significantly alter the context in which indigenous communities sur-
vive. As the book also shows, however, indigenous communities and
techniques are capable of engaging with exogenous influences and
resisting and subverting them. The book is particularly interested in
this ‘space between’, or the sites and processes of interaction between
different modes of understanding and operation.

Indigenous and traditional approaches to peacebuilding

Much of this chapter has been taken up with caveats against generalisa-
tions or simplistic understandings of culture or indigenous society as
discrete or unchanging. With these caveats in mind, and any others the
reader wishes to throw into the mix, this section sketches some of the
principles and traits commonly found in indigenous and traditional

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54 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

approaches to peacemaking. Again, it is worth stressing that while it

is useful to examine specific conflict amelioration techniques used by
indigenous communities, we need to go beyond this to understand the
wider sociology of the groups and interrogate why they adopt particular
techniques. Local peacemaking techniques range from Bedouin con-
sensus dispute resolution in the Negev to Inuit attempts to deal with
low-level delinquency in peri-urban modern settings, to attempts to
reconcile traditional dispute resolution methods with the demands of
modern ‘good governance’ in Fiji (Al-Krenawi and Graham 1999; Briggs
2000; Futa Hela 1997). Our particular interest lies in the interface
between the traditional and the modern (with neither the traditional
nor the modern being particularly discrete).
Traditional and indigenous peacebuilding practices are necessarily
rooted in specific communities and often have highly localised ele-
ments. Yet it is possible to identify a number of common traits. These
are summarised in Table 4 and contrasted with features commonly
associated with the liberal peace.
Many indigenous and traditional practices rest on the moral author-
ity of respected community figures such as village elders or other
sources of counsel (Barley 1983: 146–7). Often these figures demand
deference and there is a strong social expectation that their judgements

Table 4 Indigenous versus international peacebuilding

Local, customary, and traditional

peacebuilding International peacebuilding

Respected local figures Top-down: engages with national

elites but ignores locals
Public dimension Exclusive: deals are made behind
closed doors; few direct routes of
communication for the citizen
Storytelling and airing of grievances Technocratic and ahistorical bias:
emphasis on ‘striking a deal’,
‘moving on’, and ‘putting the past
behind us’
Emphasis on relationships Modelled on corporate culture:
reaching a deal and meeting
deadlines are prioritised over
Reliance on local resources Relies on external personnel,
ideas, and material resources

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Indigenous Peacebuilding 55

or advice will be adhered to. Secondly, many of the practices have a

public element that adds to the transparency of decision-making proc-
esses. They are deliberately accessible (perhaps held at a central point
in a village or at a location between two disputing villages), with this
public dimension providing a visible affirmation of legitimacy. Multiple
public witnesses may make it more difficult for disputants to renege
on any agreement that is reached as a result of arbitration. Or a public
reconciliation between leaders of combatant groups might encourage
similar conciliatory behaviour between their subordinates. Sometimes
this public element may take the form of ritual or a public display that
symbolises reconciliation or a new understanding. Thirdly, many of the
practices have a storytelling aspect. This public articulation of griev-
ances and perspectives is highly accessible and may conform to the
dominance of oral traditions. Fourthly, there is often a strong emphasis
on relationships rather than a definitive agreement. This stems from a
recognition that disputants, their families, and communities are likely
to continue to share the same resources (for example, water or routes to
a market) over an extended period. There is thus a sophisticated under-
standing of the nature of peace and conflict as processes rather than as
events. This may also tie in with a long-term view of the importance of
the local ecology and the need to manage exploitation so as to ensure
sustainability. Finally, peacebuilding practices often rely on locally
derived resources. These may be items with a high material or symbolic
value (for example, green stones in the case of Maoris or cattle in the
case of some African pastoralists) or simply items that are close to hand
(for example, leaves from vegetation) (Vayda 1976).
According to most observers, the principal advantage stemming
from traditional and indigenous approaches to peacebuilding lies in
their culturally intuitive nature. In theory, such approaches are able to
connect with ‘cultural memory banks’ and conform to popularly held
and accepted norms and expectations. They have low start-up costs in
that they do not require extensive explanation and the importation
of expensive outside expertise or material resources. Instead, their effi-
cacy and legitimacy lie in near-automatic public understanding and
The core traits of many traditional and indigenous approaches to peace-
making sketched here contrast with many of the features often associ-
ated with the liberal peace. The technocratic bias of western approaches
to peacebuilding means that the storytelling and grievance-airing
dimensions of peacebuilding often found in indigenous and traditional
approaches may be sidelined. Very often, international actors focus on

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56 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

‘striking a deal’ and ‘moving on’. The peace deal is often highly techni-
cal and legalistic and so makes few concessions to the oral traditions
through which local communities might discuss and remember. The
desire to ‘move on’ and ‘put the past behind us’ is especially attractive
to many international sponsors of peacebuilding. Technocratic operat-
ing procedures that divide peacebuilding into a series of time-limited
and target-led programmes and projects mean that many agents of the
liberal peace hold an essentially ahistorical worldview (Jacoby 2007).
In such a culture of external peace imposition, it is easy to dismiss the
airing of grievances as ‘harking back to the bad old days’ and ‘failing
to move with the times’. Admittedly, many internationally sponsored
peacebuilding operations have constructed forums which allow citi-
zens to narrate their grievances, but externally created ‘truth recovery’
processes do not always conform to local cultural norms of storytelling.
Instead, such forums may be heavily influenced by the western legal
tradition and comprise transcribed hearings, witnesses supported by
lawyers, and a final report: all alien to the culture in which the conflict
occurred and the society that is expected to rebuild itself.
Indigenous and local approaches to reconciliation and dispute resolu-
tion might rely heavily on the affective dimension, or an individual or
collective ‘feeling’ that a just resolution has been reached. The notion
of ‘feelings’ is clearly problematic to technocratic cultures more used to
deploying metrics to measure the implementation of peace. This per-
haps crystallises a fundamental gap between many externally sponsored
peace programmes and locally led initiatives that draw on traditional or
indigenous sources. International actors often use metrics to quantita-
tively record the ‘success’ of peace ‘implementation’ (Etzioni 2010). In
this view peace is something that can be implemented, or injected into
a society via a correctly weighted ‘package’. The US-formulated met-
rics for gauging the ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of peace-support operations in
Afghanistan and Iraq have been aimed primarily at the domestic politi-
cal audience in the United States rather than the recipients of the actual
implementation strategy.
The already-mentioned emphasis in many western-sponsored peace
processes on securing a peace deal can be antithetical to the need for
peace processes to stay focused on relationships. Western political cul-
ture, seemingly aping corporate culture, emphasises the need for timely,
definitive, written deals (Mac Ginty 2008). Thus, in some cases, a peace
deal must be reached by a certain deadline. While deadlines can con-
centrate the minds of parties during negotiations, they also betray a bias
towards linear notions of time (Jonas 2000). A technocratic approach to

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Indigenous Peacebuilding 57

negotiations may mean that the aspirations of a community are shoe-

horned into a legalistic contract or peace accord. The danger is that
peace becomes an event rather than a process. The one-off deal is far
removed from conceptualisations of peace in which there is a continu-
ing dialogue or understanding between antagonists based on a recogni-
tion that they share the same temporal space and will in all probability
need to rely on each other to manage future conflicts. The focus of many
indigenous peacebuilding and dispute resolution processes lies more in
attempting to recalibrate social relations than in apportioning blame
and specifying retribution (Lang 2002: 63).
Finally, while indigenous and traditional approaches to peacebuilding
might rely on local resources, the very nature of externally sponsored
peacebuilding means that it introduces external personnel, ideas, and
material resources into the post-conflict context. In many cases these
external resources may be very worthwhile – for example, a mediator
with the energy and skill to help local antagonists to see their situation
from a fresh perspective, or the security to allow a minority to return
to a particular locality. Yet the external provenance of such resources
raises questions of sustainability.

The ‘rediscovery’ of indigenous approaches

to peacemaking

There has been a renaissance of interest in indigenous and customary

approaches to development, peacemaking, and reconciliation in recent
years. This is evidenced through international organisations, states,
and international and national civil society paying more attention to
indigenous issues. As will be discussed below, the ‘rediscovery’ of the
local, traditional, and indigenous has a number of implications, not
least for the type of peace and reconciliation that is being promoted
in many post-peace accord societies. In part, the renaissance has been
the product of the issue gaining greater prominence in international
institutions, often as a result of civil society activism. The International
Labour Organisation (ILO) showed early and sustained interest in the
issue, establishing a Working Group on Indigenous Populations in 1982
(Bijoy 1993). The greater prominence attached to the issue was not
without controversy as some states, such as India, pursued assimilation-
ist agendas and sought to deny the existence of indigenous minorities
(Bijoy 1993: 1360). Others states maintained that since the UN Universal
Declaration of Human Rights afforded rights to all peoples, there was
no need to award particular rights to selected groups. This tension

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58 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

between universalist and particularistic understandings of rights has

been a constant presence in all policymaking on indigenous peoples.
A high point in the mainstreaming of indigenous issues and peoples
was the UN declaration of an International Year of Indigenous Peoples
in 1992, followed by the designation of 1995–2004 as the International
Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. In 2007, following two dec-
ades of debate and controversy, the UN adopted a declaration on the
rights of indigenous peoples.
Bell (2006: 381) observed the ‘increasing recognition in interna-
tional law that indigenous peoples are “peoples” entitled to forms of
self-determination short of independent statehood’. India, Bangladesh,
Mexico, Guatemala, and France (in the case of New Caledonia) all
reached peace agreements with self-declared indigenous populations,
while many other states attempted to reach some form of accommoda-
tion in situations in which indigenous groups had suffered structural
violence and marginalisation (Bell 2006: 381; Colchester 2002: 2). In
many cases, with Canada providing a prominent example, indigenous
peoples sought rights in relation to natural resources, in the face of
encroachment from companies intent on resource extraction (Mauro
and Hardison 2000: 1264–5). As will be discussed later in the chapter,
the inclusionist strategies of a number of apparently progressive states
have attracted considerable scepticism, particularly from those who see
state legislation on these issues as a form of assimilation.
International financial institutions, international organisations, and
bilateral donors have all paid increasing attention to the possibilities
of indigenous and traditional approaches to peacebuilding. Indeed,
many of the principal actors of the liberal peace who have been cari-
catured as the guardians of a top-down western form of peace have
been prominent in promoting indigenous approaches to peace. Thus,
for example, the Inter-American Development Bank has established
an Indigenous Peoples and Community Development Unit, and the
World Bank has funded peace and development projects for indigenous
people in Colombia that are ‘compatible with the community’s own
decision-making structure’ (World Bank 2009). The United Kingdom’s
Department for International Development sought to ‘promote ini-
tiatives in selected countries, including indigenous capacity building,
to help avert conflict, reduce violence and build sustainable secu-
rity and peace’ (DFID 2004). USAID has funded ‘building the viable
indigenous conflict resolution capacities of the Southern Sudan Peace
Commission and local partners’ (PACT 2009). A picture emerges of con-
siderable rhetorical and material support for indigenous approaches to

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Indigenous Peacebuilding 59

peacebuilding, often as part of wider liberal peace interventions. Before

we critique the nature of much of this support, it is worth considering
what lies behind the ‘discovery’ of indigenous issues and capacities by
international actors.
In part, the greater awareness of indigenous issues among interna-
tional actors has been the result of the activism of indigenous com-
munities themselves, who have worked hard to force their way onto the
international issue agenda. The 1994 Chiapas uprising in Mexico was
perhaps the most prominent of attempts by indigenous communities to
seek legitimacy and redress of their grievances (Harvey 2001). National
and transnational indigenous activism has seen the creation of a number
of umbrella organisations that agitate as a collective, and often act in
concert with established INGOs in the global north. Indigenous issues,
and a recognition that indigenous approaches might have the poten-
tial to tackle conflict and underdevelopment, have also been in tune
with long-term trends within thinking on development, aid, and con-
flict amelioration. It is possible to track first-, second-, third-, and even
fourth-generation thinking on development, aid, and conflict resolu-
tion (Richmond 2009b: 102–3). There is no ‘singular theoretical gene-
alogy’ (Kothari 2005: 1). Rather than a smooth, linear progression of
ideas, thinking on conflict and development has evolved episodically,
and often in response to the repeated failure of development and peace-
support interventions. One product of this evolution of thinking and
policy has been a greater emphasis on sustainability. Connected to this
has been an emphasis on ‘local ownership’ and ‘local participation’.
The logics here contend that ‘locally owned’ initiatives have a greater
chance of success, do not rely on costly external resources, and can
connect with the cultural expectations and norms of local communi-
ties (Mac Ginty 2008: 142). They also offer the advantage of an exit
strategy for international interveners. As importantly, ‘local ownership’
means that responsibility is passed to local actors, and external actors
can present themselves as benign guardians. Most blatantly in Iraq
and Afghanistan, but also elsewhere, the US and others have lectured
post-transition governments on the need for them to take responsibil-
ity for their own reconstruction (Bush 2004b). The irony that the US
was responsible for much of the destruction seems lost. It is within this
paradigm that international actors have sought to support indigenous
efforts for peace and development.
Such thinking, and the ensuing policies, have attracted significant
criticism, not least because the devolution of power to ‘the local’ is
often virtual and superficial (Cooke and Kothari 2002). As Boege et al.

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60 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

(2009: 611) observe, ‘There is much talk of ownership, but often this is
not much more than lip service; in effect, locals are meant to “own”
what outsiders tell them to.’ Yet the attractions of the logic of localism
are strong and the trend of international support for ‘indigenous’ and
‘local’ initiatives is continuing.

Indigenous peacemaking and the liberal peace

As discussed above, principal agents of the liberal peace from the glo-
bal north have sought to incorporate indigenous peace and reconcili-
ation norms and techniques into the liberal peace. In some cases, the
liberal peace has also sought to address the marginalisation of indig-
enous peoples. Yet the contradictions between indigenous and liberal
approaches to peacemaking (and it is recognised that these do not con-
stitute discrete categories) are profound and call into question the sin-
cerity of many liberal peace initiatives to ‘include’ indigenous groups
and norms. The most fundamental of these contradictions stems from
liberalism’s self-image of righteousness and superiority in the face of
alternatives. An almost constant explicit and implicit narrative running
through internationally supported development, peace, and reconstruc-
tion interventions has been that technocratic practices and scientifi-
cally proven ‘solutions’ from the global north will ‘solve’ the problems
of underdevelopment and conflict. This narrative can be beguiling.
Bebbington (1993: 278) notes how ‘It might be the case that Indian
farmers want to plant “like a white farmer”, perceiving technological
modernization as a symbol of success in claiming rights of equal access
to technological resources from which they were previously excluded’.
Axtell’s (1985: 4) history of the European colonisation of North America
records how ‘traders provided the trappings of European material cul-
ture, whose technological superiority and beauty were expected to
seduce the Neolithic natives irrevocably’. The glass beads and copper
pots of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries have been replaced
by the modern technologies of ‘good governance’ or the incentives of
reconstruction grants, yet the self-assuredness of many actors from the
global north remains undimmed. One of the major successes of liberal
internationalism has been the framing of its approaches as ‘success’ and
to be imitated. Given liberalism’s certainty of its own superiority, other
approaches to peacemaking are regarded as deviant and inferior to the
‘true peace’ on offer from liberalism. As a result, it is possible to regard
some liberal peace support for indigenous peacemaking as a temporary
expedient that can be deployed until people are ‘developed enough’

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Indigenous Peacebuilding 61

to accept a liberal peace. It is notable that much liberal peace support

for indigenous approaches to dispute resolution occurs on the margins,
or in locations such as the Horn of Africa, where the liberal peace has
limited reach.
A further fundamental contradiction between the liberal peace and
indigenous approaches to peacemaking is that the dominant para-
digm of contemporary peacemaking is largely defined by the liberal
peace. Where indigenous peacemaking is permitted by the liberal peace,
it occurs in a meta-environment shaped by liberal peace norms and
institutions. The main actors in peacemaking and post-war statebuild-
ing (global and regional security organisations, international financial
institutions, and a self-appointed clique of states) operate according to
liberal peace principles. The chief norms upon which they operate, such
as the sanctity of state sovereignty or the primacy of neo-liberal ‘solu-
tions’, are largely dictated by champions of the liberal peace. As a result,
it is possible to see many cases of indigenous peace and reconciliation
initiatives as occurring within a paradigm established elsewhere. This
amounts to an anti-indigenous bias hardwired into dominant forms of
peacebuilding (Bebbington 1993: 278).
The problem of the authorship of the peacemaking paradigm is well
summarised by Taiaiake Alfred (1999: xiii), a Mohawk scholar whose
Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto considers the treat-
ment of indigenous peoples in North America:

Real control remains in the hands of white society because it is

that society’s rules that define our lives – not through obviously
racist laws, but through endless references to the ‘market’, ‘fiscal
reality’, ‘Aboriginal rights’, and ‘public will’. In this supposedly
post- colonial world, what does it matter if the Reserve is run by
Indians, so long as they behave like bureaucrats and carry out the
same old policies?

Although this case is different from contemporary civil wars that have
been subject to international peace-support interventions, the essential
questions remain constant: who defines what peace is and how is it to
be made? Short (2003: 506) identified similar problems with Australian
government attempts to redress injustice against Aboriginal peoples
that ‘soon became little more than an assimilationist nation-building
exercise’. Even the very identity of groups can be defined by those with
power: ‘in the Canadian context, “aboriginalism” is a legal, political,
and cultural discourse designed to serve an agenda of silent surrender

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62 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

to an inherently unjust relation at the root of the colonial state itself’

(Alfred and Corntassel 2005: 598).
The power of liberal peace actors to set the paradigm within which
peace is to be understood should not be underestimated. Postcolonial
writings on India are useful in this regard in that they illustrate how
the imperial power was able to define what it was to be Indian (Cohn
2005: 50). Cohn (2005: 51) notes how imperial technologies of power
and knowledge meant that in the nineteenth century ‘educated Indians
increasingly were to learn about their own culture through the media-
tion of European ideas and scholarship’. Moreover, ‘In the 1860s an
archaeological survey was established, with Europeans deciding what
were the great monuments in India, which monuments were fit for
preservation or for description as part of the Indian “heritage”.’ In a
similar way, the idiom of acceptable and unacceptable forms of, and
ways to, peace has been constructed in many cases according to pre-
cepts set down by the champions of the liberal peace.
On closer examination, many indigenous ‘initiatives’ are sponsored
or resurrected under the tutelage of liberal peace agents. This raises
questions about the authenticity of such initiatives and the extent to
which they have been amended to suit norms established by organisa-
tions and states in the global north (Mac Ginty 2010a). The Gacaca
tribunals mentioned at the beginning of this chapter provide a good
example of an indigenous practice that is ‘approved’ and funded by
external donors. Another example was the emergency loya jirga, or tra-
ditional council, convened by NATO to adjudicate on Afghanistan’s
interim constitution in the aftermath of the ousting of the Taliban in
2001 (Mac Ginty 2008: 154). During Afghanistan’s civil wars loya jirgas
remained a common way to attempt to resolve local-level disputes using
consensual methods and the prevailing respect for elders and kinship.
The grand loya jirga staged by NATO, however, deviated substantially
from tradition. The last nationwide loya jirga to consider a national
question had been held thirty years previously, with the result that few
participants had any experience of this methodology. NATO managed
the guest list for the 2001 event. In keeping with western liberal values,
women were included in the 2001 loya jirga (Dalherup and Nordlund
2004). Participants were also required to confirm that they were not
guilty of human rights abuses. This was a meaningless proviso in a
country that had lacked an adequate police force and police records for
decades and whose political elites were often warlords or their proxies.
Given the circumstances and the lack of capacity to stage an election,
the UN and many INGOs regarded the loya jirga as a useful mechanism

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Indigenous Peacebuilding 63

through which to confer legitimacy on the post-Taliban government

(Chesterman 2002). Yet this was not merely the co-option of an indig-
enous practice as part of a wider liberal peace project; it amounted to
the bastardisation of an indigenous practice to the extent that it is dif-
ficult to apply the label ‘indigenous’ to it.
Some liberal peace and development settings have created political
and civil society space and fora through which indigenous demands
have been expressed and addressed. It is important that these empower-
ing aspects of the liberal peace are recognised. Yet it is also possible to
observe the rise of new indigenous elites or ‘indigenous professionals’
(Perreault 2003: 343; Colloredo-Mansfeld 2002: 641; Hodgson 2002:
1086). Perreault (2003: 335) questions the extent to which some umbrella
organisations actually represent the communities they claim to speak
for, noting how some representative organisations often betray urban,
male, and linguistic biases. As demonstrated in Chapter 8 of this vol-
ume, liberal peace actors often have the capacity to mobilise and direct
resources to the extent that they can help mould civil society. This can
apply to indigenous NGOs and umbrella organisations. Hodgson (2002:
1088) observed that many Tanzanian indigenous NGOs

demonstrated an extraordinary ability to attract substantial funds

from governmental and nongovernmental sources. Their evident
success in mobilising donor funding – visible in the new offices,
vehicles, jobs, and national and international travel – encouraged
Maasai and other leaders to form even more INGOs. As a result, the
growth in INGOs has been tremendous.

Hodgson (2002: 1093) went on to note that ‘Local people themselves

were increasingly troubled by the arrogance, lack of responsiveness and
accountability, and corruption they perceived in some INGO leaders’.
The material resources at the disposal of international liberal peace
agents means that they can create a civil society political economy
that incentivises certain activities and discourages others. Indigenous
organisations with radical political and social justice agendas may find
that international funding is available for ‘service delivery’ or activities
that fall within the development programmes of international organi-
sations or bilateral donors (Hodgson 2002: 1088). Similar funding may
not be available for promoting radical political agendas. The result is a
disciplining of social activism and an extension of conformity.
Indigenous agendas and discourse may also be set by minorities
within indigenous movements, or by their external patrons. Richards

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64 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

(2005: 199) notes how indigenous women in Chile felt marginalised by

women’s and indigenous movements: ‘nonindigenous feminists often
attempt to subsume indigenous women’s interests within their politi-
cal views or accuse them of defending sexist practices’. Transnational
indigenous peoples’ movements have had undoubted success in encour-
aging states and international organisations to take indigenous issues
more seriously. Yet ‘newly hegemonic discourses’ may distort the origi-
nal aims and methods of indigenous groups (Tilley 2002: 528). Take, for
example, the Manila Declaration on Conflict Resolution, Peacebuilding,
Sustainable Development and Indigenous Peoples (Colchester 2002: 3).
The declaration by indigenous leaders from locations as diverse as
Greenland and Australia asserts indigenous rights to self-determination,
resources, and dignity. Interestingly, however, the document employs a
discourse from the global north. It notes that ‘in revalidating the tra-
ditions and institutions of our ancestors it is also necessary that we
honestly deal with those ancient practices, which may have led to the
oppression of indigenous women and children’. Indigenous expressions
of pluralism, equality, and rights are nothing new. What seems to be
new in this statement, however, is the adoption of an apparently uni-
versalised language to express these sentiments, leading to questions of
authenticity and ownership (Richards 2005: 202).
When we review the poor fit between the liberal peace and indigenous
approaches to dispute resolution and reconciliation, it is worth noting
that external actors have a long history of co-opting local violent prac-
tices for their own ends. Empires were established by harnessing the
enmity between indigenous groups. As the story of Gurkha regiments
within the British military attests, imperial powers have been keen to
emphasise the martial traditions of some groups in order to police and
discipline other imperial subjects (Pemble 2009). In the contemporary
era, US-led counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have
depended heavily on the co-option of indigenous groups and the uti-
lisation of rather ‘traditional’, if brutal, methods of resolving disputes:
feuds. The US occupation of Iraq was largely secured by buying off mili-
tias and tasking Sunni tribes to ‘police’ specified areas. There was lit-
tle pretence that this aspect of liberal peace imposition met with the
rhetorical human rights ambitions of Britain or the United States. A
2007 US National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq recommended ‘deputiz-
ing, resourcing, and working more directly with neighborhood watch
groups and establishing grievance committees – to help mend frayed
relationships between tribal and religious groups, which have been
mobilized into communal warfare over the past three years’ (cited in

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Indigenous Peacebuilding 65

Simon 2008: 60). On the ground, this meant funding and arming local
militias against al-Qaeda-linked jihadists and exploiting their ‘tradi-
tional’ scepticism of outsiders and those with different religious views.
In Afghanistan, the Central Intelligence Agency’s 2009 Community
Defense Initiative rested on arming villagers and depending on their
traditional sense of territoriality and kinship bonds (Milne 2009).

Concluding discussion

Indigenous approaches to peacebuilding and dispute resolution should

not necessarily be regarded as marginal or as only able to exist if they
are resuscitated by international actors. It is worth re-stressing that
‘indigenous approaches’ include much more than specific techniques
and rituals. Instead, they encompass ways of interpreting the social
environment and engaging with in- and out-group members. They
often amount to a way of life or a cosmology, and are embedded in how
the polity acts and interprets information (Jenkins 2006: 300; Axtell
1985: 12). Populations in societies emerging from violent conflict are
rarely faced with either/or choices in which they must choose between
purely traditional or indigenous social systems and wholly modern and
homogenised versions (Castillo and Furio 2006: 118). They are likely to
inhabit a hybrid environment in which the varieties of exogenous and
indigenous ways of interpreting the world and methods of managing
social, economic, and political problems co-exist, conflict, and jostle
for acceptance.
In some cases, indigenous approaches to peacebuilding and dispute
resolution have been compartmentalised by states or other powerhold-
ing authorities. This separation of indigenous methods or society from
the rest of the polity is exemplified by the reservations inhabited by
many native Americans. Reservations are ‘islands’ or exceptions to the
prevailing norm. Their status is granted to them. Ultimate authority
lies elsewhere, and that authority remains unthreatened by the reserva-
tion (Ross 1998: 27). The reservation is a contained area of self-manage-
ment, or even self-colonisation, that allows the ultimate authority (the
United States or Canada) to abdicate responsibility for day-to-day tasks
but retain meta-sovereignty. In some cases, the notion of indigeneity
may help states as it allows them to compartmentalise grievances. The
Mexican government used the ‘indigenous’ label to ‘park’ the Chiapas
issue, reducing its status from a major conflict to a local phenomenon
that is geographically isolated and politically marginal (Manaut et al.
2006: 146).

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66 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

Given the hegemonic ambitions of many states (for example, to achieve

a monopoly of violence), and given the intolerance of the liberal peace
for many alternative forms of peace, many indigenous approaches to
peacebuilding can be regarded as an alternative. The conflict resolution
category of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is probably too restric-
tive for many indigenous approaches as it tends to be used in relation
to modern methods of dispute resolution that carefully establish their
position in relation to formal legal frameworks. Indigenous approaches
to dispute resolution and reconciliation can be alternatives in that
they can occur beyond the purview of formal state mechanisms. But
they may also be alternatives in that they are bottom-up and participa-
tive and have an affective dimension lacking in formal mechanisms.
As alternatives, indigenous approaches to peacebuilding and dispute
resolution often involve tremendous bravery. ‘Peace communities’ in
Central and South America have paid a high price for declaring them-
selves ‘neutral’ in conflicts between states and insurgents. In Colombia,
for example, seventeen villages came together to establish the San José
de Apartadó peace community in 1997. Within eight years over 100
community members had been murdered (Alther 2006: 283). Violent
conflict, and in some cases liberal peace interventions, often promote
exclusive ‘us’ and ‘them’ worldviews. Indigenous approaches to peace-
building often require a more catholic understanding of the variety of
approaches to peace and the need to tolerate alternatives.
One of the advantages of a close study of indigenous approaches to
dispute resolution and peacebuilding is that it encourages bottom-up,
people-centric views of society. Lang’s (2002: 53) studies of the Sulha
mediation tradition among Arab communities, for example, acts as a
‘corrective to the pathologization of Arab political and social life that
results from the consistent overemphasis on the role of violence and
revenge in ethnographic and other academic accounts’. This is particu-
larly important in relation to Palestinian, Arab, and other communities
who have been framed in some quarters as ‘violent’ or ‘uncivilised’.
Indeed, closer examination of societies and eras that are often labelled
‘savage’ usually reveals the presence of sophisticated systems of medi-
ation and arbitration (McCree 1994: 834; Smith 1981). These ‘sys-
tems’ often had an everyday quality and were embedded into social
Attempts to rehabilitate indigenous approaches to dispute resolution
and reconciliation often focus on specific indigenous techniques or
practices. This betrays the technocratic and programmatic bias of many
liberal peace interventions, in which peacebuilding must be broken

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Indigenous Peacebuilding 67

down into a series of specific projects that make up the whole. Such
an approach allows the deployment of metrics or indicators of the ‘suc-
cess’ of a peacebuilding programme. This technocratic approach risks
overlooking the affective dimension of many approaches to peacebuild-
ing and reconciliation that draw on indigenous or customary practices
and beliefs. Sometimes these have a spiritual dimension, or a way of
understanding the world that does not depend on apparently ‘rational’
or observable phenomenon (Alfred 1999: xiv). All approaches to peace-
building have a particular ethic or an underpinning leitmotif that sets
the parameters of what is or is not peace and of acceptable means of
achieving peace. Central aspects of the liberal peace are associated with
material power, or the ability of liberal peace agents to project resources
towards particular actors and issues in societies emerging from violent
conflict. This is not necessarily the case with indigenous approaches to
peace, many of which focus on relationships rather than outcomes.
Too much weight can be attached to the authenticity of apparently
indigenous practices. Certainly the resuscitation of indigenous rec-
onciliation and dispute resolution techniques as part of international
peace-support interventions can lead to accusations of ersatz indige-
nousness, or the appropriation of indigenous techniques by outsiders.
Even those opposed to external intrusion into national or local life can
distort indigenousness in their attempts to preserve the indigenousness
of practices or communities. Sen (2005: 139) observes that ‘Those who
prefer to pursue a “more indigenous” approach often opt for a charac-
terization of Indian culture and society that is rather self-consciously
distant from western traditions.’ Efficacy for recipients, rather than
authenticity, is a more important guide to the usefulness of a peace-
building or reconciliation strategy.
After this discussion of indigenous and traditional approaches to
peace, Chapter 3 examines the processes of hybridisation, or how dif-
ferent worldviews and practices come together to produce a composite
or hybrid form of peace.

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Neither fish nor flesh, nor good red herring.

John Heywood


The concept of hybridity is central to this book. Our interest lies in the
hybrid political, economic, and social orders that have emerged in the
wake of liberal peace interventions in the post-Cold War period. The
concept of hybridity, and an unpacking of the processes of hybridisa-
tion, allows us to do at least three things. Firstly, it enables us to develop
a sophisticated critique of the liberal peace. Such a critique moves
beyond two-dimensional notions of an all-powerful international
community and weakened local actors who are bereft of the powers
to resist, subvert, or negotiate the imposition of the liberal peace. The
critique, assisted by the concept of hybridity, illustrates that the liberal
peace – as a set of actors, norms, and intervention programmes – is not
an all-powerful Leviathan that can unroll its liberal Commonwealth
without hindrance from local power structures and norms, and from
its own contradictions. Secondly, the concept of hybridity allows us
to reappraise studies of local agency and indigenous norms that have
erred towards a romanticisation of the local. There has been a tendency
in some policy, journalist, and academic literature to romanticise all
things local, traditional, and indigenous. An understanding of the
hybrid nature of ideas, peoples, and structures allows us to question
entire categories upon which much discussion of liberal international-
ism and local resistance rests. Terms such as ‘local’, ‘indigenous’, and
‘international’ must all be scrutinised given the contention put forward
here that we are all hybrids and all political projects are subject to prior


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Hybridity 69

hybridisation. Thirdly, the concept of hybridity allows us to interrogate

the nature of contemporary peace and the political, economic, social,
and cultural orders that it fashions. In particular, it allows us to question
the quality of the peace that is offered in the name of ‘liberalism’, and
to investigate ways in which the quality of peace may be improved.
This chapter proceeds by conceptualising the notions of hybridity and
the hybrid. While a number of academic disciplines, most notably post-
colonial literature studies, anthropology, and organisational studies, have
made good use of the concept of hybridity, peace and conflict studies has
been late to ‘discover’ the term. As a result, the chapter hopes to make a
contribution to the literature by illustrating the usefulness of the concept
to our understanding of how internationally led peace-support interven-
tions interact with local actors, structures, and norms to produce a hybrid
peace. As will be discussed, the term ‘hybrid’ is not without its problems,
but it does allow us to view the fusion of different factors that combine
to produce the problematic nature of contemporary international peace-
support environments. The chapter then proposes a four-part model to
assist our understanding of hybridisation. It is argued that the hybrid
peace is the result of the interplay of the following factors: the ability of
liberal peace agents, networks, and structures to enforce compliance with
their will; the incentivising powers of liberal peace agents, networks, and
structures; the ability of local actors to resist, ignore, or adapt liberal peace
interventions; and the ability of local actors, networks, and structures to
present and maintain alternative forms of peacemaking. The result of the
interplay is a variable geometry comprising local and international forces
that produce the hybrid peace.
This chapter represents a logical follow-on from Chapters 1 and 2.
While Chapter 1 explored the liberal peace and Chapter 2 examined
indigenous approaches to peacemaking, this chapter is interested in the
processes whereby these two forms of peacemaking coalesce, conflict,
and re-coalesce to produce a hybridised form of peace. After this outline
of how top-down and bottom-up peace come together to form a hybrid
peace, subsequent chapters will examine this hybridisation in action.
These chapters adopt a case study approach, with each case study concen-
trating on a particular pillar of the liberal peace (security, statebuilding,
free-market economics, governance, and the promotion of civil society)
in a particular liberal peace locality (Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina,
Iraq, Lebanon, and Northern Ireland). The intention is to illustrate how
in all cases the will of external intervening powers was subject to severe
distortion as a result of the power of local actors to subvert, resist, and
renegotiate peace interventions, and the inability or unwillingness of

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70 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

intervening powers to stay the course or recognise the contradictions of

liberalism once applied to peacebuilding in fraught post-war contexts.
What becomes clear from the empirical chapters is that no actor is able
to unilaterally impose its will. The concept of hybridity allows us to
view the complexity of contemporary peace environments and better
understand the interaction between a variety of internal and external
actors that produces the fusion peace.

Conceptualising hybridity

A review of the literature on hybridity needs to begin with a health

warning: much of the literature on the subject is dense and inaccessible.
It specialises in circular arguments, self-indulgent prose, and a single-
minded determination to avoid relevance to the ‘real world’. It also
suffers from ‘caveatitis’, or an inability to make any statement without
smothering it in so many caveats that it becomes meaningless. Much
work spends so much time conceptualising and ‘problematising’ (as
though we don’t have enough problems) the term ‘hybrid’ that it does
not actually move on to do anything useful with the term. It is hoped
that the current work does not fall into too many of the above traps.
The terms ‘hybrid’ and ‘hybridity’ have nineteenth-century botani-
cal origins (Young 1995: 6). Hybrid plants were deliberately engineered
for their hardiness with respect to disease or their ability to produce
crops in difficult environmental conditions. The early application of
the term ‘hybrid’ to social phenomena, however, tended to focus on
the negative outcomes of the melding together of two distinct strains
of human life. Hybrids were regarded with suspicion, and processes of
hybridisation feared for their potential to contaminate pure entities and
produce a new ‘impure’ hybrid. Such fears were particularly apparent
in thinking about the interactions between the coloniser and the colo-
nised. European colonialism, after all, was predicated on a worldview
replete with a series of binaries that justified the methods of colonial
imposition and resource extraction. In much of its public political dis-
course, colonialism was regarded as a civilising mission through which
the civilised would encounter the savage, the Christian would encoun-
ter the infidel, and the modern would encounter the archaic. Morton
(2000: 13) characterises ‘the horror of colonialist fantasies’ thus:

The apprehension it produced in Europeans centred on the danger

that a ‘superior’ people might degenerate to a lower level of evolution
by mixing with an inferior one and that its position on the racial

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Hybridity 71

ladder would therefore sink. In this logic, the final consequences of

hybridization might be erasure and blurring of boundaries between
races and dissolution of codes of difference.

Entire social, economic, and political projects rest on the erection and
maintenance of boundaries: the class and caste systems, monarchies and
dynasties, military discipline, and religion, to name a few. The notion of
the hybrid, or some interstitial space between two entities, suggested that
boundaries were porous and therefore questioned the basis of the separa-
tion and the superior–inferior relationship that formed many of the foun-
dation stones of social and political order. There is a danger, however, in
caricaturing nineteenth-century European society and its colonial elites
as being rigidly essentialist in their thinking (Kompridis 2005: 320; Young
1995: 27). States and societies were already globalised to a significant
extent and could see ample evidence of the mixing of cultures and identi-
ties both in their colonial extremities and at the imperial centre.
So the discovery of hybridity is not particularly new. What is new
is the ‘highly fashionable’ status that the concept has acquired in a
number of academic disciplines (Kompridis 2005: 318). Competitor
terms such as ‘creole’, ‘syncretic’, ‘pidgin’, or ‘bricolage’ have fallen by
the wayside, often because they have been deemed pejorative (Morton
2000: 13; Kapchan and Strong 1999: 241). Sociology, anthropology, lit-
erature studies, media studies, and organisational studies have all used
the term ‘hybrid’, introducing readers to ‘hybrid feminisms’, ‘hybrid
programming’, ‘hybrid economies’, and ‘hybrid organizational forms’
(Hycrat 2006; McMillin 2001; Kovács 1999: 313; Oliver and Montgomery
2000). Postcolonial studies has added most to the corpus on hybridity,
though it has to be said that the impenetrable nature of some of these
contributions has not added much to our understanding of the concept
and its application. The term, in its modern incarnation, is most promi-
nently associated with Homi Bhabha (1984, 1990). He reminds us of the
subversive potential of the concept of hybridity and how it undercuts
the confidence and coherence of colonial discourses that depended on
authority, hierarchy, and separation. Hybridity may suggest a break-
down of the barriers constructed by the colonial power: indigenous
groups may adopt and adapt some of the ways of the colonial power.
Similarly, agents of colonialism may be forced to adopt indigenous
practices. In doing so, all actors change. Yet mimicry can easily elide
into mockery, and those who have invested heavily in the erection and
maintenance of barriers may have most to lose (Morton 2000: 319). As
the empirical chapters in this book seek to demonstrate, hybridity – in

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72 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

some circumstances – can be taken as an indicator of resistance to liberal

peace interventions. Bhabha (2009: 2) is interested in the ‘in-between’ or
the ‘emergence of interstices – the overlap and displacement of domains
of difference’. Transpositions from one medium to another generate new
types of space in which new meanings can be attached to identities and
processes (Howard-Malverde 1997: 3). While Bhabha’s main concern is
with postcolonial contexts, it is clear that the same processes of interac-
tion between cultures attend contexts undergoing international peace-
support operations. Hybrid spaces and forms develop as external and
internal agents, ideas, and processes interact, and new meanings are
attached to existing entities (Howard-Malverde 1997: 3).
Three factors are worth highlighting in order to further our concep-
tual understanding of hybridity. A first point is the prior hybridisa-
tion of peoples, cultures, and ideas. It is important that we move away
from notions of hybridisation that conceive of two pure entities being
melded together to produce a third, hybrid entity. In most contexts,
even those that we may believe to be geographically or culturally iso-
lated, long-standing processes of cultural mixing mean that hybridisa-
tion is well entrenched. This means that actors and practices that we
may be tempted to label ‘indigenous’ actually draw on multiple sources
of construction and maintenance. The same prior hybridisation applies
to internationally sponsored and resourced peace interventions that we
may want to label ‘external’, ‘exogenous’, ‘international’, or ‘western’. It
is not the case that ‘indigenous’ communities have been contained in
an isolation chamber until they are confronted by a completely alien
international peace-support operation. Instead, both entities are likely
to be the product of significant prior mixing of peoples, ideas, and
norms concerning the exercise of power, the distribution of resources,
and the organisation of society. For Canclini (2005: xxv) ‘the so-called
discrete structures were a result of prior hybridization and therefore
cannot be considered pure points of origin’. It would seem that human-
kind is already tainted by the ‘original sin’ of hybridisation. As a result,
hybridisation is best not seen as the simple melding of one pure entity
into another. It is a much more complex process of variable geometry
with multiple and constantly moving parts.
A second, and related, factor is that hybridisation is not necessarily an
exotic process involving the introduction of apparently alien entities to
each other. Instead, it is often a gradualist, everyday process whereby enti-
ties (actors, structures, norms) negotiate and renegotiate their own place
in the social, political, and economic spheres, and negotiate and renego-
tiate this place with each other (Bhabha 2009: 3). Such negotiation may

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Hybridity 73

be conscious or unconscious, long drawn out or abrupt, direct or medi-

ated, voluntary or involuntary. In short, hybridisation is how individuals,
groups, structures, and ideas evolve and adapt. Often this involves little
that is revolutionary or contentious. Often it is regarded as ‘development’,
‘progress’, or ‘the new way’. It can be as dull as the introduction of a new
traffic system in a town centre, though it can involve the collision of two
or more apparently oppositional actors, ideas, or norms.
A third conceptual point is the need to get beyond the paralysing rela-
tivism that can attend discussions of hybridity and hybridisation. There
is a danger that we despair when realising that everything and everyone
is a hybrid. We may be tempted to give up, or to interrogate concepts
so rigorously that we find that our language is rendered useless. If we
accept that everything and everyone is a hybrid, then concepts such
as endogenous and exogenous, indigenous and international risk los-
ing their currency. The stance adopted in this book is to recognise the
shortcomings of concepts and language but to move on. It is possible to
recognise that some actors, societies, and processes are more hybridised
than others. Similarly, some actors and processes are more resilient in
resisting external pressures and incentives than others. In other words,
it is possible to identify degrees of hybridisation (Anthias 2001: 619–41).
This does not mean that there is a Social Darwinist hierarchy of cultures
whereby some cultures are, in some essentialist way, imbued with greater
resistance powers than others. Instead, given the social construction of
culture and how actors must negotiate their way through their social
environment, some cultures, structures, and norms are better placed to
project their will onto others or resist the projections of others. Crucial
here are the power relations inherent in thinking about the interplay
between cultures and actors. Edward Said (1994: 230) referred to colo-
nial encounters as ‘an unequal relationship between unequal interlocu-
tors’. Subsequent chapters in this book will examine the relationship
between liberal peace agents and local actors and illustrate how they
often conceived of power in very different ways.
The process of hybridisation encourages a reappraisal of notions
of history and societal development that are temporal and linear.
Hybridisation is a constant and multi-sphere series of processes. It is
useful to draw on the sociological concept of social interactionism in
attempting to conceive of the processes whereby hybridisation occurs.
In this view, society is the product of a complex series of actions and
reactions, some of which are so institutionalised and ritualised that
they become part of the unnoticed fabric of society (Denzin 1969: 923).
Other interactions may be more jarring and novel, especially if they

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74 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

occur along the fault-lines of cultures. Often the interactions have a

performative and symbolic dimension. According to the interaction-
ist perspective, ‘Neither the individual nor society ... can be accorded
unqualified primacy – each one is an aspect in the ongoing process
of social interaction, and both are mutually constitutive’ (Shalin 1986:
14). Advanced thinking on social interactionism also encourages a
multi-level approach to social change that takes account of the micro,
meso, and macro levels (Hall 1987: 1; Fine 1993: 77). Individual aca-
demic disciplines tend to have biases that favour one level of analysis
over another (for example, international relations is notoriously wedded
to state-based explanations). Our interest in hybridity emerging from
liberal peace interventions in post-war contexts compels us to exam-
ine all levels of society: the micro-processes of individuals reconciling
with each other and a new post-war system; the meso-level interaction
between civil society groups, and between these groups and the state;
and the macro-level interaction between the post-war state and inter-
national organisations.

Hybridity and liberal peace interventions

The concepts of hybridity and hybridisation are useful in enabling an

interrogation of the processes and outcomes stemming from contem-
porary internationally sponsored peace-support interventions. In par-
ticular, this work is interested in illustrating the hybridity, distortion,
and refraction that attend liberal peace interventions. Actors in peace-
support contexts are rarely able to act unilaterally. Their actions take
the positions and actions of others into account. In so doing, the actors,
as well as the nature of the peace, are subject to change.
Liberal peace contexts are often the scene of peculiar pressures that
result in peculiar forms of hybridity. Clearly, hybridity and processes of
hybridisation are not unique to post-war contexts. Hybridity occurs in
all social environments, and the millennia-old processes of colonisation
and globalisation have meant that human societies have much experi-
ence of hybridising. Yet international peace-support interventions are
capable of mobilising enormous resources and compressing their inputs
into relatively short periods. A number of locations have experienced
peacemaking and statebuilding ‘surges’ in the post-Cold War period as
the international community, or elements within it, mobilise to ‘fix’
a particular war-affected country. In such circumstances, processes of
hybridisation may be accelerated or suffer from unique forms of distor-
tion. Liberal peace projects are often highly interventionist, pertaining

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Hybridity 75

to a wide array of governance, security, and economic issues. As a result,

the impact of the intervention, and ensuing hybridity, may be far-
reaching and profound.
It is worth reiterating that actors and contexts in post-war environ-
ments will already have been subject to hybridity prior to the onset of
the liberal peace project. The principal liberal peace agents (the leading
states, international organisations, and international financial institu-
tions that drive intervention) can be termed a ‘hybrid’ in that they are
likely to cooperate in order to form a piece of complex multilateralism.
International organisations and their peacebuilding missions represent
an amalgam of personnel, material, techniques, and justificatory ideas.
Similarly, antagonists and communities in conflict areas will also have
been subject to hybridising pressures. The Balkans, for example, experi-
enced centuries of ethnic mixing (as well as tension and violence) prior
to the outbreak of war in the 1990s.
Our main interest, however, lies in the hybridity that arises from lib-
eral peacebuilding missions themselves. This is likely to occur at all lev-
els of society, though it is often most evident in cases where aggressive
or extensive forms of the liberal peace are pursued. No actor is likely
to experience a liberal peace intervention and remain unchanged. This
applies to the liberal peace progenitors from the global north, the co-
opted liberal peace agents in the target society, opponents of the liberal
peace, and the citizens and refugees in whose name the peace is imple-
mented. All will probably suffer blowback from their own actions, and
all are likely to be compelled to take the actions and positions of other
actors on board. The most obviously hybridised actors, structures, and
norms will be those located at the centre of the new political system in
the post-war society. So, for example, a post-peace accord government
might be funded, physically protected, and tutored by external actors.
The style of governance and model of economic organisation may
reflect the mores of the external liberal peace champions. The new
government – its personnel and systems – may be co-opted by external
actors to the extent that it becomes a local liberal peace agent. In turn,
its directives to municipalities, civil society groups, and individuals
will contain the DNA of the liberal peace. But the new government
will not be an exact replica of the perfect Weberian state. Instead, it is
likely to be an imperfect facsimile, with inflections of local governance
techniques such as respect for a tribal system or important families.
So the liberal peace becomes hybridised, projecting the international
but also having to take on board some local values and mores. This is a
two-way process that has an impact on all actors involved. As Morton

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76 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

(2000: 319) noted in relation to colonial enterprises, ‘it is not just the
ignorant native who makes hybrids out of scraps of imperfectly assimi-
lated western civilization melded with her indigenous culture. The
western world equally has a long history of appropriating motifs and
knowledge from strange and distant civilizations.’ By changing how
they act, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, actors are subject to
change themselves and become further hybridised.
Our interest in hybrids and processes of hybridisation conflicts with
liberalism’s wish to emancipate people from an overbearing interest in
particularistic identity loyalties. In the liberal mind, the universal must
be prioritised over the particular. Yet our interest in hybrids demands
that we scrutinise the minutiae of identity affiliations and aspirations.
While liberalism encourages us to look forward towards progressive
goals, hybridity demands that we look backwards and ask questions
about origins and antecedence. In short, there is an insidious element
to some liberal projects in that they seek to snuff out identity claims for
the greater good of all. This may be laudable if liberalism is attempt-
ing to deflect the continuing appeal of a particularly virulent form of
nationalism that has a history of oppression. But what about minority
groups that have faced exclusion? Many postcolonial states, and more
recently sites of post-war reconstruction, have pursued policies of liberal
national unity where particularistic identity claims have been subordi-
nated to the greater goal of universal rights. Hale (1999: 304), writing
on the case of Guatemala, notes how states can construct an apparently
progressive discourse, or ‘chain of assertions’, in favour of the univer-
sal at the expense of the particular: ‘The chain of assertions goes like
this: distinctions based on race or even radical cultural difference are
fading; treatment of the Indians and Ladinos is becoming more equal;
once clearly demarcated sociocultural identity categories are blurring
together in the cauldron of mestizaje.’
There are profound dangers, however, that such apparently progres-
sive rhetoric, and the policies that follow, can perpetuate dominance.
In historical terms, this was certainly the case in postcolonial Mexico,
where liberals argued that ‘indigenous’ was ‘nothing more than a juridi-
cal construct of colonialism standing in the way of the establishment of
political equality, equal opportunity, and economic advance’ (Caplan
2009: 225). Certainly the constitution offered protection for all, but
this did not translate into concrete actions that could offer special
protection to already vulnerable groups, let alone attempt ameliora-
tive measures to right the wrongs they had suffered. The same trend
is discernible almost two centuries later in contemporary postcolonial

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Hybridity 77

and post-war reconstruction strategies. Hale (1999: 308) notes how ‘the
evidence of recent Guatemalan and Latin American history is that the
price of achieving an “antiracist” society is assimilation’. Kompridis
(2005) levels a more damaging charge against the use of the concept
of hybridity by some states and sources of authority. He observes that a
powerful narrative can develop that asserts that ‘we’re all hybrids now’.
For him, hybridity can be deployed as part of a ‘process of normativiza-
tion ... Hybridity turns into a difference-erasing concept, negating the
foreignness of the foreigner, the otherness of the other’ (2005: 321).
It is not difficult to imagine a post-conflict statebuilding exercise
conducted under the mantle of the liberal peace in which a narrative
is developed by the international community and their local liberal
peace agents: we have all suffered, it is time to move on, we must put
the past behind us, we have more to unite us than divide us, and we
must all contribute to a new beginning. Given the material and moral
power mobilised by principal liberal peace agents, such a narrative
could become hegemonic. It would be aided by an extensive and exter-
nally funded NGO community and new civil society. Such narratives
have been developed in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Northern Ireland, and
Bosnia-Herzegovina. There is a danger, however, that vulnerable groups
or those seeking redress are steamrollered by liberal universalism.

Hybridisation as a process

Hybridisation is best conceived of as a constantly moving piece of variable

geometry. It operates on multiple levels, through multiple mediums, and
impacts multiple (if not all) aspects of life. A social process of such com-
plexity and longevity is extremely difficult to capture. To assist conceptu-
alisation a four-part model is proposed in the remainder of this chapter.
Like all models it is an abstraction and so is unable to capture the full
extent and dynamism of a complex social process. Yet it does allow us
to visualise the main axes along which hybridisation may be projected
or resisted in contexts experiencing liberal peace interventions. It also
encourages observers to examine the full range of actors involved in liberal
peace transitions, and thus move beyond the state-centric lens favoured
by political science and international relations. The four-part model con-
tends that hybridisation is the product of the interaction between:

● The compliance power of the liberal peace, or the ability of liberal

peace agents, networks, and structures to compel others to follow its

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78 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

● The incentivising power of the liberal peace, or the ability of liberal

peace agents, networks, and structures to incentivise others to follow
its wishes;
● The resistance of local actors, or the ability of local actors, networks,
and structures to resist, ignore, subvert, and adapt liberal peace inter-
ventions; and
● The alternatives provided by local actors, or the ability of local agents,
networks, and structures to provide alternatives and modifications
to the liberal peace.

The model represents a simplification of reality; the four variables

depend on many sub-variables. Moreover, it can also be argued that the
model has little to say on the wider geo-political structures and systems
that provide the context in which liberal peace interventions occur.
Evidence of all four parts of the model (liberal peace compliance
and incentives, local resistance and alternatives) can be found in the
five case study chapters that follow this one. In Lebanon, for exam-
ple, international actors project compliance through a heavy United
Nations security presence, a naval blockade, an international investi-
gatory tribunal, and conditionality imposed by international financial
institutions. Liberal peace incentives come in the form of reconstruc-
tion assistance. But local resistance, modifications, and alternatives are
in evidence through non-state social actors who have constructed a
parallel state that does not necessarily share the worldview preferred by
champions of the liberal peace.

Compliance powers of the liberal peace

In their extreme form, the compliance powers of the liberal peace may
have the bluntness of military operations that attempt to bomb or shoot
opponents into submission. Iraq, Afghanistan, the former Yugoslavia,
Sierra Leone, and Lebanon have all seen international force deployed
for apparently liberal ends in recent decades. The justificatory narrative
surrounding such violent interventions varies from case to case, but
has made repeated reference to human rights and emancipation of the
population. Yet direct violence is only one part of a much larger suite
of compliance techniques that stretches from the indirect violence of
sanctions and the threat of force to conditionalities imposed by external
donors. Principal liberal peace agents are able to harness the free mar-
ket to assist in their interventions in societies emerging from conflict.
On the one hand, the free market offers the potential for growth-led
social progress. On the other, global capitalism is replete with a series

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Hybridity 79

of constraints that limit the sovereignty of states and can also be inju-
rious to citizen welfare. Pugh (2010a: 83) outlines some of the pitfalls
attending the internationally driven marketisation programmes insti-
tuted as part of liberal peace interventions: ‘The macroeconomic ideol-
ogy insisted upon by the main funders and agencies takes advantage of
dislocations of conflict that impact on gender, ethnicity and class sec-
tors. The governed are expected to welcome, tolerate or passively accept
radical experiments with their economic environment, and welfare is
contingent on limited state revenue and conditional external subsidy.’
Under this critique, economic compliance takes the form of a series of
binding relationships predicated on economic and governance norms
that emanate from the global north. For many citizens in the state
experiencing the liberal peace intervention, however, the most visible
agent of market-led reforms will be their national or local government.
This reflects the transmission chain inherent in contemporary liberal
peace interventions whereby local actors are co-opted, willingly or
unwillingly, into the service of the larger liberal peace project. In some
cases these local agents will be convinced of the merits of the liberal
peace ‘reforms’ recommended by external mentors. In other cases they
will face invidious choices and have little choice but to conform. True
power relations in the liberal peace may be masked by the rhetoric of
‘participation’, ‘local ownership’, and ‘partnership’. The conception,
design, funding, timetable, execution, and evaluation of programmes
and projects may be conducted according to western agendas (Cooke
and Kothari 2002). Yet, as will become apparent from the case study
chapters in this work, few actors are able to unilaterally impose their
will, and opportunities for subversion and resistance emerge.
Perhaps the most insidious compliance tool operating in favour of the
liberal peace is the notion that the liberal peace is the only option avail-
able. This is in keeping with the genius of many commercial organisa-
tions that succeed in persuading their customers that choice is limited
and that they should refrain from shopping around. The material and
moral power mobilised by the chief proponents of the liberal peace
means that they are able to market their preferred version of interven-
tion as the only viable option. In recent years, a ‘moral authority’ in
favour of the liberal peace has been mobilised through choreography in
international organisations, forming ad hoc coalitions of ‘the willing’,
and employing the rhetoric of ‘emancipation’. Yet the impression that
the liberal peace is the only game in town is erroneous. As discussed in
the introduction to this volume, competitor versions of peace are avail-
able from the regional hegemons of India, China, and Russia. Local-level

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80 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

options are also available, as is the most common approach of simply

doing nothing. Such alternatives to the liberal peace are often over-
shadowed, especially if leading liberal peace powers are able to mobilise
significant diplomatic and media campaigns to convince others of the
legitimacy of the timing and nature of a particular intervention.
It is not automatic that the full compliance powers of the liberal
peace will be brought to bear in a particular target country. One of
the main findings of the case study chapters in this book is the vari-
ance in the enforcement of the liberal peace. While some locations have
experienced heavily militarised security and stabilisation programmes
(Iraq and Afghanistan), others have experienced ‘liberal peace-lite’, or a
light-touch form of interventionism. The variation in the enforcement
of the liberal peace relates, on the supply side, to the strategic interests,
domestic political cycle, leadership, and budgetary constraints of the
principal proponents of the liberal peace. Some parts of the planet are
simply deemed too strategically unimportant to warrant extensive or
heavy-handed liberal peace intervention. The evidence of the past two
decades is that a high degree of discretion, often from key individu-
als in centres of power, is a major factor in determining whether there
will be an international intervention and the extent and longevity of
that intervention. The strategic aims of principal liberal peace powers
change. Afghanistan slipped down the US and UK issue agendas once
the Taliban were put to flight in 2001. It ascended the issue agenda
once again when the Taliban became resurgent, but when the scale and
complexity of the Afghanistan–Pakistan imbroglio became clear the
stated aims of the US and the UK became ‘just enough security’ and
‘just enough governance’. This ‘wiggle room’ or discretion with regard
to the intensity with which the liberal peace is enforced is important as
it allows space for other actors to emerge or retain their influence and
for sites of hybridity to develop.

The incentivising powers of the liberal peace

The ‘big-tent’ nature of the liberal peace means that gentler, persua-
sive instruments sit alongside coercive mechanisms. The Janus-faced
nature of the liberal peace is wonderfully encapsulated in the fact that
Canadian troops fired over 4.7 million bullets in Afghanistan in a
twenty-month period in the mid-2000s (PakTribune 2008), while, at
the same time, Afghanistan was Canada’s largest recipient of interna-
tional assistance, with commitments to ‘democracy-building and gov-
ernance, economic and rural development, infra-structure, education,
health, landmine clearance, counter-narcotics activities, military and

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Hybridity 81

police training, security, and disarmament, demobilization and reinte-

gration’ (Library of Parliament (Canada) 2007). The incentives on offer
from the liberal peace can be considerable and emanate from liberalism
itself. Individuals, communities, states, and the global community are
offered strong encouragement to cooperate in order to emancipate indi-
viduals and collectives for shared social progress. In the liberal canon,
responsible self-interest can lead to a shared common interest. Thus, for
example, if an individual invests in their own education and gains bet-
ter employment as a result, they will be able to take care of themselves
and their families, but also contribute to wider societal goals through
taxation. Liberal peace incentives fall into two categories: moral and
Perhaps the most fundamental incentive of all is peace, especially if
international actors can offer guarantees such as minimum levels of
security for minorities. This internationally guaranteed peace is likely
to be a very specific form of peace (namely a liberal peace), but for those
mired in violent conflict any cessation of violence may be very attrac-
tive. States and communities in conflict can be subject to immense
moral pressure to engage in a ceasefire or conciliatory gestures. This
moral pressure often operates through the United Nations or a consor-
tium of leading states. At different times over the past two decades Iran,
Iraq, Syria, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Afghanistan, Serbia, and others
have been lectured on how they must take particular steps to ‘rejoin the
community of nations’ (Bush 2004a). Proponents of the liberal peace
have been able to appropriate the notion of an ‘international commu-
nity’ to the extent that it represents the interests of leading states and
international financial institutions rather a more universal and repre-
sentative set of interests that accommodates discordant voices. A near-
hegemonic narrative can be mobilised to label certain states or actors as
‘rogue’ or in some way deviant. What is unclear, however, is the extent
to which the promise of re-admittance to the community of nations
represents a real incentive. Minority and opposition groups within a
country can benefit from international support (for example, interna-
tional support for the Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe).
Yet some political leaders and communities have made political capital
from their castigation by ‘the international community’.
A more certain liberal peace incentive lies in the form of material
rewards. The extent of resources that can be mobilised in the name of
the liberal peace is not to be underestimated. The United States spent
between $801bn and $3tr on Iraq in the 2003–2011 period (BBC 2010a).
Iraq-related expenditure by the UK in the same period was $14.3bn

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82 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

(Macphearson 2010). In both cases the vast majority of this expendi-

ture went on the military, but it did contain substantial statebuilding
and peacebuilding funding. While Iraq and Afghanistan have been the
most expensive international peace-support missions, largely because
of the cost of sustaining western techno-war, liberal internationalism
has meant the introduction of substantial external funds into socie-
ties emerging from conflict. For example, the UN mission in Cambodia
cost approximately $3bn, while the UN set aside $7.2bn for its 2010–
2011 peacekeeping budget (Paris 2002: 653; UNDPKO 2010b). Given
the impecunious nature of many actors emerging from civil war, exter-
nal peace-support actors may be well placed to maximise advantage
through financial injections. The extensive and multilayered nature of
liberal peace interventions means that financial incentives to engage in
an internationally sponsored peace implementation programme may
be on offer to a diverse range of internal actors. The state and its agen-
cies may be offered reconstruction and statebuilding grants, loans, and
in-kind assistance. Individuals may also benefit from material rewards
for cooperation with internationally sponsored peacemaking, whether
through grant assistance for former combatants engaged in a demobi-
lisation, disarmament, and reintegration programme or micro-credit
assistance for entrepreneurs.
The chief point is that given the often deleterious economic situa-
tion of societies emerging from violent conflict, liberal peace actors
may be among the few sources of new resource injections. This can
award liberal peace actors significant power, and can spark a competi-
tive dynamic in post-war societies as actors compete to secure resources
from international actors. In deeply divided societies such as Lebanon,
Northern Ireland, or Bosnia-Herzegovina, conflict to secure an ‘appro-
priate’ share of resources for one’s own community can act as a proxy
for the wider conflict.
Depending on one’s perspective, peace-support funds from interna-
tional actors can be regarded as a ‘bribe’ to reward behaviour deemed
compliant with the aims of the liberal peace, and to discipline behav-
iour regarded as non-compliant. Alternatively, it is possible to construct
a narrative that depicts such assistance as neutral and humanitarian. By
their very nature, however, peace-support investments are political: the
monies are in service of the wider goal of securing a particular type of
peace. Moreover, while many individuals, companies, and states have
voluntarily availed of peace-support funding in many different loca-
tions, it cannot be said that the power relations underpinning such
transactions are equal.

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Hybridity 83

To illustrate some of the complexities involved, consider the case of an

Iraqi man employed as a translator for UK or US forces during the post-
Saddam insurgencies. In one sense this can be interpreted as a straight
economic exchange of labour in return for payment. Yet the politics
of the exchange reflect much wider power dynamics. The services of
Iraqi interpreters were required because coalition troops failed to make
adequate connections with the local population, and insufficient num-
bers of troops were trained to speak Arabic, despite the longevity of the
Iraq deployment. As described in Chapter 5, the occupying coalition
and the international financial institutions insisted on a paring-back of
the state, thus fuelling unemployment. Translator positions were highly
sought after, despite the risks: some 300 translators were killed in the
2003–2008 period (Hawksley 2008). There is little doubt that interpret-
ers were invaluable to Coalition forces and facilitated the extension of
the liberal peace. But this is not the same thing as voluntary and ful-
some support for the liberal peace. The relationship depended on cash
from liberal peace agents.
This ambivalent political economy is evident in all liberal peace con-
texts in which actors (states and their agencies, political parties, NGOs,
and individuals) engage in activities that support or do not oppose the
liberal peace in return for financial assistance. Chapter 8 of this book
shows how large segments of civil society in Northern Ireland have
been engineered in response to cash incentives from the British govern-
ment and the European Union. In turn, this raises questions about the
legitimacy of a peace regime that depends on financial assistance from
external sources. Given the often straitened economic context of socie-
ties emerging from conflict, it is very difficult for actors to turn down
offers of financial assistance in an attempt to maintain their independ-
ence and integrity, or their distance from a peacebuilding or statebuild-
ing project of which they do not approve. As the case of Lebanon in
Chapter 7 illustrates, some non-state actors do choose to maintain a
distance from the liberal peace, but they often have alternative sources
of funding.
Apart from direct cash subsidies and injections, the other main mate-
rial incentive for compliance in the liberal peace comes in the form
of the potential of the free market. The liberal peace logic asserts that
economically liberated citizens will be rewarded by their own entre-
preneurship and that their economic success will contribute to the
general wellbeing of society. Conclusive evidence in support of ‘trick-
le-down’ economics is difficult to find. As in any transition, there are
winners and losers. The experience of the economics shocks of former

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84 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

communist states in the 1990s was that the already vulnerable suffered
disproportionately. It does seem optimistic in the extreme to expect
the market to undertake tasks that require a social conscience. Michael
Pugh (2006: 285), for example, maintains a healthy scepticism about
the ‘certainties of disciplinary liberalism’ to deliver social distribution:
‘The poor do not benefit from policies of self-reliance and the privati-
sation of basic needs.’ Yet the market and its incentive schemes are a
fixture in the liberal peace. Money, perhaps more than any other factor,
accounts for the engagement of the liberal peace with so many actors
in societies emerging from violent conflict. By enabling governments
to provide social services, by financing an election, by funding skills-
training for former combatants, or by establishing a pro-peace media,
externally funded liberal peace agents have the capacity to expose their
ideas or norms to large numbers of people.

The ability of local actors to resist, ignore, or adapt

liberal peace interventions
Although liberal peace agents are able to mobilise significant power and
to co-opt local actors, it is important not to underestimate the agency of
local actors. In this case, ‘local actors’ refers to all levels within the state
subject to a liberal peace intervention: national government, munici-
palities, political parties, militant groups, NGOs and civil society, busi-
nesses, communities, and individuals. All these actors have the ability
to hybridise the liberal peace by enforcing some change on it. Some
will voluntarily cooperate with the liberal peace, convinced of the mer-
its of the internationally sponsored peacebuilding programme. Others
will oppose it, most obviously in the form of the Iraqi and Afghan
insurgencies that have mobilised against perceived occupation and the
denial of religious or national freedoms. But many other stances lie
between acceptance and rejection. Resistance and subversion can take
many forms, not all of them obviously subversive. Actors can cooper-
ate with some aspects of the liberal peace (perhaps participating in a
DDR programme), remain agnostic on other parts (perhaps the holding
of an election), and oppose other parts (perhaps the privatisation of a
national utility).
The picture that emerges from consideration of the extent of options
available to local actors means that we need to reappraise notions of
actors in war-torn regions as powerless, passive beneficiaries who must
await western assistance in order to be empowered. Constantinou (2007:
250) notes how the worldview of many western observers is neatly cat-
egorised into ‘proper categories for political action and emancipation’

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Hybridity 85

that conform to a modernity-influenced way of seeing the external

world. In this view, the ‘proper’ expressions from actors in the global
south may be gratitude and passivity towards liberal peace interven-
ers. A western political ethnocentrism can mean that local actors are
regarded as powerless until western-style elections are held. The evi-
dence of declining electoral participation in many post-conflict soci-
eties suggests that local populations do not see a link between the
franchise and their empowerment. The antennae of many western
observers, including policymakers, may not be sophisticated enough to
tune into the subtleties of local reactions to the liberal peace. The most
obvious reactions, perhaps participation in an election, can be mistak-
enly interpreted as a complete acceptance of the liberal peace.
Two variables are crucial in determining the extent to which local
actors can subvert or renegotiate the liberal peace. The first of these
relates to the social, political, and economic capital possessed by local
actors. The dislocations of war may have severely eroded or distorted
the power of local actors. Crucial here will be the extent to which tra-
ditional or indigenous structures and norms (themselves hybrids) are
intact (Mac Ginty 2008). Respect for village elders in a rural African
context, for example, may have been reduced by the dislocation of
conflict, rural–urban migration, and the dissipation of moral authority
caused by long-term social change. But in other cases, norms and prac-
tices based on kinship or an understanding of the local ecology may
survive and hold local legitimacy. The conflict and peace implementa-
tion plan may empower new forms of social and political capital and
enable new sites of local resistance and renegotiation.
The second variable that determines the extent to which local actors
may be able to hybridise the liberal peace is related to the willing-
ness and ability of liberal peace actors to push through their version
of statebuilding or peace implementation without reference to local
actors. Different versions of the liberal peace are on offer, with ‘lib-
eral peace-max’ equating to a non-negotiable imposition and ‘liberal
peace-lite’ equating to a more cooperative and emancipatory version
(Richmond 2005: 10–11). The 2004 US Marine assault on the Iraqi city
of Fallujah, for instance, involved the cordoning of the city, aerial and
artillery barrages, and the ejection of media and humanitarian actors.
Over 200,000 people were displaced, and the toxic legacy of the US
munitions has resulted in extraordinarily high cancer rates (Fisk 2005;
Cockburn 2010b). This was non-negotiable liberal peace in which a
security lens predominated, the principal liberal peace enforcer was
an incredibly well-resourced US military, and the local population was

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86 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

viewed as hostile. Under such circumstances, dissent was regarded as

resistance. In other cases, however, liberal peace agents have shown
a greater willingness to engage in cooperative ventures with local
actors. An inclusive and participative liberal peace was on offer in
many aspects of the Northern Ireland peace process, as discussed in
Chapter 8. In this case, the version of the liberal peace that developed
was calibrated to a political environment that was within the European
Union and under full media scrutiny.
The subversion, resistance, and negotiation that hybridise the liberal
peace, and all of the actors involved in liberal peace environments, often
occur over long periods. All the case studies reviewed in this book dem-
onstrate that peace-support interventions operate via ‘surges’ or intense
periods of internationally sponsored statebuilding or peace implemen-
tation. For a variety of reasons, international attention is not sustained
for long periods. One reason is that one of the primary aims of many
statebuilding and peace-support interventions is to develop institutions
and governance systems that can be locally sustained (although con-
forming to internationally acceptable standards). In theory, once the
systems are in place, international actors can withdraw and local actors
can manage their own affairs. Yet such a theory assumes that the role
of local actors is to accept international tutelage and systems, and to
replicate these systems without local interpretation and inflection. In
many cases this is not feasible, and local systems of governance, patron-
age, and clientelism will mix with internationally sponsored systems to
produce a hybrid. This may especially be the case over the longer term
as international oversight lessens.

The ability of local actors to present and maintain

alternative forms of peace
The final factor in the four-part model of hybridisation concerns the
ability of local actors, networks, and structures to promote alternatives
to the liberal peace in terms of the concept and practicalities of peace.
The hegemonic ambitions of the liberal peace, and its view that it is the
sole legitimate form of peace, mean that the space left for alternative
forms of peace is often limited. This is especially the case because of
the coercive and incentivising material resources that the liberal peace
can bring to bear on target societies. The scale of many liberal peace
interventions, especially those involving extensive statebuilding opera-
tions, may mean that liberal peace agents take the lead in terms of the
conception, direction, funding, and implementation of many aspects
of peacebuilding. Yet, on closer examination, many liberal peace

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Hybridity 87

interventions do not occupy all political, economic, social, and cultural

space in a target country. In many cases, most attention from the liberal
peace may be devoted to what can be described as macro-level security,
politics, and economics. The effects of such liberal peace engineering
can filter down to the micro-level of society. Other aspects of society,
however, may remain outside the purview of the liberal peace. Liberal
peace agents may regard such spaces or peoples as marginal or unim-
portant to the larger-scale liberal peace aims of securing the state and
re-orienting the economy and polity. People may be able to fashion
alternatives to the liberal peace in these marginal spaces. In some cases,
this might be a purposeful attempt to circumvent the liberal peace. In
other cases, however, people may be so distanced from the centre of
power that they have little choice but to provide for their own security
and governance.
Although it varies from context to context, the liberal peace has global
reach and ambitions. Intellectually, it is based on ideas that its propo-
nents believe are universal. In practical terms, it operates through near-
universal international organisations and financial institutions, and
professes to expand forms of political and economic organisation that
it believes should be universal. Given the immense material power and
ambition of the liberal peace, local alternatives can only be partial and
marginal. They may be conceived of as ‘modifications’ in many instances.
Thus, for example, as Chapter 7 describes, Hezbollah in Lebanon have
developed a series of security and governance alternatives to the lib-
eral peace provided by the western-backed Lebanese state. Despite
Hezbollah’s ambitions, this alternative occurs in a context in large part
created by liberal peace actors: Lebanon’s economy is integrated into the
global open economy, while the regional security constellation has been
created by other actors. The chief point is that given the material and
moral power of the liberal peace, alternatives should not be seen as fully
fledged systems capable of replacing the liberal peace. Instead, they are
likely to be context-specific and restricted to issues, geographical areas,
and peoples over which the liberal peace cannot or will not exercise
control. (In terms of macro-alternatives to the liberal peace, the most
obvious candidates are China, India, and Russia.)
Alternatives to the liberal peace need not necessarily take the form of
conscious alternatives that make a statement of dissent from the ortho-
doxy of the liberal peace. Instead, they are more likely to take the form
of organic, everyday citizen action associated with survival and social
progress (Richmond 2009c). Such action may not be recognisably politi-
cal. It can take the form of individuals and communities not engaging

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88 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

with the liberal peace and its local proxies. Simply ‘getting on with life’
and shunning the entreaties and incentives of the liberal peace means
creating alternative practical and discursive spaces in which the liberal
peace is excluded or irrelevant. It is possible to conceive of a liberal peace
statebuilding enterprise in a society emerging from violent conflict in
terms of a series of spheres of practice and influence. Represented in a
simple Venn diagram (Figure 3), some of these spheres overlap at certain
times and on certain issues, allowing the local, national, and interna-
tional to mix and create a fusion peace. Clearly the diagrammatic repre-
sentation entails a gross simplification as the ‘local’ and ‘international’
are not discrete categories, nor are they static. As important as the over-
lap or convergence of the actors and norms is the lack of convergence.
These zones of mutual non-engagement and irrelevance are the areas of
local life that the liberal peace is uninterested in and the areas of the
liberal peace in which local communities have no interest. They also
represent aspects of the liberal peace that are not to be shared with tar-
get states undergoing liberal peace interventions.

Liberal peace

Local actors
actors and their
local proxies

Zones of non-engagement and irrelevance

Figure 3 Overlaps and non-overlaps between the local and the international

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Hybridity 89

Concluding discussion

By way of conclusion, it is worth re-stressing two important cave-

ats that underpin this work. Firstly, it is crucial that hybridity is not
understood as the grafting together of two separate entities to make
a new, third entity. Instead, hybridisation is understood as a complex
process involving multiple actors and issues. Actors and ideas are
already hybridised, although the liberal peace distorts the processes of
hybridisation in peculiar ways in societies emerging from violent con-
flict. Secondly, hybridity should not be regarded as a metaphor for the
grafting of values and practices from the global north onto the glo-
bal south. Instead, it is two-way traffic, or a dynamic set of processes
involving blowback and distortion. Actors and values from the global
north are susceptible to change as a result of the complex web of inter-
action in liberal peace contexts. This is evidenced by the rollback in
the aims of NATO members once it became apparent that securing
post-Taliban Afghanistan would prove extremely difficult. The abso-
lutist language of the immediate post-Taliban years gave way to more
ambiguous mission goals by NATO members. By 2010, the British
Defence Minister defined ‘success’ as ‘a stable enough Afghanistan’
(Fox 2010). British troops were fighting there, not for ‘the education
policy in a broken 13th century country’, but to secure Britain itself
(cited in Dummett 2010). In rolling back from the more strident liberal
goals to more easily achieved goals, the NATO members themselves
changed. They were no longer guardians of a universal liberalism.
Instead, their mission was to push a partial and compromised form of
liberal internationalism.
When we discuss caveats, it is also useful to reiterate that the four-part
model of hybridisation is a simplification. In reality, multiple moving
parts combine to produce a variable geometry of negotiation, conflict,
renegotiation, and exchange between parties, values, and practices. The
model also needs to be placed within a wider structural ambit of geo-
politics. Caveats aside, the four-part formulation is designed as an aid to
understanding or a way of capturing dynamics within a society subject
to a liberal peace intervention. The model helps counter notions of the
powerlessness of local communities and the omnipotence of the main
liberal peace powers and institutions. All actors – whether indigenous
or exogenous – have ‘feet of clay’ and must act in an environment that
is in some way shaped by other actors. This means that we need to
revise one-dimensional portrayals of the liberal peace in which it is all-
powerful and may unilaterally promote its will.

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90 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

A corollary of the model of hybridisation is the need to interrogate the

categories that we use to describe and examine liberal internationalism
and societies emerging from violent conflict. Much of our understand-
ing rests on apparently discrete terms, such as ‘local’ or ‘international’ or
‘internal’ or ‘external’. The pervasive nature of hybridisation means that
there are few (if any) pristine, hermetically sealed entities and values.
Instead, all entities, practices, and values are the product of social nego-
tiation. The four-part model of hybridisation helps visualise the dynam-
ics in societies undergoing liberal interventionism as a series of balances
(for example, a balance between mainly internal and mainly external
thinking on how to organise the economy). Such a visualisation dis-
courages thinking about absolutist categories. Yet we have to realise that
many of our understandings of ‘local’ and ‘international’ are constructed
in opposition to something. So, for example, in a work on peace and
conflict such as this one, it is difficult to conceptualise local communi-
ties and environments without placing them in a context populated by
political and economic forms of power, civil society (whether organic or
artificially constructed), and peacebuilding programmes. In reality, ‘the
local’ and ‘the international’ must be viewed within a complex web of
interlocking ties. Yet it is possible to think of some actors and norms as
being more locally constituted than others (a ‘local local’ as opposed to
an ‘international local’ that is patterned by global forces).
This chapter, and Chapters 1 and 2, constitute the conceptual foun-
dations of the book. They have sketched an understanding of the com-
ponent parts and dynamics of the dominant form of internationally
supported peacemaking and peacebuilding. It should be clear that cari-
catures of the liberal peace as all-powerful amount to a disservice to the
capacity of local actors to subvert, ignore, resist, and renegotiate the
liberal peace. So, rather than a liberal peace, a hybrid peace tends to pre-
vail in societies that have been subject to liberal interventions. This is
the composite of four factors that are simultaneously at work: the ability
of the liberal peace to coerce other actors to follow its will; the ability of
the liberal peace to incentivise other actors to follow its will; the ability
of local actors to resist, subvert, or ignore the liberal peace; and the abil-
ity of local actors to establish alternatives to the liberal peace. With this
model having been set out, the subsequent chapters in this book take a
case study approach. Each chapter focuses on a particular pillar of the
liberal peace (security, economic reform, constitutional reform, good
governance, and civil society) and tracks its fate in a particular context
that has experienced post-war recovery.

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Hybrid Security: Afghanistan

We are here to try to tame the people by destroying their crops

and villages until they give in.
Lt. Henry Cadogan, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, North
West Frontier, India, 1891 (Tillotson 2009)

Each man in these parts is his own policeman and looks to his
own exertions to safeguard his own property. No matter how
poor he may be, he possesses arms of some sort, and has some
knowledge of using them.
G. P. Tate (1909: 102)

Afghanistan is not Sweden with bad roads.

B. R. Rubin (2004: 165)


This chapter concentrates on a core pillar of liberal peacebuilding: the

extension of a monopoly of violence as part of a statebuilding project.
This chapter seeks to draw out the contradictions between the logic of
liberal statebuilding and the pragmatism demanded by an environment
cursed by chronic war and insecurity. It depicts the establishment of
a hybrid form of government and governance wherein various indig-
enous and exogenous actors, structures, and practices interacted to cre-
ate new social, cultural, political, and economic activity and spaces.
These hybridised activities and spaces represented a significant retreat
from the liberal rhetoric used by western states to justify their state-
building interventions in Afghanistan. The specific focus of the chap-
ter is on the incorporation of warlords and militia commanders into
the western-backed post-Taliban government. The warlords controlled


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92 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

private armies, raised their own ‘taxes’, and had limited loyalty to
Kabul. While there are limitations to neo-medievalist arguments that
seek to draw parallels between post-Cold War civil wars and the medi-
eval era, Anatol Lieven’s characterisation of Afghanistan’s warlords as
figures from the ‘Dark Ages’ has much merit (2009: 339; Winn 2004).
This chapter considers the implications of the cooperation and cohabi-
tation between a modernist statebuilding worldview and one based on
feudal armies. It finds that Afghanistan does not allow for clear-cut dis-
tinctions between the traditional and the modern, or the western and
the non-western. Instead, it depicts a picture of multiple compromises
as local and international actors grappled with the limitations to their
power and legitimacy. The four elements of the model of hybridisation
(the coercive power of the liberal peace, the incentivising power of the
liberal peace, the ability of local actors to resist the liberal peace, and
the ability of local actors to provide alternatives to the liberal peace) are
all on display in the Afghan case.
The case study is not primarily interested in the personalities of the
warlords, or the particular human rights abuses associated with them.
Instead, the focus is on the nature of the system that facilitated coop-
eration between very different political actors. The incorporation of
warlords into government helps illustrate wider lessons from the proc-
esses of social negotiation between indigenous and exogenous actors
that resulted in a composite political environment. It also reflects the
limitations and contradictions of the liberal peace: in order to achieve
hard security goals, western states were compelled to cooperate with
militia leaders, thus jeopardising other, more ‘progressive’ goals, such as
human security, development, and the extension of rights.
The Afghan example is useful in underscoring that hybridisation is
not a simple case of discrete western and non-western actors and prac-
tices coming together to create a fusion polity. The process is much more
complex, as actors are neither consistent nor homogeneous. Moreover,
as will be discussed in more detail below, many of the categories and
labels that we may look to as points of reference (such as ‘western’ and
‘non-western’) have the certainty of shifting sands. The Afghan case
also reminds us of the importance of a historical perspective. A linear
roll call of significant dates (for example, the Soviet invasion in 1979, the
fall of President Najibullah in 1992, the ousting of the Taliban in 2001,
etc.) seems an inadequate way of conveying a complex history in which
a succession of prominent events overlaid much deeper socio-political
trends. The lens provided by hybridisation, which emphasises processes,
steers us away from versions of ‘instant history’ that are overly packaged

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Hybrid Security: Afghanistan 93

and linear. It makes sense to see Afghanistan in decades, if not centu-

ries. Many of the dynamics that shape contemporary Afghanistan have
a very long gestation. Whether the messianic behaviour of the United
States in seeking revenge for 9/11 or the Pashtun grievance complex,
all these processes have very long antecedence that is poorly served by
ahistorical approaches that begin in 1979 or 2001.
The chapter begins with a brief note on the problems of categorisation
that attend any discussion of ‘western’ or ‘non-western’, or ‘internal’ or
‘external’, in relation to a highly hybridised and internationalised con-
text such as Afghanistan. The next section underscores the centrality
to liberal peace interventions of statebuilding and the concept of the
monopoly of violence. This allows the chapter to bring into relief the
contrast between the principles of liberal peace (among them a central-
ised Weberian state) and the on-the-ground reality (accommodating war-
lords). The chapter then moves on to consider the phenomenon of Afghan
warlordism in more detail. After conceptualising warlords, it explains the
rise of warlords in the post-Soviet period and their incorporation into
the post-Taliban government. The chapter then discusses the limitations
of the post-Taliban statebuilding project, paying particular attention to
the contradictions inherent in a system that simultaneously attempts to
retain warlords for their counterinsurgency efficacy and restrain them as
they offend the meritocratic mores of the liberal peace.

A note on categories

Is Afghan President Hamid Karzai a western or non-western figure? The

question illustrates the difficulty of the categories that we rely on when
attempting to understand processes of hybridisation in societies under-
going international peace-support operations. Karzai is Afghan born,
has spent virtually all his life in Afghanistan or Pakistan, and has an
impeccable Pashtun lineage. As President he was the personification of
the new Afghan state. Yet, in many ways, Karzai and the post-2001 state
are the creation of international actors (chiefly the United States and its
allies, and to a lesser extent the United Nations). Since his installation as
leader of the Afghan Interim Administration at the Bonn conference in
December 2001, Karzai has become totemic of the international com-
munity’s interests in post-Taliban statebuilding, reconstruction, and
securitisation. Indeed, given that the US provided Karzai’s bodyguards
(both special forces soldiers and DynaCorps private security contrac-
tors) until early 2006, it can be argued that he owes his life to interna-
tional actors (PakTribune 2006).

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94 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

Karzai is not alone in constituting a poor fit for categories such as

‘western’, ‘non-western’, ‘indigenous’, or ‘exogenous’. Afghanistan seems
to defy neat categorisation. As a state it is a relatively modern confec-
tion. As an effective administrative entity, it has been dysfunctional or
absent from the lives of most of its inhabitants. Most ‘Afghans’ do not
regard their state as their principal identity marker, instead preferring
to identify themselves according to clan, religion, or geography. Lieven
(2009: 337) notes that ‘there is very little to suggest that such a thing as
“the Afghan people” actually exists’. As a result, labels which attempt
to situate people or structures within or without the boundaries of
Afghanistan (for example, ‘internal’ or ‘external’) are of limited value.
Moreover, the highly internationalised nature of Afghanistan (histori-
cally as well as in the contemporary era) means that categories that seek
to differentiate between internal and external actors may not always
be appropriate. Colonialism, successive civil wars, the active pursuit of
patrons by Afghan clients, and the transnational flow of people, ideas,
and resources all mean that Afghanistan is a globalised environment
and has been for some time. Similar observations can be made about
how western actors in contemporary Afghanistan do not constitute a
discrete group despite the unified mission statements of multilateral
organisations. Western actors differ enormously in their involvement,
capability, and objectives in Afghanistan.
Questioning the validity of categories is prudent, though rejecting
them all as unsatisfactory would render works such as this one impos-
sible. Moreover, to stop and question every category would make the
work as unreadable as most postmodernist tracts. Instead, this book
will use terms such as ‘western’ and ‘non-western’ or ‘indigenous’ and
‘exogenous’ with health warnings attached. It recognises that complex
socio-political environments cannot be shoehorned into neat binary
opposites. Yet it does seem possible to identify actors, practices, and
structures that are more associated than others with liberal interna-
tionalism originating from the leading states in the global north and
the international organisations and international financial institutions
they control. In the Afghan context it is also possible to identify actors
who have cooperated more than others with liberal internationalism.
Complicating matters is the fact that actors can simultaneously engage
with the liberal peace in negative and positive ways. For example, a
farmer might be politically supportive of the Kabul government but
subsidise the Taliban through his economic activity. While outsiders
may interpret this behaviour in terms of supporting or undermining
the government or Taliban, the farmer very probably does not use such

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Hybrid Security: Afghanistan 95

lenses. For him, the issue might be survival or the maximisation of the
quality of life of his family. While some might be tempted to see the
seemingly contradictory behaviour of actors as a methodological prob-
lem, it can, instead, be regarded as evidence of hybridisation, or the
agency of local actors in navigating a complex environment.

Statebuilding and the monopoly of violence

The state, in alliance with the market and selected international organ-
isations and INGOs, forms the centre-piece of many contemporary
liberal peace interventions. In a sense, governance and peacebuilding
become reduced to statebuilding. The new, reformed, or reinforced
state becomes the central vehicle through which a series of peacebuild-
ing, reconstruction, and economic reform tasks are to be delivered. In
many cases, the state becomes the clearing-house of conflict through
the institutionalisation of powersharing mechanisms, the chief con-
duit of reconstruction programmes, and the facilitator for external eco-
nomic and political interventions. According to critics of the liberal
peace, many post-conflict states become compliant transmission agents
which pass the liberal peace to the provincial and local level. In order
to achieve this, the post-conflict state is often subject to enormous
‘reforms’ to create institutional arrangements and to build capacity
(Call 2008a: 8–9). Post-Cold War internationally supported peace-
building has witnessed massive resources being poured into statebuild-
ing, whether through the reorganisation of government structures, the
introduction of new governance mechanisms, the reform of governing
instruments (such as the judiciary), or technical assistance in budget
management or policing.
Central to statebuilding projects has been the extension of the post-
conflict state’s monopoly of violence and a consequent elimination of
non-state militant actors. The context provided by civil wars or cam-
paigns of violent opposition to authoritarian regimes often makes urgent
the need for a centralised coercive authority: a bloated and empowered
state security apparatus, paramilitary forces, multiple non-state mili-
tant groups, the proliferation of weapons, porous national borders, the
arbitrary application of law and order, and a disinclination of citizens
to obey state laws, including the payment of taxes. By establishing or
re-establishing a monopoly of violence, the post-conflict state can offer
protection to its citizens (in return for loyalty and legitimacy), as well
as guarantees to overseas states and businesses (Tilly 1985: 172). A pro-
fessional and regulated defence that acts in service of the citizenry is

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96 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

straight from the liberal canon and connects with the liberal interest in
technocracy, the rule of law, the defence of property, and the guaran-
tee of rights. The post-conflict statebuilding repertoire is well versed in
interventions designed to assist the state’s monopolisation of violence.
Under the legends of demobilisation, disarmament, and reintegration
and security sector reform, post-conflict state and rebel forces have
been amalgamated (South Africa), state forces have been downsized and
re-oriented towards civilianised policing (Northern Ireland), non-state
militants groups have been disarmed, former combatants have been
offered retraining and education (Sierra Leone), and bureaucracies have
been remodelled to cater for post-civil war contingencies (Lebanon)
(Őzerdem 2008). The ultimate aim in all cases has been to assist the
state to assert its authority.
In a number of cases, the state has received significant international
assistance in asserting its authority. Iraq and Afghanistan prove how
contested this can be, and raise questions about the object of the secu-
rity: what is being secured? Is it the population, including minorities,
or is it the state in terms of its elite and the role it can play as a client
for wider international aims such as trade or stability? The evidence
from Iraq and Afghanistan, admittedly among the ‘worst-case scenario’
examples, is that citizen security is often undermined as part of the
process of securing the state. In Iraq, for example, the US way of deal-
ing with what it labelled ‘al-Qaeda’ was to sponsor sectarian militias.
The result was an orgy of ethnic cleansing, murder, and kidnapping
(Herring 2010).
The statebuilding imperative was given an additional fillip by the
War on Terror. ‘Failing’ states and statelessness were regarded as poten-
tially dangerous anomalies and featured prominently in George W.
Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ speech (Bush 2002). A key part of the War on Terror
therefore was to reinforce those states deemed to be ‘at risk’ (Piazza
2007). Often this involved military support to secure states against
non-state armed actors. Attempts by the US and other states to ‘secure’
Yemen provide a good example. Tasks such as improving the welfare of
citizens or encouraging more inclusive forms of governance have been
subjugated to the blunt securitisation of the state. US military assistance
was doubled in a year, military operatives that even the US calls ‘clan-
destine’ were deployed, and the Yemeni air force was encouraged and
assisted by the US and Saudi Arabia to carry out more air strikes against
suspected targets (Cohn 2010). While USAID development assistance
also increased, there was no serious attempt to reform a corrupt govern-
ment that was proving useful in the War on Terror.

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Hybrid Security: Afghanistan 97

The rise of Afghanistan’s warlords

Conceptualising warlords
The term ‘warlord’, like ‘pirate’, ‘drug baron’, or ‘buccaneer’, has the air
of Hollywood about it – prone to caricature and dramatisation. The sim-
plest definition of a warlord is an autonomous military commander,
and the circumstances of many post-Cold War civil wars have suited
the emergence of such non-state militants (Kaldor 1999: 8; Keen 2008:
34). Indeed, the term ‘warlord’ has only recently entered parlance in
Afghanistan, with the term ‘commander’ being most commonly used
(Schetter et al. 2007: 137). Typically, warlords exploit the state’s failure
to achieve a monopoly of violence, use violence and coercion, hold ter-
ritory, will engage in predation, and will participate in neopatrimonial
activities, or strong-man politics (Giustozzi 2005: 5). Doubtless cha-
risma and personality play a large role in warlordism, yet it is perhaps
more fruitful to look beyond the traits of individual military command-
ers and instead examine the systems that enable warlords to maintain
their positions. The creation and maintenance of such systems often
involves deft political and military manoeuvring and so points away
from caricatures of warlords as foolhardy militants. In the Afghan case,
warlords have been able to exploit both the collapse of the state and
statebuilding efforts. This requires us to reappraise definitions of ‘war-
lord’ that associate the term with the undermining of the state. Marten
(2006/7: 46), for example, argues that warlords who become state lead-
ers can no longer be classed as warlords. Instead, she suggests, the label
must be reserved for actors who fundamentally undermine the state.
The Afghan case is not so clear cut. While warlords did not become
head of state in the post-Taliban period, some did assume senior posi-
tions within the cabinet. The attitude of warlords towards the state is
an invalid frame of reference for Afghanistan. Most warlords did not
consciously set out to undermine or consolidate the state; such consid-
erations were secondary. The primary aim was to create and maintain
circumstances through which political and economic resources could
be extracted. The state, whether backed by the Soviet Union or western
powers, or largely absent, was in many ways circumstantial to warlord
Warlords develop complex political economies that reinforce their
power. While it might suit the caricature to depict warlords as wholly
parasitic or motivated only by economic exploitation, such behaviour
would not be sustainable. ‘Too ruthless a profiteering on the part of the
warlord is likely to have a very destabilising effect on the militiamen.

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98 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

Redistribution is required to keep an army going’ (Giustozzi 2005: 6). In

many cases, warlords have sought to develop loyalty among constitu-
ents. Lieven (2009: 344) notes that ‘Of course, simple greed is present
but so too are the demands of patronage for relatives, clients and fol-
lowers, without which it is impossible for a political or military figure to
maintain himself in Afghanistan.’ To consolidate their power, warlords
have cultivated clientelist networks, often based on a prior common
bond, such as regional or ethnic affiliation or clan membership (Coker
2007: 58). McCormick and Fritz (2006: 85) note that warlords were the
law of the land in many parts of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of
Soviet forces in 1989 and the contraction of the state during the 1990s
in the context of a developing civil war. Their governance regimes may
have been primitive, but they were the only capable political actors left
in what was effectively a failed state (Fielden and Goodhand 2001).
Warlords instituted systems of rule over their fiefdoms, for example
collecting taxes or arbitrating disputes. Such ‘systems of rule’ were far
removed from the Weberian model and may have looked like local
authoritarianism to liberal outsiders; nonetheless they constituted a
form of order and governance. Most warlords also provided a minimum
public good in the form of the extension of security (from the state,
external forces, or rival warlords) to inhabitants in the areas they con-
trolled. This provision of security (regardless of how rudimentary or
arbitrary) meant that many warlords or militia commanders could act
either as competitors or as allies to the state’s ambitions of extending its
monopoly of violence.

The rise of the warlords

Afghanistan has a long history of warlordism, or clan chiefs with pri-
vate armies and limited loyalty to centralised authority. Many of these
traditional leaders were superseded by mujahideen commanders dur-
ing the 1979–1989 Soviet occupation (Marten 2006/7: 45). US, Saudi,
and Pakistani military and financial assistance gave this new breed
of warlords a much greater military capacity than their predecessors.
The US alone funnelled over $3bn to the mujahideen (Hirschkind and
Mahmood 2002: 342). This enabled them to withstand pressure from
Kabul to compromise or conform to reconciliation processes (Halliday
and Tanin 1998: 1376). The emergence of the modern drugs economy
allowed the warlords of the late 1980s and early 1990s to become pow-
erful political leaders and sustain their positions after external largess
ceased following the Soviet withdrawal. By this time, Afghanistan
was well on the way to becoming a ‘poster narcostate’ (Felbab-Brown

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Hybrid Security: Afghanistan 99

2006: 129, 131–2). Substantial profits could be made from the growing
and processing of opium, and through the control of supply routes and
the imposition of levies on trade. These latter forms of revenue genera-
tion were particularly lucrative and sought after, and enabled some of
the more successful warlords to carve out de facto mini-states. Profits
were used to oil the wheels of patronage networks, reinforcing the posi-
tion of warlords who initially rose to prominence through military
might. In 1992 the post-Soviet government collapsed after one mili-
tia leader, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, defected to the mujahideen
(Cockburn 2001). Thereafter the Afghan civil war began in earnest,
with warlord pitted against warlord. The dominance of the warlords
led to a situation of massive insecurity and impoverishment for many
inhabitants (Slim 2007: 93).
The rise of the Taliban was in part a reaction to this insecurity.
Emerging in 1994, they offered basic levels of security to a war-weary
population, especially among the Pashtun majority (Rashid 1999: 24;
Marsden 1998: 45). The emergence of the Taliban ‘coincided with a for-
tunate historical juxtaposition, where the disintegration of the com-
munist power structure was complete, the Mujaheddin leaders were
discredited and the traditional tribal leaders had been eliminated. It
was relatively easy for the Taliban to sweep away what little of the old
Pashtun leadership was left’ (Rashid 2002: 97). The Taliban’s promise
to restore the former King to the throne also garnered them popular-
ity among many Pashtuns. While a few warlords oriented themselves
towards the Taliban, and its prioritisation of Islamist mores, most war-
lords remained focused on self-preservation and profit-maximisation.
With little popular support and much in-fighting, many warlords
The Taliban seemed to offer some form of security and certainty in a
country in which one-third of the population had been displaced as a
result of civil war. At their height, the Taliban controlled about 90 per
cent of the territory of Afghanistan, with the warlords at the margins
and loosely affiliated under the collective group the Northern Alliance
(established in 1996). By the turn of the millennium the country had
largely fallen off the international radar. The western news media car-
ried stories of Taliban religious rigidity and of an obscure figure called
Osama bin Laden, but there was no serious international appetite for
regime change (Rashid 1999: 23). Indeed, the United States gave the
Taliban regime $43m for drugs eradication programmes three months
prior to 9/11 (Poulton 2003: 414). Afghanistan was largely left to fes-
ter. The Taliban showed little interest in governing; the creation of a

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100 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice seemed

to be the height of their administrative ambitions (Marsden 1998: 45).
The war between the Taliban and the mainly non-Pashtun warlords
ebbed and flowed, with the Taliban maintaining the upper hand.
Everything changed with 9/11. The US desire for speedy revenge meant
that a mere twenty-six days elapsed between 9/11 and the beginning
of Operation Enduring Freedom. The US did not mount a major land
offensive to topple the Taliban. Instead, the US strategy involved a
mix of air power and special forces operations (O’Hanlon 2002; Biddle
2003). For the purposes of this chapter, the most significant element of
the offensive was the co-opting of Northern Alliance warlords into the
anti-Taliban offensive. The US zeal for revenge meant that no serious
thought was given to the implications of a coalition that reinvigorated
drug-financed warlords with appalling human rights records. Among
the Northern Alliance commanders was the future President, Hamid
Karzai. He had been ‘talent-spotted’ by the US State Department as his
Pashtun support base overlapped with that of many Taliban command-
ers. Karzai was a late replacement for Abdul Haq, a Pashtun warlord
from eastern Afghanistan who had been captured and killed by the
Taliban, and who many believed was favoured by the Americans as
the post-Taliban potentate. Karzai, who had testified to Congress on the
evils of the Taliban, was ‘well-known to American officials’, and was
active during Operation Enduring Freedom in encouraging cohesive-
ness among anti-Taliban forces and defections from the Taliban (Perlez
2001). It is worth asking: could Karzai be considered a ‘warlord’ during
this period? Certainly, he had been elected by no one and he was associ-
ated with irregular military forces that operated outside of the Geneva
Conventions. Rather than attending the Bonn conference, he was fight-
ing Taliban forces near Kandahar (Erlanger 2001a). Yet Karzai was not
a ‘typical’ warlord in that he was educated to Master’s level, his links
to the US oil industry meant that he could present an acceptable face
to the United States, and he was reported to be more comfortable with
politics than with military affairs (Fisk 2006: 32; Perlez 2001). Karzai
did not actually control substantial military forces himself. His pres-
ence on the battlefield was supported by US special forces, and his main
role was to recruit others to the anti-Taliban push.

Made in Bonn: the new Afghanistan

While the campaign to oust the Taliban was under way, no serious
thought was given to the nature of the post-Taliban polity (Krepps 2008:
559). That was left to a UN-sponsored conference in Bonn in December

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Hybrid Security: Afghanistan 101

2001. Although the ousting of the Taliban had been a United States-run
affair (with the assistance of their warlord allies), most states, interna-
tional organisations, and international non-governmental organisa-
tions swung behind the fait accompli, regarding the reconstruction of
Afghanistan as a shared international responsibility. As a result, many
actors in the international community were complicit in turning ‘Shock
and Awe’ into what Lopez deliciously calls ‘Shock and Flaw’ (2007: 246).
The reasons for this international complicity, namely the uncritical and
unreflective posture of many actors in the international community,
ranged from the aftershock of 9/11 that insulated the United States from
much criticism to the hegemony of narratives of the beastliness of the
Taliban (particularly their beastliness towards Afghan women, who had
been suddenly ‘rediscovered’ by many in the west), and an awareness
among many INGOs of an impending humanitarian disaster following
two years of drought in Afghanistan. The remaking of Afghanistan was
shaped by two sets of ideas intrinsic to the liberal peace in the early
years of the new millennium: an unshakeable belief in the righteous-
ness of liberal ideals, and a post-9/11 security imperative. The result was
a peculiarly militant form of liberalism. European and INGO variants
of this liberalism tended to be more nuanced than the unthinking neo-
conservatism emanating from those associated with George W. Bush’s
White House, but there was general agreement that liberal ideals were
superior to alternatives and ripe for export. Added to this was the sense
that security, and particularly the security of the United States and its
interests and allies, trumped the ‘softer’ aspects of liberalism such as
tolerance and pluralism.
It was against this backdrop that western powers invited selected
Afghan leaders, many of them warlords or associated with warlords, to
create the new Afghanistan in Bonn in late 2001. Many of those who
came directly from Afghanistan owed their presence to their mili-
tary strength (although a motley collection of exiles and associates of
the former King were also present). The Bonn process witnessed the
co-option of warlords into the ‘new Afghanistan’. Suhrke (2007: 1298)
was in no doubt about the ambition of the Bonn Agreement. It was a
‘script for transition to liberal, constitutional democracy. The script con-
tained all the main elements of modernity as commonly understood –
from the Weberian-type state to more recent additions of social justice
and women’s rights.’ The Bonn Agreement and subsequent documents
amounted to a roadmap for ‘a near total overhaul of the country’s polity,
economy and society’ (Suhrke 2007: 1299). Yet these statebuilders had to
deal with the realities on the ground. Four of these ‘realities’ are worth

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102 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

noting. Firstly, the task facing local and international statebuilders was
gigantic. The Afghan state, such as it was, had effectively withered over
the previous decade. Secondly, the United States was primarily interested
in security rather than governance and so did not follow through its war
mobilisation with a statebuilding mobilisation of similar vigour. This
was particularly the case as US attention shifted towards Iraq. Thirdly,
the Bonn Agreement was not a peace accord in the sense of warring
factions coming together to agree a shared future (Rubin 2004: 167).
Instead, the Taliban (one of the countries largest factions) were excluded
and the process was driven by international forces. Fourthly, and most
importantly for the purposes of this chapter, the statebuilders had to
deal with the de facto power of the warlords. As the warlords possessed
territory and ethno-political capital, they had to be taken seriously.
The Bonn Agreement did not include provisions for a comprehen-
sive disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration programme.
Incredibly, and making it almost exceptional among all states on the
planet, the new Afghan state did not demand that it held a monop-
oly of violence. At the last moment, the Northern Alliance leader,
Burhanuddin Rabbani, and his deputy rejected a draft of the Bonn
Agreement that included a commitment by the International Security
Assistance Force (ISAF) to ‘assist the voluntary disarmament of former
combatants’ (Erlanger 2001b). With the text of the Agreement changed,
warlords were able to hold onto their weapons and men. The newly
created state of Afghanistan was to be grafted onto the unpromising
base of an ethnically fissured territory divided into fiefdoms run by
warlords. The reluctance of militia commanders to give up their weap-
ons was understandable: not only was the new Afghan state unproven,
but this model of state formation was alien to most Afghans. There
were no guarantees that militia commanders would not have to fall
back on their own resources if the Afghan state failed to take root, and
if – as had happened many times before – external powers lost interest.
Given the circumstances, it was rational for militia commanders, and
for many individuals, to hold onto their weapons. Any plan to institute
a monopoly thus faced unpropitious circumstances. The ‘market’ for
security was extremely fragmented, with multiple actors holding weap-
ons and believing that it was either rational or legitimate for them to
hold onto their weapons.

Three phases of post-Taliban warlordism

In very rough terms, it is possible to identify three phases of warlord-
ism in post-Taliban Afghanistan (Mac Ginty 2010b). In the initial

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Hybrid Security: Afghanistan 103

post-Bonn period, notwithstanding the liberal rhetoric from sections of

the international community, warlords were co-opted into Karzai’s gov-
ernment. This reflected their battlefield dominance after the defeat of
the Taliban. For example, Rubin (2004: 166) notes that General Fahim
was made Minister of Defence because he was the Northern Alliance
commander who occupied Kabul when the Taliban fled. In the second
phase, international actors and modernisers around Karzai attempted
to sideline the warlords and encourage them to disarm. In the third
phase, from late 2005 onwards, when it became clear that the resur-
gent Taliban represented a serious threat to the Afghan state, warlords
were again seen by the US and its allies as viable Taliban-fighting forces.
These phases deserve elaboration as they illustrate the tensions between
customary Afghan politics, on the one hand, and statebuilding accord-
ing to liberal mores, on the other. In particular, they raise the question
of whether establishing a statist monopoly of violence was ever a seri-
ous goal of the United States or of the post-Taliban Afghan state itself. If
establishing a monopoly of violence was never a serious ambition, then
this raises further questions about the nature of the liberal statebuild-
ing project attempted in Afghanistan.
As a precursor to a discussion of the first phase of post-Taliban war-
lordism, it is worth stressing the weakness of many warlords prior to
9/11. The Taliban was in a militarily dominant position, al-Qaeda mur-
dered the leader of Northern Alliance, Ahmad Shah Masood, two days
before 9/11, and a joint Taliban–al-Qaeda offensive was in the planning.
It is not an exaggeration to say that American arms and money saved
many warlords from extinction. In the first phase of post-Taliban war-
lordism (2001–2003), with US backing, Pashtun leader Hamid Karzai
assumed leadership of the Afghan Interim Administration. Seventeen
out of thirty cabinet seats were assigned to Northern Alliance members.
This included giving the Ministry of Defence to General Mohammad
Fahim, the Ministry of Interior Affairs to Mohammad Younus Qanooni,
the National Security Directorate (Afghan intelligence agency) to
Mohammad Arif, and the Foreign Affairs portfolio to Abdullah Abdullah
(Erlanger 2001b). The new political class did include a number of fig-
ures educated in the west, as well as technocrats from previous regimes,
so the new polity was a mixed affair (Bezhan 2006: 233). In June 2002,
an emergency loya jirga endorsed Karzai as President of the Transitional
Islamic State of Afghanistan. The loya jirga, a customary grand council
of tribal elders that reached decisions through consensual mechanisms,
was a study in hybridity as it drew on both traditionalism and western-
inspired ideas of gender equality and social inclusion (Mac Ginty 2008).

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104 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

In this initial period, warlords were awarded senior positions in govern-

ment because of their battlefield prowess and status as ethnic leaders.
Suhrke (2007: 1302) observes that Karzai ‘had to co-opt to survive’. To
exclude powerful independent militia leaders would have jeopardised
the fledgling state, and warlords were not above broadcasting this mes-
sage to their international patrons. Warlordism was too ingrained in
Afghan politics to eradicate it with a swish of a liberal wand (Cockburn
2001). Moreover, many in the international community were relaxed
about the past indiscretions of Afghan leaders as long as they were anti-
Taliban. ‘The unwillingness of either the USA or Europeans to exert
much military pressure against the warlords and faction leaders, how-
ever, meant that their agreement to the building of depoliticised armed
forces had to be obtained largely through incentives, mainly through
the offer of political incorporation. Hence, co-optation rather than
marginalisation had to be the main strategy toward the former war-
lords’ (Rubin 2006: 180).
As a result, characters with unsavoury pasts were included in the
new Afghan state. Perhaps most notable among these was Abdul Rashid
Dostum, an Uzbek warlord with a private army of up to 40,000, who
was appointed Chief of Staff of the new National Army. Robert Fisk
(2006: 1064) cites Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid’s account of his
arrival at Dostum’s headquarters:

The first time I arrived at the fort to meet Dostum there were blood-
stains and pieces of flesh in the muddy courtyard ... the guards ... told
me that an hour earlier Dostum had punished a soldier for stealing.
The man had been tied to the tracks of a Russian-made tank, which
then drove around the courtyard crushing his body into mincemeat,
as the garrison and Dostum watched.

After the fall of the Taliban, Dostum was implicated in the suffoca-
tion of up to 3,000 Taliban prisoners (Fisk 2006: 1125). The system of
patronage that operated at the national level was replicated in the prov-
inces, with warlord underlings being appointed as local police chiefs
or special advisers to ministers (Suhrke 2007: 1299). For international
actors with pluralist and emancipatory notions of liberal statebuilding,
Karzai’s warlord-inclusive administration left much to be desired. Karzai
came under significant international pressure to reduce the influence of
the warlords and encourage meritocracy.
This heralded the second phase of post-Taliban warlordism (2003–
2005), which witnessed concerted attempts to sideline the warlords.

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Hybrid Security: Afghanistan 105

Although Karzai was more assertive during this period, it was not a
straightforward matter of promoting modernists and sidelining tradi-
tionalists. Karzai was well aware that his writ barely extended beyond
Kabul, especially among non-Pashtuns. Moreover, local military com-
manders held real power in the provinces and had established parallel
systems of governance. In contrast to the statebuilding efforts emanat-
ing from Kabul, these local systems of governance were often locally
accepted and functional (Suhrke 2007: 1302). The fragility of Karzai’s
position was illustrated by the prospect of a coup when he demoted
General Fahim from the Ministry of Defence in 2003 and prevented
him from running as his vice-presidential candidate in the 2004
Presidential election (Suhrke 2007: 1301). Yet, Karzai did prevail, and
his modernist ambitions received a fillip when the Presidential election
endorsed his rule and was held amid much less violence than many had
feared. Karzai was emboldened to remove a number of other strong-
men, including Ismail Khan, the Governor of Herat. Interestingly, a
key method of weakening warlords was to bring them closer to cen-
tral government. Disarmament became a condition of parliamentary
candidature and the acceptance of ministerial positions (Bezhan 2006:
237). The scale of international statebuilding resources pouring into
Afghanistan (or more precisely, Kabul) meant that a ministerial posi-
tion was an attractive prospect for many warlords, especially for those
with limited revenue-generation opportunities (Giustozzi 2005: 13).
For others, especially those with independent sources of income, the
centralised state offered few advantages. Three warlords from eastern
provinces, Gul Aga Sherzai, Ismail Khan, and General Dostum, were
reported to be withholding revenues from Kabul (Suhrke 2007: 1301).
Karzai’s assertiveness in the face of the warlords encouraged the Bush
administration to believe that a corner had been turned. The former
Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of State for Stability Operations
claimed that ‘The scourge of warlordism and the rule of the gun is being
broken’ (Collins 2004: 72), and US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad rein-
forced this upbeat assessment: ‘The job is not done, but the days of
those who have conducted themselves as warlords are numbered. The
warlords know it. The sun is setting on their way of life’ (cited in Collins
2004: 72). Yet such claims were premature, and the United States was
instrumental in buttressing the position of a number of warlords. This
third phase of warlordism (from 2005 onwards) stemmed from the mili-
tary resurgence of the Taliban and the US need to find allies to counter
Taliban offensives. US attention had been focused on its Iraq debacle for
much of the mid-decade period, with the result that its troop resources

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106 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

in Afghanistan were relatively modest. Kabul and its international allies

came to rely on the warlords for security, especially in remote provinces
(Bezhan 2006: 237). Giustozzi (2008: 188) reported that in 2005 the
US was unable to find enough reliable partners from within the state
security apparatus in southern and southeastern Afghanistan and so
cooperated with non-state militias. This trend continued as the serious-
ness of the Taliban threat became more apparent. Late 2009 saw the
announcement of a troop surge by the Obama administration, but also
the commitment of $1.3bn (roughly twice the annual revenue of the
Afghan government) for community defence initiatives. This involved
bolstering (through arms and cash) anti-Taliban militias and warlords
who cooperated with US special forces (Boone 2009). Interestingly,
apparently moderate and reformist Afghan ministers switched from
taking a hard line towards the warlords to seeing them as a bulwark
against Taliban resurgence (author interviews with Afghan journalist).

The hybridised statebuilding project

The post-Taliban statebuilding project was a composite of multiple

internal and external factors. The resulting hybrid was testament to the
limits of the power held by external actors (liberal peace agents such
as leading powers and international organisations) and internal actors
(the new Afghan state and the warlords). No actor was able (or willing)
to unilaterally impose its vision of statebuilding. Instead, a deeply com-
promised Afghan state emerged that conformed neither to the emanci-
patory model of external liberal advocates nor to a feudal, authoritarian
model presumably favoured by the warlords. The version that did emerge
was a product of compromise and negotiation between indigenous and
exogenous ideas and practices. It is worth stressing again that catego-
ries such as ‘western’ and ‘non-western’, or ‘indigenous’ or ‘exogenous’,
must be treated with caution. It is also worth restating that Afghanistan
provided an extremely internationalised environment given the long
history of interference by external actors. At the same time, when we
examine the story of post-Taliban statebuilding, it is possible to identify
actors, practices, and structures that were more influenced than others
by external or internal sources.
The focus of this chapter is on how hybridised statebuilding facilitated
the inclusion of warlords in government. A chief pillar of liberal peace
statebuilding – the extension of a monopoly of violence by a centralised
state – became distorted by a mixture of internal resistance, subversion,
and obduracy and external vacillation and lack of policy clarity and

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Hybrid Security: Afghanistan 107

direction. Among others, three factors came together to produce this

compromised version of the post-Taliban state: the reality of continued
military and political strength among warlords, the weakness of the
government in Kabul, and contradictory messages from the external
patrons of the reconstruction and statebuilding programme.

Continuing strength of the warlords

The Afghan government (or more precisely, the presidency) and its
international mentors did embark on a number of strategies to margin-
alise or tame the warlords. These included disarmament programmes
for militias as a condition of the militia commander accepting a minis-
tership and the promotion of technocratic ‘modernisers’ to significant
positions in government. The hope was that an effective professional
bureaucracy would make warlords redundant. Perhaps the most star-
tling strategy to weaken individual warlords was to ‘reward’ them with
a ministerial portfolio. This is revealing of the true sources of power.
For many warlords, real power lay in the provinces as it was there that
their militias were stationed and revenues were collected. Moreover,
they could remain close to their ethnic base as Afghanistan remained
fundamentally an ethnicised polity. Some communities were able to
identify more easily with local commanders and their patronage net-
works than with the government in Kabul, which seemed remote. The
ethnic divisions in the country meant that each group felt that it was
under-represented at the heart of government and in resource alloca-
tion. For many warlords, a high-ranking position in Kabul amounted
to a demotion. Karzai’s appointment of Dostum as Chief of Staff was a
clear case of ‘promotion in order to sideline’. The post was largely cer-
emonial and was designed to attempt to separate the General from his
northern powerbase. Importantly, in the post-Taliban system, warlords
could continue to make a profit from trading contraband and from their
own ‘taxation’ regimes. Lieven (2009: 347) notes the centrality of the
drugs trade to the ‘new’ Afghanistan: ‘It is entirely true that the Taliban
derives much of its income from the heroin trade. Unfortunately, this
is also true of the Karzai administration.’ Profitable businesses do not
just close down, and so warlordism was likely to continue in the new
political dispensation. Just as efforts to tame the warlords were gaining
momentum, a number of warlords were reinvigorated as the govern-
ment in Kabul and western states recognised the potency of the threat
posed by a resurgent Taliban. This was merely one of many contradic-
tions in the statebuilding effort which limited the ability of the state to
achieve a monopoly of violence.

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108 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

The concept of ‘spoilers’ helps explain the presence and persistence of

warlords in post-Taliban Afghanistan. Elsewhere, the author has advo-
cated the use of the verb ‘spoiling’ rather than the noun ‘spoiler’, as it
is more useful to judge militant groups on their actual capacity than on
interpretations of their political programme and attitude to a particular
peace deal (Mac Ginty 2006b: 153–72). In the Afghan case, few militia
commanders had anything recognisable as a political programme. They
supported the post-Taliban regime in as far as the Taliban had been
bad for business and the new regime’s foreign backers had the military
capacity to make life difficult for actors who threatened the government
in Kabul. The primary interests of the warlords lay in the preservation
and maximisation of their power through the exploitation of whatever
resources were available. The warlords were not spoiling in the sense
that they deliberately sought to bring down the Karzai government.
Instead, and in keeping with many Afghan political actors, their loy-
alty to Kabul was strictly limited. Spoiling amounted to a by-product of
their main goal of self-preservation and the maximisation of any politi-
cal or economic gains they could make in the changing environment.
Their withholding of revenues from Kabul, failure to contribute men
to the new Afghan National Army, maintenance of provincial power
centres, and support for the drugs trade all diminished the ability of the
state to exert its will. Traditional spoils, in the form of the drugs busi-
ness and raising levies on trade, continued to be available. These tradi-
tional sources of income were augmented by substantial statebuilding
and reconstruction resources courtesy of international patrons. Given
the political economy created by US counterinsurgency funding, many
Afghan warlords can be regarded as freelance contractors who provided
their services for the duration of the contract. Many warlords and their
proxies realised that profits, careers, and legitimacy could be gained
through an association with the state. This was very different from an
enthusiastic and voluntary desire to build a new state.

The weakness of the government in Kabul

It is worth stressing the inauspicious circumstances facing the Kabul-
based statebuilders once the Taliban fled. The state, in the sense of a
functioning and popularly legitimised bureaucracy, simply did not exist.
Moreover, the scale of the reconstruction task facing statebuilders was
enormous: ethnic division, a massive territory, the legacy from serial
wars, an unstable region, and the Taliban’s abeyance rather than defeat.
Criticisms of the failings of the statebuilding project need to be placed
in this context. Yet serious mistakes were made in the post-Taliban

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Hybrid Security: Afghanistan 109

statebuilding programme that allowed warlordism to persist and pros-

per. Prominent among these was the poorly executed DDR programme
and the ensuing insecurity. As already noted, the Bonn process had sub-
ordinated DDR in order to keep the warlords on board. Once under way,
DDR initiatives were often ineffective. Giustozzi (2008: 179) reflected
that ‘Possibly the most puzzling aspect of reintegration was that often it
was not preventing ex-combatants from being reabsorbed by new or old
systems of patronage run by warlords and militia commanders which
the DDR programme supposedly aimed to break down.’ Pay levels for
the new Afghan National Army were poor, making it irrational for mili-
tia members to transfer their loyalty to the state.
Also important in explaining the weakness of the state has been the
resilience of ethnic-based politics. While Afghanistan’s 2004 constitu-
tion recognised the country’s ethnic heterogeneity, the document also
made clear that the nation comprised ‘citizens’ and ‘individuals’ who
held rights regardless of tribal affiliation (Constitution of Afghanistan
2004). Yet a post-ethnic polity failed to develop. For many Afghans,
despite the liberal entreaties by some international staff and some
Afghan statebuilders, tribal-based patronage networks remained the
most effective means of securing information, security, and resources.
By and large, post-Taliban elections have been ethnic headcounts in
which people voted according to ‘regional, religious, ethnic, tribal and
linguistic affiliations’ (Bezhan 2006: 232). One observer in the early
1970s noted the ‘parochialism of legislators’ and the ‘improbability of
disciplined parties’ in Afghanistan (Weinbaum 1972: 74). Three decades
and two foreign-backed statebuilding programmes later, things did not
seem to have changed much.

Contradictory messages from external actors

Contradictions lace the strategies of the external supporters of the
‘new’ Afghanistan. These contradictions reflect the multilateral
nature of the loose coalition of external actors involved in Afghan
statebuilding and reconstruction. They also reflect the significant lee-
way that liberalism awards its advocates: tolerance and pluralism can
be mixed with an emphasis on security and an unbridled free market.
Perhaps the most prominent of the contradictions emanating from
the liberal peace intervention was the combination of statebuilding
and state-undermining practices. Statebuilding came in the form of
regime change, the installation of a new government, and massive
financial, physical, and moral support for the new government. The
extent of external tutelage for the Karzai administration is not to be

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110 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

underestimated: US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad was reported to

have dined at Kabul’s presidential palace six nights a week during his
eighteen-month tenure (Chandrasekaran 2009). Multiple members of
the Karzai administration were reported to be in the pay of the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA) (Miller and Partlow 2010). Countervailing
this statebuilding was a state-undermining process. This was evident
through the creation and maintenance of a parallel ‘international
government’ that operated alongside the new Afghan administration.
External governments and INGOs recognised that the Afghan state
did not have the capacity, competence, or interest to conduct many
reconstruction, development, and security tasks. The parallel gov-
erning structures maintained by international actors were a logical
response to government corruption and lack of capacity, but they also
undermined the efforts of the Afghan state to assume responsibility
for the provision of public goods. According to the Afghan Ministry
of Finance, only $1.4bn of a total of $4.9bn in public expenditure was
routed through the government in 2004–2005 (Rubin 2006: 179). The
western perception that the Afghan government was inherently cor-
rupt meant that governments and INGOs preferred to manage recon-
struction programmes themselves. Yet, illustrating the abundance of
contradictions, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) funds fuelled this
corruption, and helped give the impression that the presidential pal-
ace was not the ultimate seat of power.
The fledgling Afghan state was further undermined through the
security actions of western states. Although the preferred aim of inter-
vening powers was ‘Afghanisation’, or the beefing up of Afghan forces
to provide security and counter the resurgence of the Taliban, that task
was to prove lengthy, costly, and difficult. As a result, ISAF, the CIA,
and a massive private security industry assumed many frontline state
security tasks. This sent out important messages of state dependence
and ineptitude. In these circumstances, warlords and militia command-
ers, as well as civil servants and citizens, were calculating in the loyalty
that they extended to the state. Given the history of foreign-backed
statebuilding enterprises in Afghanistan, this was an entirely rational
stance. Many external interveners seemed to believe that Afghanistan
would undergo a discrete transition phase during which Afghan institu-
tions and officials could be trained and would then take responsibility
for security and social provision. This mindset proved to be erroneous.
As the conceptualisation of hybridisation in Chapter 3 argued, all states
and societies are in permanent transition. There is no transition ‘phase’,
despite the deadlines that external actors may wish to impose (often for

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Hybrid Security: Afghanistan 111

domestic reasons). Viewing Afghanistan as a permanently ‘transition-

ing’ state encourages us to see the hybrid Afghan polity as fluid and
dynamic, and shaped by multiple forces.
The confluence of the three factors reviewed in this section (the
continued military and political strength of the warlords, the weak-
ness of the new Afghan state, and contradictory messages from exter-
nal actors) produced a hybrid government under which warlordism
could co-exist with the lofty Enlightenment-influenced rhetoric of
the government. The preamble of the Afghan Constitution foresaw
‘a civil society void of oppression, atrocity, discrimination as well as
violence, based on the rule of law, social justice, protecting integrity
and human rights, and attaining peoples’ freedom and fundamental
rights’. This vision clashed with ethnic loyalties, customary govern-
ance practices, a full-scale war against the Taliban, and an unstable
region to produce a composite that was dysfunctional in the Weberian
sense but was a viable modus operandi for millions of Afghans. Lieven
(2009: 345) vividly depicts the intersection between western insti-
tutionalism and Afghan politics as ‘an attempt at mating between a
hippopotamus and a turtle’. As can be imagined, the offspring was
ungainly indeed.

Concluding discussion

All four parts of the hybridisation model are in evidence in the Afghan
case study of attempts to extend the monopoly of violence by a cen-
tralised state. The coercive powers of the liberal peace are in evidence
through NATO’s war-fighting and the arm-twisting of Afghan leaders
by western politicians. The incentivising powers of the liberal peace are
evidenced by the reconstruction funds, CIA ‘retainers’, and legitimacy
on offer from the liberal peace patron states. Local agency is represented
through outright resistance to and subversion of the liberal peacebuild-
ing project, and the construction of alternative forms of governance,
whether through customary village-level systems or through militia
commanders. While this chapter has focused on hybridisation in rela-
tion to warlords and the failure of the state to extend a monopoly of
violence, hybridisation is also visible throughout many other spheres
of the attempted statebuilding project. Whether attempts to include
women in the parliament or to eradicate ‘corruption’ in government,
there are multiple examples of engagement between the customary and
the modern to produce a constantly evolving hybrid. Importantly, the
interface is not between modern, western, technocratic, rational inputs

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112 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

and static traditionalism. All parts of the model are subject to change as
they negotiate with their social circumstances.
The Afghan case is useful in reminding us of the heterogeneity of
actors and of the limitations of labelling devices that conform to overly
constrained categories. The post-Taliban Afghan state is composed of
an extraordinarily diverse range of actors. The same can be said of the
international ‘coalition’, in which different states had different interests
and were prepared to invest different energies into the statebuilding
and reconstruction programme. Other non-coalition external actors
such as India, China, Russia, Tajikistan, and Iran also continue to play
an enormous role. At a minimum, the Afghan case illustrates the con-
cept of ‘prior hybridisation’ that was discussed in Chapter 3.
It is worth asking to what extent external and internal actors were
serious in their approach to statebuilding. At one level, enormous sums
of political capital and material resources were devoted to the state-
building project. But on closer examination, the stances of various
apparently pro-statebuilding actors suggest ambiguity. In the wake of
9/11, the British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, promised Afghans that
Britain ‘would not walk away’ from Afghanistan and would concentrate
on statebuilding (BBC 2001). After almost a decade of ‘statebuilding’,
only 3 out of over 140 diplomats in the British Embassy in Kabul spoke
an Afghan language (BBC 2010b). British ambitions had been rolled
back from a comprehensive statebuilding exercise to a securitisation
programme that would facilitate a military withdrawal and British
(not Afghan) security. Similarly, US attention wandered soon after the
ousting of the Taliban and only returned with the Taliban resurgence.
Contradictions in the US approach abounded. Despite maintaining a
very public anti-corruption narrative, the Central Intelligence Agency
retained many Afghan figures (including the President’s brother) on
their payroll. This undercut attempts to construct a Weberian, transpar-
ent, and meritocratic state. Just as it is worth questioning the serious-
ness of international statebuilders, the same question can be levelled at
the Afghan political class. Certainly, many politicians and officials were
interested in the politics of the state and access to the material and sym-
bolic resources that came with statehood, but this is a different activity
from the construction of a state as an efficient set of institutions that
can service the needs of the citizens and act as an interface interna-
tionally. Press reports of Afghan ministers and officials flying out of
Afghanistan with suitcases stuffed with cash in order to buy property
in Dubai and London illustrate a wider malaise or lack of attachment to
the notion and practice of statehood (Isikoff 2009). This in turn raises

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Hybrid Security: Afghanistan 113

questions about the nature of the liberal peacebuilding and statebuild-

ing exercise in Afghanistan. As discussed in Chapter 1, different ver-
sions of the liberal peace have been promoted in different societies. The
partial nature of Afghan statebuilding, and the series of contradictions
that seem to undermine it, suggest that the version of liberal peace on
offer in Afghanistan has not been seriously emancipatory in its ambi-
tions. It could be that the security situation has prevented western
states and institutions from unrolling the full social package, yet the
evidence from 2001 and 2002 militates against extending the benefit
of the doubt.
This chapter has shown how warlords were co-opted by the US and
NATO, and were accepted in the government. Yet, in keeping with
hybridity, this process of co-option works both ways. An argument
can be made that organs of the US government, and of other states
and international organisations, were co-opted by Afghan political and
military leaders for their own purposes. Warlords and politicians were
able to exploit the statebuilding and counterinsurgency programmes
for their own purposes. To a certain extent, it is feasible to ask who was
the patron and who was the client? Clearly the United States, other
external states, international organisations, and INGOs held cards that
gave them leverage in relation to the nascent Afghan state and new pol-
ity. Yet all these external actors had needs as well. These ranged from
the US presidential (both Bush and Obama) need to be seen to have a
reliable partner in the form of the Afghan presidency to the need of
INGOs to be seen to be fulfilling their mandate effectively. The external
actors depended on internal actors to fulfil these needs. In an interest-
ing example of jujitsu, the apparently ‘weaker’ parties (Afghans) were
able – in certain circumstances – to exploit the apparent ‘strength’ of
external actors. Afghan actors were able to exploit the hard and soft
security aspects of the invasion, occupation, and reconstruction.
In further evidence of the hybrid nature of peace interventions,
western states’ Afghan entanglements have had serious repercussions
in the domestic polities and economies of the intervening states. This
blowback came in many forms, whether the collapse of the Dutch gov-
ernment or complaints about the financial drain of war (Kulish 2010).
Perhaps one of the most insidious aspects of this blowback and distor-
tion of the liberal peace powers was a noticeable coarsening of the pub-
lic and political discursive framing of the conflict. Media discussion of
Afghanistan often became securitised to the extent that development
or reconstruction was barely mentioned in some media packages in
the US and UK. Many Afghans were ‘othered’ to the extent that they

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114 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

were either Taliban members/sympathisers or corrupt. The headline of

a British Armed Forces website story is revealing: ‘I was out of ammo so
I killed Taliban with my bayonet’ (Larkin 2009). The story, which was
reported in glowing terms of bravery across much of the British media,
tells how a British officer was awarded a gallantry medal for killing two
‘Taliban’, one with the bayonet attached to his gun. On the bayonet-
ing: ‘He was alive when it went in – he wasn’t alive when it came out.
It was that simple’ (cited in Larkin 2009). The graphic, semi-celebratory
nature of the news coverage of this incident seemed to be a response to
Britain taking casualties from its Afghan imbroglio (British casualties
went from 1 in 2005 to 108 in 2009). Unlike the bayonet, the com-
plex nature of the Afghan liberal peace intervention did not allow for a
‘straight in and straight out’. Instead, the intervention in Afghanistan
had a significant impact ‘at home’, as well as in the target country. This
suggests a need to reappraise our understandings of liberal peace inter-
ventions as ‘one-way traffic’ or the transfer of norms and practices from
the global north to the global south. The Afghan case seems to point to
a much more complex series of interactions and to validate the hybrid-
ity lens.
After this examination of one pillar of liberal peace interventions,
security, Chapter 5 examines the economics of liberal peacebuilding.
Through the example of post-Saddam Iraq, it reveals how the top-down
internationally sponsored privatisation programme was disastrous,
yet the on-the-ground everyday economy of survival has boomed.
Again this forces us to reappraise notions of the liberal peace as an all-
powerful phenomenon and encourages us to scrutinise local agency
more closely.

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Hybrid Economy: Iraq

Every man in the place is on the make.

W. Ewing (1918: 213)

It is amazing what you can buy here amid the surroundings of

the utmost squalor and a perfect Babel of chaffering bargain-
makers. If you are not careful, you may walk off triumphantly
with souvenirs of Mesopotamia which were manufactured in
Manchester or Birmingham, imported by enterprising mer-
chants, the only thing Mesopotamian about them being the
price you have paid for them.
W. Ewing (1918: 232)

Iraq’s post-war reconstruction projects have been inspired by a

desire to raise the standard of living of the population, and so
satisfy the widely felt urge to ensure a fair share of the fruits of
progress to all.
Iraqi Government (Committee of Officials 1946: 109)


This chapter, in line with the other empirical chapters in this book,
illustrates how top-down and bottom-up dynamics became distorted in
the context of a liberal peace intervention. Also in line with the other
empirical chapters, it concentrates on one aspect of the liberal peace –
in this case, the economy. The chapter shows the emergence of a hybrid
economy in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion and occupation. All
national economies are hybrids, combining private and public sectors,
large and small enterprises, and different forms of economic manage-
ment and survival. The invasion and occupation, however, introduced


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116 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

a unique set of distortions to the already hybridised Iraqi economy.

Importantly for the purposes of this book, the invasion and the con-
sequent statebuilding exercise were conducted under a rhetoric of the
liberal peace. This chapter examines both top-down and bottom-up
aspects of the economy and illustrates the interactions between them,
and how the policy choices of top-down and bottom-up actors were
severely constrained by the actions of the other. No actor, not even the
new masters of Iraq who had swept aside Saddam Hussein’s regime in
forty-one days, had full autonomy. Instead, all economic actors were
forced to deal with obstacles and opportunities presented by others.
The focus of the top-down aspect of the chapter will be on Coalition-
led attempts to rehabilitate the oil industry. The bottom-up focus will
be on the informal economy, or everyday attempts to survive in an inse-
cure environment. The chapter illustrates the inter-linkages between
what theoretically are two very different economies: on the one hand,
a capital-intensive, highly globalised resource extraction industry, and,
on the other, an economy of everyday survival through low-level trade,
‘corruption’, and smuggling.
It is worth stressing that Iraq, like Afghanistan, cannot be classed as
a ‘post-war’ or ‘post-conflict’ society in the 2003–2011 period under
review. The 2003 US–British invasion to remove Saddam Hussein
sparked an anti-occupation uprising, a Sunni–Shia civil war, and
regional instability. This deeply insecure environment had a profound
impact on academic and policy research on Iraq. High levels of violence
meant that it was simply too dangerous for all but a handful of research-
ers to undertake in-country fieldwork. Among the many casualties of
the conflict was reliable research, especially of the ethnographic kind
that can allow local voices to be heard. Most post-2003 publications
on Iraq (and there have been many) have relied on research that has
been undertaken remotely or is reliant on second-hand accounts. As a
result, there is a danger that much of this ‘research’ recycles informa-
tion of suspect provenance. Some research has been sponsored by the
occupying powers, often with military protection, and so this must be
swaddled with caveats. One of the bright spots in this disaster area for
research has been journalism, much of it by Iraqi journalists and blog-
gers, and much of it very courageous.
The chapter begins with a section on the centrality of neo-liberal
economic models to the liberal peace. It then offers an account of
Coalition-led attempts to rehabilitate the oil industry. This must be
placed in the context of Coalition attempts to recreate Iraq as a free-
market idyll replete with open borders, low taxes, and a small state.

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Hybrid Economy: Iraq 117

The next section concentrates on the political economy of ‘getting by’,

or the measures that millions of Iraqis had to take simply to survive.
Carolyn Nordstrom (2004) refers to this economy as the ‘shadows of
war’, or the informal markets that people, goods, and services occupy as
a result of political upheaval. This economy of survival must be placed
in the context of the decade-long degradation of Iraqi living standards
caused by Saddam Hussein’s disastrous economic and strategic choices,
and a callous international sanctions regime. The headlines caused by
the 2003 invasion and subsequent insurgency and civil war have tended
to overshadow the national trauma caused by international sanctions
whereby the entire population, with the exception of a tiny elite, were
brutalised and pauperised. By the time of the 2003 invasion, Iraqis were
already adept at ‘getting by’ through the informal economy, or getting
out through emigration. The invasion and occupation, though, intro-
duced new dynamics, causing individuals and communities to be more
inventive in economic survival. These new dynamics and the hybrids
they produce are the focus of this chapter.

A neo-liberal peace

As discussed in Chapter 1, the liberal canon contains a complex confec-

tion of ideas that have been interpreted differently in different eras. Of
particular interest to us is the hegemony that ideas of neo-liberal eco-
nomics have assumed in development and peace-support interventions
over the past two decades. Notions of the empowered individual, equal-
ity of opportunity, and the defence of property and the rule of law have
combined to produce a sometimes toxic mix of shock doctrine econom-
ics, the supremacy of the market, the sidelining of notions of welfare,
and aggressive individualistic materialism. Often this has been dressed
in an emancipatory rhetoric of freeing markets from the ‘dead hand’
of the state, and liberating individuals by awarding them freedom of
opportunity. Pro-market liberals can construct an attractive narrative
in favour of pro-market ‘reforms’ as part of a post-war reconstruction
programme. In this logic, the market becomes the engine of economic
development but also of peacebuilding. The entrepreneur citizen and
entrepreneur business are interested in stability and the growth of
markets and so will avoid nationalism or political activity that may be
destabilising. So the free market becomes equated with ‘peace’, or at
least an apolitical stability.
The mainstreaming of neo-liberal ideas in peacebuilding and post-
war reconstruction was not necessarily the export of tried-and-tested

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118 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

neo-liberal norms from the global north to the global south. Instead,
ideas and practices that many governments in the global north would
not dare test out on their own populations were recommended and
imposed on the global south. Although many states in the global north
have experienced aspects of economic shock (as this chapter is being
written, the British government has announced an 80 per cent cut in its
funding to university teaching budgets), no government in the global
north has introduced the rapid and violent economic shock doctrine
experienced by many states emerging from war or transitioning from


The neo-liberal experiment

Many of the advocates of the invasion of Iraq envisaged a post-
Saddam clean slate. Just as the political regime could be erased, they
looked forward to sweeping away the ‘discredited’ practices of state
interference in the economy and replacing them with an open market
economy that could be a poster child for the merits of free-market
economics. The US diplomat in charge of the post-invasion Coalition
Provisional Authority (CPA), Paul Bremer (2003), made clear his inten-
tion to force a transition from the public to private sector: ‘our strategic
goal in the months ahead is to set in motion policies which will have
the effect of reallocating people and resources from state enterprises
to the more-productive private firms. A fundamental component of
this process will be to force state enterprises to face hard budget con-
straints by reducing subsidies and special deals.’ US and British econ-
omists seconded to the CPA made it clear that Iraqis were best advised
to follow international tutelage in the rebuilding of their economy:
‘Reconstruction spending will create jobs and raise incomes, but sus-
tained economic growth will depend on whether Iraq’s future leaders
pursue the pro-market approaches that the Coalition has advocated’
(cited in Foote et al. 2004: 48). The CPA strategy was to drive through
as many pro-market reforms as possible and hope that the post-
Saddam Iraqi leadership would maintain these changes. They were
certain that reforms would unleash ‘an economic miracle’ of over-
seas investment and growth (Islam 2006: 156). The strategy drew on
the marketisation programmes experienced by post-Soviet states in
the 1990s and contained the usual set of prescriptions from the neo-
liberal guidebook: privatisation of nationalised industries, the down-
sizing of the state, low taxation, a lessening of regulation on business,

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Hybrid Economy: Iraq 119

currency reform, and the general opening up of the economy to inter-

national markets.
In June 2003, the CPA announced that Iraq was ‘open for business’,
and thereafter pro-market edicts came from the CPA in quick succes-
sion (cited in Foote et al. 2004: 63). It is important to note that it was
the United States, rather than the United Nations or any other interna-
tional organisation, that was the key actor in reconstruction and eco-
nomic strategy. A number of changes, for example to the banking laws,
were introduced in the days before the formal transfer of sovereignty
in June 2004 (Herring and Rangwala 2006: 227). CPA Order 1 banned
announcements that might incite civil disorder, rioting, or damage to
property. This catch-all edict encompassed the organising of strikes,
and so the CPA, and later the post-Saddam Iraqi government, endorsed
Saddam’s anti-trades union legislation (Medani 2004: 30; Kent 2006:
13). A new currency was introduced, although, in line with many other
weak open economies, the US dollar was widely accepted. New banking
laws were announced that allowed foreign banks to establish subsidiar-
ies in Iraq and buy up to 50 per cent of existing Iraqi banks. Company
law was revised to remove state powers. To encourage international
trade, virtually all tariffs were abolished until the end of 2003. All taxes
for 2003 were suspended (Iraq had few domestic taxes anyway) and a
new flat-rate business tax of 15 per cent was introduced (Foote et al.
2004: 61–8). CPA Order 37 exempted from taxation the CPA, Coalition
forces, and their contractors and subcontractors (Herring and Rangwala
2006: 226). Order 39 in September 2003 allowed for unrestricted for-
eign direct investment and the remittance of all profit (Lacher 2007:
245). Plans were made to privatise 150 state-owned enterprises (Herring
and Rangwala 2006: 223). USAID, which took the lead in beginning the
tendering process before privatisation could take place, ‘simply assumed
that it could sell Iraq’s “crown jewels” without any opposition whatso-
ever’ (Del Castillo 2008: 208). Formal privatisation of the oil industry
proved impossible, not least because the insurgency scared off potential
investors. The speed with which the US authorities acted, and the lack
of consultation (let alone approval) among Iraqis on their economic
destiny, were startling. Consultations and interim bodies often took the
form of ‘putting an Iraqi face on things’ (Herring 2010).
Ostensibly, the CPA reforms amounted to a free-market charter and
constituted a radical reorientation of the economy away from a sta-
tist model towards a market economy. Islam (2006: 156) summarised
Coalition efforts as attempting to ‘attain a neoliberal economist’s
dream: open borders, a largely privatised economy, minimal taxes and

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120 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

a government wedded to the principles of fiscal and monetary conserv-

atism’. Bello (2008: 889) notes how ‘war becomes the instrument to
erase the old interventionist state and create from scratch the ideal neo-
liberal government whose key function is to delegate its own functions
to private contractors’. Critics of the marketisation of the Iraqi econ-
omy were keen to place the economic reforms in the context of much
broader changes and linkages. In this view, the CPA-instigated reforms
were not merely the introduction of neo-classical economic ideas to dis-
crete parts of the Iraqi economy. Instead, according to Robison (2005:
248), they amounted to a recalibrating of relationships within society
and the marketisation of politics and society through governance inter-
ventions. For Herring and Rangwala (2006: 212) the reforms were intent
on ‘establishing a pattern of relations in which the Iraqi state is to func-
tion effectively as an extension of US-led global governance’.
The free-market instincts of the CPA and Bremer (‘a true believer’)
are not in doubt (Islam 2006: 166). The CPA reforms, in line with
World Bank-inspired marketisation programmes in other post-conflict
or post-authoritarian societies, smacked of ‘the certainties of disci-
plinary liberalism’ (Pugh 2006: 285). Yet the process of ‘freeing’ the
Iraqi economy entailed very significant intervention and regulation.
Rather than the simple lifting of regulations, CPA activities involved
significant levels of intervention and economic engineering. Medani
(2004: 31) commented that ‘in direct contrast to neoliberal nostrums
about the virtues of market competition, Iraqi reconstruction has
been a decidedly political and non-competitive affair’. Two-thirds of
US reconstruction contracts in 2003 were allocated without competi-
tion (Le Billon 2005: 696). In December 2003, the Pentagon decreed
that only countries that had been part of the invasion coalition were
eligible for reconstruction contracts (Lacher 2007: 244; Herring and
Rangwala 2006: 237). As Medani (2004: 28) put it, US firms ‘won a
clean sweep’ of reconstruction contracts. The CPA’s neo-liberal rheto-
ric and legislation co-existed with Keynesian and statist policies that
involved throwing money at problems. Faced with mounting insur-
gency, the US military took to ‘doling out cash’ in attempts to buy off
militants (Medani 2004: 30). The CPA spent huge amounts on recon-
struction programmes. These early reconstruction efforts were often
thwarted by the growing insurgency, and were largely funded by Iraqi
funds sequestered by the CPA. By the handover of power in June 2004,
the CPA had embarked on a spending splurge that accounted for 88
per cent of the $23.4bn available for the new interim Iraqi government
(Le Billon 2005: 696).

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Hybrid Economy: Iraq 121

More evidence of this Janus-faced approach to fiscal conservatism

came in the CPA attitude to Iraq’s debts, many of which had been
run up through purchasing arms from western states. When Saddam
Hussein came to power in 1979, Iraq had cash reserves of $36bn and
no long-term debt. The Iran–Iraq war proved to be financially disas-
trous, with Iraqi military spending between 1981 and 1985 amounting
to an incredible 256 per cent of oil revenue (Alnasrawi 2001: 206). In
1990, Iraq’s indebtedness had risen to $42bn, costing $3bn annually
to service (Alexander and Rowat 2003: 33). By 2003, combined multi-
lateral and bilateral debt, excluding unpaid interest, was estimated to
be $136bn (Herring and Rangwala 2006: 252). The neo-liberal canon
of fiscal responsibility meant that many states emerging from conflict
had to honour the debts of past regimes. Yet the United States, which
had ‘argued strongly and consistently against generous debt relief for
poor countries’, took a different tack with Iraq (Buckley 2006: 143). Iraq,
it argued, was an exceptional case and deserved a total cancellation
of debt. As Buckley (2006: 142) points out, the Paris Club of creditor
nations usually offered debt cancellations of between 50 and 67 per
cent, and only to desperately poor states such as Ethiopia or Burundi:
‘By global standards Iraq is not even poor’. In November 2004 the Paris
Club agreed to cancel 80 per cent of Iraqi debt and to reschedule the
remainder over twenty-three years after a grace period of six years.
The US cancelled all of its Iraqi debts (which were a relatively modest
By neo-liberal standards, Iraq benefited from an incredibly generous
deal, and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the key driver of this
special treatment had more to do with politics and short-term prag-
matism than with economic nostrums. The Bush administration was
determined to declare its Iraq mission a success, and so was prepared to
overlook neo-liberal orthodoxy in this case.
CPA economic strategy lacked consistency and so lent itself to
the hybridisation of the Iraqi economy. On the one hand, the CPA
unleashed a number of edicts to unburden the economy from regula-
tion and state interference. Many of these came from the shock doctrine
handbook. Indeed, Bremer forecast that ‘It’s going to be a very wrench-
ing, painful process, as it was in Eastern Europe’, but regarded as his
top priority economic reform, upon which political reform depended.
‘If we don’t get their economy right, no matter how fancy our politi-
cal transformation, it won’t work’ (cited in Chandrasekaran 2007: 68).
The possessive pronouns (‘our’ and ‘their’) reveal much. Yet, despite
this zeal, the CPA also engaged in a good deal of Keynesianism, such

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122 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

as an $18.3bn Congressional handout for Iraqi reconstruction and per-

suading the World Bank that it should assist Iraq in the form of grants
rather than loans (Hashim 2006: 296). It was anticipated that assistance
through grants rather than loans would give donors greater control over
the recipient. So rather than setting the economy free, the Coalition
instituted a system of control and regulation (Cooper 2006: 330). Also
contradicting the neo-liberal canon was the rigging of markets, the
handing of contracts to friends of the new occupying regime, and a
lack of transparency in economic management. Indeed, one major
reconstruction contract was handed to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg
Brown and Root before the invasion began. Halliburton’s former chief
executive officer was Dick Cheney, then US Vice President (Herring and
Rangwala 2006: 225).

Rehabilitating the oil industry

A key part of the CPA’s economic reform strategy centred on the reha-
bilitation of Iraq’s oil industry. Oil dominated the economy and was
virtually the only source of foreign revenue. In the early 1990s, funds
raised through domestic taxation typically amounted to a mere 3 per
cent of gross domestic product (GDP) (Foote et al. 2004: 52). Iraq pos-
sessed massive oil reserves, amounting to four times those of the United
States, including Alaska (Le Billon 2005: 686). Arguments about oil as a
motivation for the US-led invasion, and the conversion of the US mili-
tary into a ‘global oil protection service’, are likely never to be defini-
tively resolved (Klare 2004: 7; Fisk 2006: 1143). As Mearsheimer and
Walt (2003: 59) noted at the time of the invasion, ‘a compelling strategic
rationale is absent’. Certainly the US was anxious to increase its own oil
security through a lessening of dependence on Saudi Arabia and Iran,
and gaining a pacified oil-rich client state in the form of a post-Saddam
Iraq was an important step in that direction (Alkadiri and Mohamedi
2003: 21; Rogers 2006: 18). US dependence on imported oil has been
growing (from 33 per cent in 1973 to 57 per cent in 2010), and the issue
of energy security has achieved permanence in the US list of strategic
goals (Bromley 2006: 420; Goel 2004; CNN 2010).
The US was confident that Iraq’s oil riches could pay for the reha-
bilitation of the economy. In the words of Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy
Secretary of Defense in the Bush White House and a strong advocate
of the invasion, Iraq ‘could finance its own reconstruction’ (cited in
Lacher 2007: 244; Phillips 2005: 123). The occupying authorities sought
and received a UN resolution that authorised their control over Iraqi
oil revenues (Alkadiri and Mohamedi 2003: 21). According to the plan,

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Hybrid Economy: Iraq 123

a revitalised oil industry would drive the recovery, and would have
knock-on effects on an oil-hungry global economy.
Yet things did not turn out as planned. It is worth noting, of course,
that Coalition planning for ‘the day after’ was sketchy (Mac Ginty
2003: 601–17). The US media had projected that oil production tar-
gets of between 4.5 and 6 million barrels per day would be realisable
within a relatively short space of time after the invasion (Alkadiri and
Mohamedi 2003: 27; Herring and Rangwala 2006: 213). In fact, produc-
tion fell to almost nothing in the months after the invasion, and aver-
aged 2 million barrels per day in the 2004–2006 period (Herring and
Rangwala 2006: 213). By 2010, Iraqi oil production still averaged only
2.5 million barrels per day – more or less the same as pre-invasion levels
(Cockburn 2010a). At least three factors were at work in retarding the
rapid and smooth rehabilitation of the oil economy, and consequently
the Iraqi economy in general. Firstly, the oil industry, after years of
international sanctions, was in a more decrepit state than the invad-
ers had anticipated. Much of this was due to the absence of foreign
investment. Developing oil fields required a minimum of 7–10 years of
investments before companies could expect to see a return. The dete-
riorating security situation meant that many oil companies were loath
to invest in Iraq (Alkadiri and Mohamedi 2003: 27). Secondly, the oil
industry was prone to looting on a massive scale (Mohamedi 2004: 36).
‘Iraqi officials put illegal exports of Iraqi refined oil products at up to 25
percent of output in 2004’ (Herring and Rangwala 2006: 214). In 2007,
the United States estimated that between 100,000 and 300,000 barrels
of oil went missing each month (Baer 2007). Le Billon (2005: 695) noted
that ‘if some Iraqis exercised any “sovereignty” over the oil sector dur-
ing the CPA era, it was through illegal practices such as theft and sabo-
tage’. Thirdly, the growing anti-US insurgency involved the deliberate
targeting of oil pipelines and refineries. These were targeted precisely
because they were central to the new regime’s economic strategy. Iraq
had over 4,000 miles of oil pipeline, and these suffered thirty-five major
attacks in June–December 2003 (Hashim 2006: 198). Thereafter attacks
escalated, and had a knock-on effect on electricity, sewerage, and trans-
portation systems, which in turn dented the authority of the occupy-
ing force (Rogers 2006: 106). The costs of security rocketed and were
estimated at 25 per cent of the costs of infrastructure projects (Hashim
2006: 297).
The CPA privatisation scheme was a failure. In the end, it was the Iraqi
government that made the most significant changes to the oil industry
by forcing through the sale of oil fields to overseas firms in 2009. China

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124 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

was the largest investor, with major US and international corporations

also buying a stake in the Iraqi oil business (Hafidh 2010). Seven years
after the invasion, oil had failed to become the motor of Iraqi economic
growth, though corporations were gambling that improved security
would allow for profitable oil extraction in the longer term (Carey and
Kami 2010). In keeping with the general argument of this chapter,
no economic actor was able to chart an autonomous course. All were
constrained by circumstances and forced to accommodate distortions
and hybridities. This will be apparent in the next part of this chapter,
which examines the everyday economic experiences of Iraqis in the
post-Saddam era.

Getting by

Pauperisation through sanctions

In order to contextualise the everyday economic experiences of Iraqis
in the post-Saddam period, it is necessary to illustrate how the dec-
ade before the 2003 invasion shaped the economic patterns of survival.
This history was deliberately obfuscated by CPA officials, who laid the
blame for the ruination of the Iraqi economy on Saddam and his cro-
nies. There is no doubting the scale of Saddam’s economic mismanage-
ment, especially through the militarisation of the economy and the
failure to overcome the dependence on oil. Yet the narrative preferred
by Bremer and others, that ‘Saddam Hussein’s regime devastated Iraq’s
economy from the inside out’ (cited in Foote et al. 2004: 48), was partial
to say the least. External factors, and particularly the sanctions regime
imposed after the invasion of Kuwait, had a profound effect in terms of
degrading the quality of life of most Iraqis. Post-Saddam Iraq did not
present a ‘clean slate’, instead it was an environment deeply patterned
by a decade of international pressure and state attempts to deal with
Iraq was subjected to a tough United Nations regime of sanctions
following the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. After growing concern at the
social costs of the sanctions, the Security Council amended the sanc-
tions regime by introducing the Oil-for-Food Programme in 1995. This
allowed Iraq to sell approved amounts of oil to the international market,
with the income from these sales going to the UN, which would organ-
ise the purchase of food, medicines, and humanitarian goods (Heaton
2005: 193). The United States proved to be incredibly interventionist
in blocking all manner of items (from sewing thread to thermos flasks)
that could conceivably be used for military purposes (Gordon 2010).

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Hybrid Economy: Iraq 125

The sanctions and Oil-for-Food combined to produce severe distortions

in the Iraqi economy and society. Prominent among these distortions
was a strengthening of some aspects of state power. ‘By channelling all
transactions through the government, the programme increased gov-
ernment control over the population’ (Alnasrawi 2001: 213). State elites
moved to protect their own interests, often at the expense of groups
and areas deemed marginal and disloyal (Visser 2005: 165). In effect,
the Oil-for-Food Programme provided the regime with another weapon
in its armoury of control. Bunton (2008: 642–3) reveals the multiple
dynamics at work:

The impact of the sanctions was complex, intensifying basic famil-

ial ties and highlighting the identification of communal solidarities
while at the same time increasing the dependence on the state for
scarce resources and hardening the sense of national honour in the
face of shared suffering. The sanctions of the 1990s brought about
profound changes in Iraqi society, giving rise to new classes and their
co-option in the political system. By instituting a rationing system
the government was provided both with a means to maintain some
services at a basic, though drastically reduced, level as well as some
leverages to maintain supervision, control and repression. Singling
out favoured groups for privilege in ways that recalled the patterns
of colonial and monarchic administration exposed and exacerbated
sectarian and ethnic divisions which were already being reinforced
by the tendency of individuals and families to actively seek support
from within ethnic or religious communities.

In tandem with the empowerment of some state functionaries, other

sources of power and survival attained greater prominence during the
sanctions era. People turned to informal sources of social capital, mainly
clientelist networks maintained through tribal chiefs, as a way to stave
off the worst effects of the sanctions (Le Billon 2005: 692). Many pub-
lic officials turned to fraud as a way to survive during the sanctions
era. This pattern of recourse to informal networks and ‘corruption’
accelerated following the 2003 invasion as government ceased to exist.
Employment via the state, however brutal that state was, offered a life-
line for many families – a lifeline that was jeopardised when the state
was extinguished by the invasion.
The main victims of the sanctions were the bulk of the citizenry. In
1980, per capita GDP was $6,151. By 1999, the figure had plummeted
to $883 (both figures in 1990 dollars) (Alnasrawi 2001: 215). Inflation

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126 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

compounded people’s survival problems. In 1991, the average public

sector monthly salary was between 100 and 200 Iraqi dinars, and a
kilo of chicken cost 3 dinars. By 1995, public sector salaries averaged
5,000 dinars, but a kilo of chicken cost 2,500 dinars (Bunton 2008:
641). Dodge (2005: 709) likened the impact of the sanctions to a ‘pro-
found macro-economic shock’. The immiseration impacted all aspects
of the social fabric:

The social and economic consequences of the sanctions can also be

seen in the loss of more than two-thirds of the country’s GDP, the
persistence of exorbitant prices, collapse of private incomes, soar-
ing unemployment, large-scale depletion of personal assets, massive
school drop-out rates as children were forced to beg or work to add
to family income, and the phenomenal rise in the number of skilled
workers and professionals leaving the country as economic refugees
in search of better economic conditions. (Alnasrawi 2001: 214)

In short, Iraq underwent an internationally sponsored process of

de-development. The cumulative effects of sustained deprivation
undercut the psycho-social cohesion of communities, and became
manifest in rising levels of juvenile delinquency, begging, prostitution,
and petty crime, and a decline in the general health of the population
(de Santisteban 2005: 64; Visser 2005: 165; Bunton 2008: 641).

Pauperisation following the invasion

For most Iraqis, the situation deteriorated in the years following the
invasion. The International Monetary Fund estimated that GDP fell by
about 22 per cent in 2003 (Foote et al. 2004: 55). Saddam’s economic
mismanagement was followed by a clueless US administration. The
latter had assumed that it would inherit functioning state institutions
(Dodge 2005: 712). Instead, the state ceased to exist as civil servants
fled and refused to return to work amid the deteriorating security situ-
ation. As the insurgency gathered pace, many Iraqis feared that they
would be seen as collaborators (Herring 2010). The ‘de-Ba’athification’
process, or the sacking of all public officials with links to Saddam
Hussein’s Ba’athist Party, may have satisfied US instincts for a politi-
cally cathartic new beginning, but it also meant that the state’s insti-
tutional memory was expunged. ‘With almost no expertise on the
country or indeed the wider Middle East, the Coalition became wor-
ryingly dependent on the same small group of Iraqi exiles that had
advised it before the invasion’ (Dodge 2005: 712). These ‘opportunistic

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Hybrid Economy: Iraq 127

carpetbaggers’ (Dodge 2005: 713) were abetted by a CPA staff who,

for the most part, were peculiarly unskilled for the task of economic
reconstruction. Journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran (2007: 8), who lived
in Baghdad’s Green Zone with the CPA personnel, noted how many
staffers had worked as interns for Republican Congressmen in the
United States: they ‘were given these jobs because a key selection cri-
terion was political loyalty, not experience in the Middle East or post-
conflict environments’.
The CPA macro-economic strategy was one of sweeping away the eco-
nomic structures and regulation of the ancien régime and replacing them
with a new set of regulations that was intended to guarantee economic
freedom. Many of the economic ‘reforms’ had limited effect, and they
certainly failed to kick-start a trickle-down economic recovery (Cooper
2006: 330). Instead, the vast majority of the Iraqi population continued
to ‘get by’ using their wits. This was often in spite of, rather than because
of, the economic changes introduced by the CPA. In many cases, the
new Iraqi state had remarkably little connection with citizens: it did
not tax them directly, nor did it offer much by way of social provision.
The CPA reported that unemployment was 28.1 per cent in October
2003 (Foote et al. 2004: 58). In reality, the CPA were in no position to
collect accurate statistics, and the real figure is likely to have been much
higher and masked by under-employment. One estimate put the 2005
unemployment figure at 50 per cent, though in some areas, such as Sadr
City, unemployment was reckoned to be closer to 70 per cent (Finer and
Fekeiki 2005; Hashim 2006: 252). The Coalition did create significant
numbers of jobs (380,000 as of March 2004) but the vast majority of
these were in the security sector and were an emergency measure to
curb the growing insurgency and compensate for the sacking of the
army (Foote et al. 2004: 68). They were not the sustainable, private sec-
tor positions envisaged by the advocates of invasion. Revealingly, it was
reported in 2009 that the Ministry of the Interior was the country’s
largest employer (Garcia-Navarro 2009).
As in the sanctions era, people turned to whatever means were at
hand to get by. In 2008, it was estimated that 80 per cent of the work-
force were engaged in the informal economy (Looney 2008: 436).
Corruption was reported to be endemic (though the term ‘corruption’
requires serious interrogation in a context like this one). It was reported
as commonplace to have to pay bribes to gain employment in the police
force (Garcia-Navarro 2009). A policeman in Kut was reported as saying,
‘I was a policeman before the war. When I went back to rejoin my sta-
tion, they said I had to pay $150. Every single department is asking for

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128 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

bribes’ (cited in Hashim 2006: 255–6). By 2010 it was reported that a job
as a policeman cost $5,000 in bribes (The Economist 2010: 28).
The economic and security crises had profound and far-reaching
effects. The 2004 Iraq Living Conditions Survey, jointly conducted
by UNDP and the Iraqi Ministry of Planning and Development
Cooperation, ‘showed that the Iraqi people were suffering from a
widespread collapse in their living standards and conditions, exem-
plified by war-related injuries, chronic malnutrition, low life expect-
ancy, declining health, declining literacy, and significant set-backs in
women’s rights’ (Hashim 2006: 297). A 2008 RAND Corporation sur-
vey in Anbar Province found that the economic situation was recov-
ering and boldly stated that ‘No men over age 23 – and no females
of any age – are unemployed. Most employment occurs in small pri-
vate enterprises’ (Crane et al. 2009). This Department of Defense-
sponsored survey was contradicted by virtually every other source.
The Economist (2010: 28) pointed to ‘mass idleness’ and reported that
‘American soldiers stationed in rural areas with few government jobs
say the unemployment rate there approaches 80%. The national rate
is 45–47% including the underemployed – and, because of the high
birth rate, the workforce is growing by 240,000 a year.’ Most Iraqis
survived by simply getting by, holding down subsistence jobs in
family and local businesses. ‘Salaried (mainly government) jobs are
uncommon.’ The RAND survey went on to note that ‘Nearly half of
households say that a household member has been killed as a result
of the conflict.’ Moreover, ‘crowded living conditions, limited access
to water, and sporadic supplies of electricity remain problems’ (Crane
et al. 2009: xi–xiii). The structure of reconstruction contracts, par-
ticularly in the initial post-invasion years, meant that employment of
Iraqis was minimised: ‘There is a hierarchy of reconstruction employ-
ees with those from the global North (especially the US) at the top,
then those from the global South, then Iraqis in terms of positions
held within the project and pay levels’ (Herring and Rangwala 2006:
238). Medani (2004: 29) observed that the outsourcing of recon-
struction to US firms did little for Iraqi employment: ‘One Iraqi con-
struction manager, who regularly lines up for contracts in Baghdad,
complained that “US contractors are importing labor and expatriat-
ing the benefits – where is the benefit for Iraq?” ’ As the insurgency
escalated, many US firms reneged on their contracts or ceased bid-
ding, allowing Iraqi companies to benefit (Phillips 2005: 216). Also
common, though, was the drafting in of overseas labour, from des-
perately poor contexts such as Bangladesh or India.

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Hybrid Economy: Iraq 129

A vicious circle developed in which the absence of employment

fuelled the insurgency, and the insurgency prevented the economy from
growing and employing more people (Phillips 2005: 203). While the US
hoped to win people over through reconstruction projects that would
boost both employment and living conditions, the insurgency meant
that funds earmarked for reconstruction were diverted to security, and
reconstruction projects were placed on hold in 2004–2005 (Lacher
2007: 245). Medani illustrated how economic insecurity segued into
physical insecurity (2004: 35): ‘a growing informal economy associated
with increased inequalities, unemployment and rural-urban migration
continues to set the pattern for “privatized forms of violence” – organ-
ized crime and the substitution of “protection” for taxation, vigilan-
tes, private security guards protecting oil facilities and the interests of
international companies, and a variety of paramilitary groups associ-
ated with particular factions’.
The CPA ordered schools to close in October 2003 amid a worsening
security situation and fired teachers with Ba’athist links (de Santisteban
2005: 68). Even when schooling did resume, economic circumstances
meant that many children were unable to avail of education: ‘The new
school year began recently, but not for Karrar Raad, 12, and his 10-year-
old brother, Allawi. They work for car mechanics in adjacent garages
that are smaller than a rich lady’s closet. Their father is ill and has no
job, and the boys have to support eight children and two adults. They
earn $2.70 a day, plus tips’ (Los Angeles Times–Washington Post 2008).
This vignette seems to sum up the post-2003 Iraqi case. Great promises
were made by the invaders. For example, Thomas Foley, director of pri-
vate sector development at the CPA, pledged to create ‘a fully thriving
capitalist economy’ (cited in Herring and Rangwala 2006: 226). In many
ways, the thriving capitalist economy did arrive, but no thanks to the
ministrations of the invaders and successor Iraqi governments. Instead,
millions of Iraqis were forced to get by using the informal economy and
whatever means were at their disposal. There is much evidence of Iraqi
citizens acting in opportunistic ways to maximise the opportunities
that came their way. For example, many Iraqis make a living by picking
through the debris of the massive dumps outside US bases for goods to
sell (Robinson and al-Ansary 2010). Yet scavenging is a far cry from the
liberal rhetoric of emancipated individuals exploiting the free market.
Seven years after the invasion, The Economist (2010: 28) made clear the
depth of the economic disaster: ‘Only one thing is preventing a human-
itarian crisis: public sector employment. The state accounts for three
out of five jobs, and 70% of this year’s budget will be spent on salaries

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130 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

and pensions.’ According to this analysis, the only thing between Iraq
and catastrophe was the state and its ability to employ its citizens. Yet
neo-liberal orthodoxy saw the state as the problem.
The model of economic development pursued by the CPA and its Iraqi
successors was simply incapable of delivering the social justice required
to calm a society traumatised by dictatorship, war, sanctions, and eth-
no-national tensions. Mike Pugh (2006: 285) critiques this well:

The poor do not benefit from policies of self-reliance and the pri-
vatisation of basic needs. Nor does persistent neglect of the public
sphere improve social coherence or secure loyalty to institutions
and authorities. Instead it can produce gross inequalities and gated
enclaves of economic activity that are divorced from the social life of
communities ... policies fixated with improving the environment for
business do not improve social distribution.

Concluding discussion

What becomes clear from this brief survey of the Iraqi economy since
the 2003 invasion is the extent to which few economic actors were able
to steer autonomous courses of action. Instead, and reflecting the real-
ity of hybridity, the economic context was defined by a series of inter-
linkages through which top-down and bottom-up factors impacted one
another. This is the case in all economies, whether in the global north
or global south, and regardless of the model of economic development
preferred. In the case of post-Saddam Iraq, however, the inter-linkages
were very visible and brought to the surface acute contradictions in
the liberal peace project. This is especially the case if the liberal peace
reconstruction project is measured against its own neo-liberal terms of
reference. Champions of the invasion anticipated sweeping away the
statist aspects of the Iraqi economy and replacing it with a neo-liberal
open economy that could use its oil wealth to fund reconstruction. As
became clear, few champions of the invasion gave serious thought to
post-invasion reconstruction plans. A hybrid economy has emerged
amid the insurgency and civil war, attempts to unravel state-run behe-
moths, botched reconstruction efforts, and the industry of millions of
Iraqis in simply getting by through what Pugh (2006: 270) calls ‘the
tricks of life’. The informal economy has provided most Iraqis with a
safety net.
What is of most interest given the focus of this book is how the vari-
ous parts of the post-invasion political, economic, and social story fit

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Hybrid Economy: Iraq 131

together to produce the hybridised economy. A matrix of inter-linked

factors developed to shape the hinterland in which Iraqis had to eke out
a subsistence living. The ambition of those who wanted to shape this
hinterland should not be underestimated; ‘regime change’ did not apply
only to the removal of Saddam Hussein. Instead, a complete remaking of
the state was anticipated, including a re-ordering of the economy. This
extended to a change in the model of economic development, and a
remoulding of the relationships between citizens and the economy, the
corporate sector and the state, and the domestic economy and the inter-
national economy. This grand plan, however, did not come to fruition.
Instead, a complex matrix of factors coalesced to produce a hybridised
mess. It is possible to identify some causal chains (such as the inva-
sion leading to a rise in unemployment as state employees were sacked,
which in turn fuelled the insurgency, which in turn deterred overseas
investment, which in turn reinforced unemployment and grievances,
which in turn further fed the insurgency). Yet such neat linear rela-
tionships need to be fleshed out to take account of both top-down and
bottom-up dynamics.
Certainly there was interaction between the top-down and bottom-up
sectors. The nature of this interaction is revealing as it was largely
effected through executive fiat. Thus, for example, the CPA compelled
Iraqis to use the new currency and introduced a raft of new legislation.
Similarly, the insurgency forced the CPA to rethink its privatisation
agenda. What is also revealing is that many aspects of the top-down
and bottom-up economies continued along their paths with very lit-
tle mutual interaction or cognisance. The CPA simply issued orders for
economic ‘reforms’ without any meaningful consultation with Iraqis
(bar a few hand-picked former exiles). Most Iraqis simply got on with
the task of surviving, ignoring or exploiting CPA edicts as best they
could. There was no conscious attempt to develop a new social contract,
or to hold negotiations between employers federations, trades unions,
and economic planners. Instead, the various parties (the top-down and
bottom-up sectors were not discrete entities) forged ahead in contexts
that were shaped by each other. The Iraqi economy simultaneously
became more formal and more informal: formal through CPA legisla-
tion and linkages with international financial institutions, and infor-
mal through further connections with illicit flows of arms, drugs, oil,
and other contraband.
A 2006 estimate put the informal economy at 65 per cent of GDP
(Looney 2006: 999). In some respects, the strength and persistence of
the informal economy can be interpreted in terms of the limitations of,

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132 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

and resistance to, the liberal peace. Much of this resistance was uncon-
scious – people were too busy getting by. Yet the size of the informal
economy illustrates the lack of reach of the formal economy. In very
simple terms, the formal economy can be classed as a ‘failure’ if judged
against its own benchmarks: it is too expensive, inefficient, and incon-
venient when measured against the ‘competition’ offered by the infor-
mal economy. The capital-intensive nature of the oil industry meant
that it directly employed relatively few people. Employment by the state
(by far the largest employer) was severely distorted by corruption and
sectarian discrimination. The absence of an income tax system also
limited the extent to which the CPA or subsequent Iraqi administra-
tions could economically discipline citizens.
All four elements of the hybridisation model were in evidence in rela-
tion to the attempt by the liberal peace powers to ‘reboot’ the Iraqi
economy. Liberal peace coercion was evidenced by the series of eco-
nomic restructuring impositions and edicts by the CPA. Liberal peace
incentives were in place through reconstruction funding in the form
of grants and loans. Local resistance, subversion, and alternatives to
the liberal peace came in the form of the informal economy. Everyday
economic survival by Iraqis was rarely a conscious act of resistance. The
necessity of getting by restricted the ability of many Iraqis to engage
in explicit resistance or alternative-making, and the security situation
added another impediment. Iraq’s post-invasion hybrid economy con-
tributes to the overall argument of this book by revealing the limits of
liberal peace projection and the agency of local actors in subverting and
distorting the liberal peace.
In keeping with another recurring theme in the book, the case of Iraq’s
post-Saddam economy also raises questions about the utility of labels
such as ‘international’ and ‘local’. The interests of global capital could
not be truly ‘international’ in the sense that they could engage with Iraq
in a way that was unfettered by a series of prosaic and urgent issues con-
nected with security. The international was grounded by the local in the
form of the pilfering of oil, the threat of kidnap to corporate executives,
and attacks on oil installations. Similarly, the local could not operate in
splendid isolation from the international: the currency was changed at
the behest of international actors, the security industry (Iraq’s real boom
industry) ultimately relied on international funds, and smuggling made
economic sense only because of internationally imposed restrictions.
The next chapter moves on to examine another pillar of the liberal
peace, and another context. It focuses on statebuilding in Bosnia-
Herzegovina, and argues that the liberal statebuilders after the Dayton

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Hybrid Economy: Iraq 133

Peace Accords were unable to impose their will. Instead, they operated in
a hybridised context in which local and international actors had to take
account of each other’s presence and ambitions. Moreover, there was
no ‘clean break’ after the Dayton Accords; the hangover of Yugoslavia’s
complex constitutional history meant that the liberal peace had to
co-exist with other elements that were less than liberal.

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Hybrid Statebuilding: Bosnia

The Bosnian peasant’s chief desire is peace, to plant his fields

and reap their produce; this secure, I believe he cares little
whether Bosnia be Austrian or Turkish.
M. M. Holbach (1906: 20)

This is not Europe, no matter what the map says.

R. Trevor (1916: 31)

As one gazes upon the different races that she [Austria] is

endeavouring to blend together in the name of Bosnians: one
wonders if it is possible for human hands to accomplish such
a task.
R. Trevor (1916: 70)


The state is the centre-piece around which other elements of liberal

peacebuilding are arranged. This chapter examines liberal statebuild-
ing using the example of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It seeks to illustrate the
centrality of statebuilding to liberal peacebuilding projects. The chap-
ter argues that liberal statebuilders are unable to benefit from a ‘clean
break’; new states are not built afresh. Instead, statebuilders are forced
to take on board the legacy of previous political constructions, and to
recognise the often unpalatable exigencies of post-war societies, such
as the persistence of nationalism in the post-peace accord era. Thus
the international peacebuilders empowered by the 1995 Dayton Peace
Accords (or General Framework Agreement) did not build the new post-
war state of Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) on fresh foundations. They were
merely the latest in a long line of political leaders who sought to ‘create’


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Hybrid Statebuilding: Bosnia 135

a ‘new’ state that would accommodate the region’s competing national-

isms. The result, like the political constructions before it, was a hybrid
that reflected past experience, existing boundaries, demography, battle-
field gains, international strategic calculations, international legal and
economic norms, and emotional decisions on how some actors should
be rewarded and others punished. The ‘new’ state of Bosnia-Herzegovina
was a distortion of liberal ideas melded with nationalism, realism, and a
socialist legacy. It was hybridised in its conception, design, and imple-
mentation. Hybridisation also became evident in the operation of the
new state, as nationalists, the old socialist nomenklatura, and others
grappled with internationally imposed governance norms.
There is a significant critical literature on peacebuilding and state-
building in post-Dayton Bosnia-Herzegovina (Chandler 2000; Pugh
2005; McMahon and Western 2009). Rather than cover well-trod
ground, this chapter will take a somewhat different tack and pay par-
ticular attention to the socialist era and its attempts to ‘manage’ the
national question before the disintegration of Yugoslavia. This his-
torical perspective means that we can see post-Dayton statebuilding as
one stage in a much longer historical process of state formation and
reformation. The backward focus is an attempt to counterbalance the
vast majority of analyses and commentary on statebuilding in Bosnia-
Herzegovina and elsewhere, which are historically incurious. Indeed,
much commentary, particularly that from a policy perspective, regards
history as an encumbrance; ‘the past’ is equated with all things regres-
sive, non-liberal, and backward. Hindess (2007: 326) notes a ‘tendency
to treat belonging to the past as a bad thing, that is, as a kind of cul-
tural and moral failure’. There is also a tendency among some to instru-
mentalise history in the service of modern-day peacebuilding projects.
Thus an image of a prelapsarian multi-ethnic idyll can be created if
it suits the needs of the day (Grodach 2002: 61–82). Yugoslavia and
Bosnia have histories full of blood and oppression (as well as significant
periods of peace and tolerance) that cannot be wished away. Imperial,
socialist, and liberal statebuilders have all had to operate within the
confines created by this history, while at the same time shaping new
pages of that history.
The primary focus of the chapter will be on the political and constitu-
tional aspects of the statebuilding project in BiH, particularly in terms of
how it attempted to deal with the persistence of nationalism. As Chapter
7 (on Lebanon) will examine the governance aspects of statebuilding
and reconstruction, this chapter will not pay specific attention to the
governance dimension of the post-Dayton statebuilding exercise.

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136 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

The chapter begins by underlining the centrality of states and state-

building to liberal peacebuilding. It then gives a contextual overview of
the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia and international attempts
at peacemaking, reconstruction, statebuilding, and peacebuilding.
This includes a summary of the critiques levelled at the post-Dayton
statebuilding exercise. The chapter then turns its attention to the
continuities that persisted through the pre- and post-Dayton periods.
The 1992–1995 war and Dayton Peace Accords did not prove to be an
absolute hiatus that seismically ruptured the history of Yugoslavia and
Bosnia. Rather than an abrupt ‘before’ and ‘after’, it is prudent to be
aware of the deep social, political, and economic trends and group per-
ceptions that had been ongoing since the 1980s and before: the unravel-
ling of the ideological coalition that held together the Socialist Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY), unresolved constitutional debates and
unsatisfied nationalisms, inflation and declining incomes, increased
regional inequality, the rise of a complex civil society, and increased
assertiveness by regional oligarchs (Baskin 2007: 259). The chapter
therefore illustrates the continuities that have persisted into the post-
Dayton period despite the ambitions of champions of the liberal peace
to create a new post-nationalist state. Four pre- and post-Dayton state-
building-related continuities are discussed: the construction of a civic
master narrative that excludes nationalism, the top-down nature of
control, the repeated nature of state interventions in the constitutional
configuration of the state, and personnel. Weaving through these four
continuities is another persistent theme: nationalism. Both the socialist
and liberal internationalist regimes have struggled to deal with Croat
and Serb nationalism, as well as Bosnian Muslim identity aspirations.
It is worth noting that although values, beliefs, and practices persisted
across generations, they did not persist in a completely unchanged man-
ner. The nationalism of the 1980s was not identical to that of the 1940s
or 1990s. Instead, all actors, networks, institutions, and values were
compelled to recognise a fluid political and economic landscape. The
chapter illustrates the extent to which Bosnia-Herzegovina has been an
environment of hybridity and distortion. The 1992–1995 war and the
subsequent international peace-support intervention further distorted
an already hybridised environment.

Statebuilding and the liberal peace

Statebuilding has been one of the core functions of liberal peace inter-
ventions, with the state acting as the basic institutional unit for the

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Hybrid Statebuilding: Bosnia 137

transmission of liberal norms and practices. Indeed, in many cases, the

vast majority of activities in liberal peace interventions have revolved
around the reform of the state, to the extent that other activities seem
secondary. The evidence from a number of peace-support environments
suggests that peacebuilding has morphed into statebuilding. Despite
the rhetoric about ‘communities’ and ‘participation’, the vast bulk of
peace-support efforts around the globe are about shoring up or reform-
ing the state.
Very different state-related tasks have taken place under the name
of the liberal peace and development: the construction of new gov-
erning institutions (Timor-Leste), the reform of existing states away
from authoritarian models (South Africa), the paring down of the state
bureaucracy (Uganda), the protection of heads of state who come to
personify the ‘new beginning’ and ‘new state’ (Afghanistan), the inter-
national recognition of new states (Kosovo), or the recalibration of
power in the state through a new constitution or electoral system (Sierra
Leone, Iraq). In the worldview of liberal interveners, the state is the
centre-piece that – if properly recalibrated – has the capacity to deliver
three elements required for peace: internal and external harmony, pub-
lic goods, and economic growth.
Firstly, liberal internationalists believe that a functional Weberian
state is a tool for conflict management. In their view, states can be neu-
tral entities, able to attract the loyalty of citizens on the basis of their
ability to deliver services and rise above particularisms associated with
grievance or identity. In this view, the state can be a clearing-house for
conflict, able to mediate between different demands and rely on insti-
tutional logic rather than nepotism, sectarianism, or identity politics.
The state can become a unifying force that allows citizens with hetero-
geneous backgrounds to share a common bond. The state can also offer
protection from predation and oppression through its possession of a
monopoly of violence. Just as the ideal liberal state has internal legiti-
macy (earned through offering protection and the equitable and trans-
parent provision of good and services), it also has external legitimacy.
As such, it is recognised by its fellow liberal states as an acceptable form
of political organisation.
Secondly, the state is regarded as an appropriate vehicle for the deliv-
ery of public goods and services. In the liberal mind, the state will have
responsibilities to all its citizens and will act on a meritocratic basis.
The need for some basic goods and services might be particularly urgent
in societies emerging from violent conflict. It is possible that only the
state (or a supranational body in the case of state collapse or weakness)

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138 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

will have the logistical network able to service all the population. This
may especially be the case in geographically extensive states, or soci-
eties in which there are major divisions between peoples within the
same territory.
Thirdly, the state – according to the liberal worldview – will be able to
regulate the economy to encourage growth, the husbandry of resources,
trade, and the collection and redistribution of taxes. The extent to which
the state should regulate, or ‘interfere’ with, the economy has been the
subject of much debate, with neo-liberal ideas gaining ascendancy from
the late 1980s onwards. A neoliberal hegemony in many policy circles
has allowed ‘market solutions’ such as paring down the state, lifting
government controls of markets, and opening up national markets to
international competition to become the default option in many of the
policy prescriptions recommended by liberal interveners. Right-wing
commentators such as James Dorn (1998: 13) observe that ‘the real
plight of underdeveloped countries is not market failure but govern-
ment failure – that is, the failure of government to protect property
rights, enforce contracts, and leave the market alone’. Yet many liberal
peace interventions have had a contradictory approach to economic
management. On the one hand, the neo-liberal instincts of the inter-
national financial institutions and others influenced by the Chicago
School demand that the state withdraw from the economy as much as
possible. Against this, however, the history of liberal peacebuilding and
statebuilding has been highly interventionist. In their efforts to ‘free’
markets from the dead hand of the state, liberal statebuilders have often
made very extensive use of the state to regulate the economy. It is the
‘intervene to achieve non-intervention’ school of economics. Moreover,
as the case of Iraq in Chapter 5 in this volume shows, statebuilding,
reconstruction, and peacebuilding are very expensive exercises and
require old-fashioned Keynesian disbursements of cash.
Not only is statebuilding regarded as being of central importance in
post-war peace-support interventions; it has been awarded precedence
in the sequencing of liberal peace interventions. Most commonly asso-
ciated with strident defender of the liberal peace Roland Paris (2004,
2009), the ‘institutionalisation before liberalisation’ (IBL) formula urges
that the state be secured before liberties are extended to the populace. It
is a ‘tough love’ prescription that prioritises the construction, reforma-
tion, or securing of institutions before the extension of ‘softer’ elements
of liberalism such as individual rights or the democratic franchise. It is
in tune with security-led interventions into so-called hostile environ-
ments and has been criticised for its ethnocentrism and illiberalism.

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The IBL formulation immediately allows some actors (often from the
global north) to ‘play God’ and make decisions regardless of opinion in
the host society.
In line with those holding most other political perspectives, liber-
als have an intolerance of statelessness and alternatives to statehood.
It would seem that statehood is a universal model and that all politi-
cal communities must be organised into states. Anomalous cases, such
as Kosovo or Palestine, have been regarded as proto-states or territo-
ries that must eventually be converted into states but are required to
meet certain conditions beforehand. In the post-9/11 period, the fear
of statelessness has accelerated, with Afghanistan, Somalia, and parts
of Yemen and Pakistan being targeted as part of the War on Terror and
regarded as incubators of ‘terrorism’ and criminality as they are deemed
to lie outside the norm of acceptable statehood. This, of course, ignores
the significant levels of political violence and crime that occur within
many ‘properly’ constituted states. It also ignores the fact that many of
the 9/11 perpetrators met and trained in Germany and Saudi Arabia –
both fully fledged states (National Commission on the Terrorist Attack
on the United States 2004). The liberal insistence on statehood as the
primary institutional unit has not been significantly altered by globali-
sation. While non-state bodies, particularly commercial actors, have
exploited globalisation, states and supranational organisations made
up of states have been deft in reaffirming their sovereignty and the
primacy of statehood. This has been particularly the case with states in
the global north, which have maintained a tight grip on international
organisations and international financial institutions. To demonstrate
this, the President of the World Bank is always nominated by the United
States, while the Chairman of the International Monetary Fund is
always a European. This inherently racist practice is not ordained in
any organisational constitution, but the global north has engineered it
into a norm.
To summarise, by capturing the state and refashioning it through
reconstruction or reform, liberal internationalists would have a basic
unit onto which other elements of the liberal peace could be anchored.
The state is both an end and a means. It is an endpoint in the sense of a
stable and sustainable political entity commensurate with liberal order.
Liberal interventionists, as idealists, tend to hold ethnocentric views
of the ‘proper’ nature of statehood in terms of its institutional design
and political, economic, and social character. According to Pritchett
and Woolcock (2004: 191–212), liberal statebuilding could be likened to
a process of ‘getting to Denmark’, with Denmark being a generic ‘any

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140 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

state’ with a functioning bureaucracy, developed economy, and compli-

ant foreign policy. This ethnocentric tendency has resulted in persistent
critiques of liberal peacebuilding interventions as attempting to build
a particular type of state that reflects western interests and mores, and
fails to take sufficient account of local approaches to institutionalism.
The state is also the means to the end in the sense that it is the vehi-
cle for the transmission of liberal ideas, practices, and institutions. The
state, once remade in the ‘proper’ manner, becomes the primary liberal
peace agent in the society subject to intervention. In theory, there is a
silo-like effect, with international actors directing resources and prac-
tices through the host state, which, in turn, directs or compels minis-
tries, municipalities, businesses, communities, and individuals to act in
particular ways. The direction of transmission is top-down. In practice,
the image of a silo is too neat. There is rarely a linear and uninterrupted
transmission chain that accepts ideas, practices, and resources from the
global north and obediently passes them – unchanged – along the chain.
Instead, as all the case studies in this book demonstrate, the transmis-
sion process is subject to distortion and blowback as local actors deploy
agency. The international becomes subject to a process of vernacularisa-
tion. In cases where the liberal state is non-compliant (perhaps too slow,
corrupt, or wedded to nationalism) international organisations, INGOs,
and NGOs have been used to bypass the state. In the case of Bosnia-
Herzegovina, the international community’s High Representative
overrode the state where it was perceived to be obstructing the liberal
internationalist agenda. Yet the state remains the primary mode for the
extension of the liberal peace. Kjellman and Harpviken (2010: 35) note
that statebuilding ‘efforts have been aimed largely at securing optimal
institutional conditions for promoting liberal economic reforms and
transitioning to democracy as quickly as possible. The emphasis has
thus been on the promotion of institutional reforms, good governance,
multiparty elections, constitutionalism, the rule of law, human and
minority rights, gender equality, economic liberalization, and security
sector reform.’ As Call (2008b: 366) notes, however, ‘although states are
central to peace, building such states does not lead directly and unprob-
lematically to peace. On the contrary, the very process of statebuilding
exhibits serious tensions with the goals of consolidating peace.’
Interestingly, the type of state that was created in Bosnia-Herzegovina
went beyond traditional conceptions of the state as a system of inter-
locking institutions with popular and international legitimacy. Instead,
the liberal interventionist statebuilders sought to create a post-modern
state in Bosnia that was constructed along governance, or service

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Hybrid Statebuilding: Bosnia 141

provision, lines. Many functions traditionally associated with the state

were farmed out to INGOs, NGOs, and private contractors, and differ-
ent models of representation (such as public consultation or through
civil society) were deployed.
So far, this chapter has discussed liberal statebuilding in general
terms. It will now briefly sketch the disintegration of Yugoslavia and
international efforts at statebuilding. Thereafter the chapter will argue
that the post-1995 efforts to engineer a stable state can be viewed within
a longer historical narrative of repeated attempts to balance competing

The disintegration of Yugoslavia

Yugoslavia was a ‘step-child’ of the Treaty of Versailles (Liotta 2001).

The Kingdom of the Serbs, the Croats and the Bosnians was created
in 1918 out of the ruins of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was ini-
tially a liberal parliamentary monarchy, but this gave way to a dicta-
torship (and acquired the name Yugoslavia) under King Alexander in
1929. His policies of ethnic repression and denial of rights to national
groups were largely counterproductive (Pesic 1996: 7). Unsatisfied Croat
and Serb national aspirations manifested themselves in the bloody civil
war during the Second World War. By the end of the war, partisans
were powerful enough to establish the Socialist Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia without assistance from the Soviet Union. But the new state
had a bloody beginning, with approximately 250,000 people executed
by the communists at the end of the war (Sahovic 2007: 124). Bosnia-
Herzegovina was established as one of the Federation’s six Socialist
Republics, though interestingly it was the only republic that was not
nominally associated with a single nationality.
A national or Yugoslav lens is inadequate to explain the descent into
war during the 1990s. A myriad external factors in the 1980s and early
1990s combined to help trigger internal nationalisms and discontent.
Certainly the mobilisation of Croat and Serb nationalists was often an
intimate affair, operating at the village and neighbourhood levels. But
the narrative used by their political leaders, a fear of Muslim funda-
mentalism in Bosnia, was able to connect with international discourse
on the rise of militant Islam (Ajami 1999: 36). Moreover, macro-
economic ‘reforms’ imposed on Belgrade by international creditors
from 1980 onwards undercut the welfare state and the industrial sector
(Chossudovsky 1996: 521). The resulting insecurities were exploited by
ethnic entrepreneurs. The end of the Cold War swept away Yugoslavia’s

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142 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

unique geo-political status, which had afforded it trade preferences and

credits from the west (Woodward 1995: 16). At their Paris meeting in
November 1990, Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
members declared that ‘never again’ would they tolerate another war
in Europe (Eyal 1993: 22). In reality, European states proved incapable
of preventing Balkan tensions spilling over into outright war. Indeed,
European (and United Nations) recognition of Bosnian independence,
after the people of Bosnia had voted for independence in a 1992 refer-
endum, is often cited as one of the precipitants for the outbreak of war
(Sahovic 2007: 129).
All six Yugoslav republics experienced war in the 1991–2001 period.
The 1992–1995 period witnessed a series of inter-linked conflicts cen-
tred on Bosnia-Herzegovina: Bosnian Serbs, abetted by Serbia, ethni-
cally cleansing non-Serbs from ‘their’ parts of Bosnia; conflict between
Croats and Muslims; a Croat offensive against Bosnian Serbs to reverse
territorial gains; and the NATO bombing of Bosnian Serb positions.
There were approximately 100,000 fatalities in Bosnia-Herzegovina
(though the precise figures are hotly debated), with about two-thirds
of that number being Muslims (BBC 2007). About half of the popu-
lation, or 2 million people, were displaced. The war came to an end
partly through the battlefield exhaustion of the combatants, but also
through the seizure of ‘defensible enclaves’ by combatants, NATO
bombing of Serb positions, and the western arming of Bosnian Croats
and Muslims to change the battlefield dynamic against Serbia and the
Bosnian Serbs.
One of the most interesting aspects of international attempts to
prevent the outbreak of war, and then facilitate an end to hostilities,
was the extent to which international actors assumed their roles as
mediators and interveners. An International Conference on the Former
Yugoslavia had been established in 1991 by the United Nations and the
European Union as a permanent forum to deal with the conflict. The
collapse of Yugoslavia and the ensuing wars coincided with significant
flux in the international security architecture as international organi-
sations such as NATO, the EU (formerly the European Community),
and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
attempted to recast themselves for post-Cold War challenges. This
period also saw a massive rise in the number of conflict-interested
INGOs. Throughout the conflicts in the Balkans, the EU attempted
to take the role of primary international mediator, with the UN and
US largely content with this regional devolution. Ultimately, however,
the EU lacked the willingness to deploy coercive power, a factor which

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Hybrid Statebuilding: Bosnia 143

meant that Balkan politicians, and particularly the Serbian leader,

Slobodan Milošević, were able to ignore it. The game-changing inter-
vention came when the United States under Bill Clinton took a sus-
tained interest in the conflict. At no stage were fundamental questions
asked about the nature of ‘the international community’, its legitimacy,
and the extent to which it reflected the interests of a select group of

Dayton and after

The Dayton General Framework Agreement was reached following

talks between the leaders of Bosnian Muslims, Bosnian Croats, and
the Serbs at the Wright-Patterson Air Force base in Ohio in November
1995. The Dayton Accords created a ‘new’ state of Bosnia-Herzegovina,
which comprised two entities: a Muslim-Croat Federation of Bosnia-
Herzegovina and the Republic of Serbia (Republika Srpska). The
Federation comprised ten cantons, while the Republic of Serbia was
unitary. Although the Peace Accord and associated new constitution
used liberal, plural language of multi-ethnicity and respect for diver-
sity, the Accords were based on estimations of ethnic demography and
the battlefield situation. Thus the Accords were variously described as
the ‘constitutionalization of ethnic geography’ (Grant 1998: 11), ‘the
militarized enshrinement of contemporary ethnicity’ (Baskin 2007:
266), and ‘probably the most extreme example of ethno-federalism in
the contemporary world’ (Vogel 2006: 2). The new state was relatively
powerless and was almost completely dependent on financial transfers
from its constituency entities, the Federation and the Republic (Donais
and Pickel 2003: 9; Grant 1998: 9). Ultimate power, however, lay with
the Office of the High Representative (OHR), which was mandated by
the international community to ensure that the requirements of the
Dayton Agreement were fulfilled.
The criticisms of the Dayton Accords are in keeping with criticisms
made of virtually every liberal peace intervention in the post-Cold
War era: top-down, technocratic, neo-liberal, and unsustainable. One
former international contractor, charged with reforming aspects of
the Bosnian economy, offers a revealing insight that could have come
from Baghdad’s Green Zone, a government compound in post-Taliban
Afghanistan, or any other liberal peace intervention:

Everything that the [international] team sought to introduce in

Bosnia made perfect sense and was consistent with international

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144 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

financial management practices – programme budgets, rational

charts of accounts, automated tracking systems, transparent finan-
cial reporting, and so forth. Our recommendations mirrored those
of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and
reflected ‘best practices’ throughout Europe and North America.
And in general, our Bosnian counterparts recognized the value of
our suggestions. They listened carefully to what we had to say, nod-
ded appropriately, and took copious notes. Then, more often than
not, they went back to their jobs and continued business as usual.
(Huddleston 1999: 149)

While the Dayton Peace Accords and their implementation were sub-
ject to enormous scrutiny and criticisms, it has to be stated that they,
along with the exhaustion of the combatant parties, did result in the
end of the war, facilitated the return of over 1 million displaced per-
sons, and allowed millions of people to return to a way of life that
afforded dignity and opportunities for social progression. This was
no small achievement on behalf of the international community and
millions of others in the Balkans. Clearly the peace was messy and left
many dissatisfied. Pajić (1998: 136) points to a series of contradictions
at the heart of the Dayton peace deal: ‘declaring a unified state while
recognizing two antagonistic entities as constituent parts of the state;
proclaiming democracy while entrenching apartheid structures and
ethnic-based parties; and reaffirming individual rights while legitimiz-
ing ethnic majoritarianism’. The implementation of the Accords was
also often conducted in ways that displayed arrogance and a disregard
for the so-called beneficiaries of Dayton. Despite the shortcomings,
it is important to recognise the achievements of Dayton, particu-
larly in its provision of security guarantees and in the facilitation of
the return of displaced persons. The implementation of Dayton also
represented an enormous financial investment by the international
community. By 2003, $5.1bn had been ploughed into the stabilisation
(Donais and Pickel 2003: 2). The other major ‘achievement’ that has
to be recognised is the everyday efforts of millions of people in the
region who have strived to get on with their lives. This everyday tol-
erance does not necessarily stem from international interventions in
terms of peace and reconciliation programmes and projects. Instead,
it stems from ‘local liberalism’, or a recognition among citizens that
society – often at the micro level of streets and hamlets – depends
on reaching accommodation with neighbours, including those with
different national or ethnic affiliations. Indeed, communities within

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Hybrid Statebuilding: Bosnia 145

Yugoslavia (and the territory that existed before Yugoslavia) have long
histories of co-existence and tolerance, as evidenced by high rates of
inter-group marriage. Clearly this was interrupted episodically by vio-
lence and tension, but communities often settled down again. In many
cases, local-level tolerance was interrupted by elite-level competition
over the state and power. So while states have the capacity to forge
accommodation and manage service provision, it is worth remember-
ing that they have also been an engine of division and have sought to
label, categorise, and define their citizens in ways that do not always
aid conciliation.

Pre- and post-Dayton continuities

The peoples, culture, and polities of the Balkans can justly claim to
be among the most hybridised on the planet. Islam and Christianity,
socialism and capitalism, democracy and authoritarianism, and vari-
ous nationalisms have all collided and co-existed to various degrees
over the centuries (McGoldrick 1999: 7). The name of the first modern
Yugoslav state, ‘The Kingdom of the Serbs, the Croats and the Bosnians’,
reflected the inbuilt hybridity of the territory. All ideologies and styles
of governance deployed in the region over the centuries have had to
take account of the highly hybridised context. This section identi-
fies continuities between the pre-Dayton political constructions in
Yugoslavia and the post-Dayton liberal statebuilding exercise. These
continuities dispel the notion that the post-Dayton statebuilding repre-
sented a ‘fresh start’ or ‘new beginning’. Vanessa Pupavac (2010) reflects
on how international statebuilders seemed to have a selective memory
of the former Yugoslavia, conveniently overlooking swathes of history
and ‘remembering’ a bucolic multi-ethnic past: ‘the international imag-
ination seems to have forgotten the dirty old steel towns’. Dayton was
another conflict management intervention in long-running attempts
to solve the constitutional conundrum of satisfying Croatian separa-
tism, Serbian centrism, and Bosnian Muslim identity aspirations in a
multi-ethnic territory (Pesic 1996: v). The Dayton creation of Bosnia-
Herzegovina adopted the legal personality of the previously created
socialist republic of the same name (Caplan 2007: 237). This section
discusses four continuities between the pre- and post-Dayton eras: the
construction of a civic master narrative that excludes nationalism, the
top-down nature of control, the repeated nature of interventions by
the governing authority to perfect constitutional arrangements, and a
continuity of personnel.

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146 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

Meta-narrative of statehood
The first continuity relates to the construction of a meta-narrative
of statehood that emphasises a civic bond between citizens and de-
emphasises ethnic, religious, or nationalist identifications. Although
Yugoslavia’s socialist rulers in the era after the Second World War were
unable to ignore nationalism completely, they did construct a narra-
tive that prioritised a single unifying identification (socialism) and
sought to delegitimise other, ‘lesser’ identifications such as religion or
nationalism. Indeed, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was
officially atheist and thus religious identifications could be disregarded
by the state (a factor particularly relevant to the Muslim population
in Bosnia). The SFRY depended on a supranational ideological narra-
tive that recommended that a class analysis be applied to all problems
(Pesic 1996: vi). In such a context, nationalism was regarded, notionally
at any rate, as counter-revolutionary and deviant. The hegemonic nar-
rative of ‘brotherhood and unity’ was able to present Yugoslavia’s past
difficulties, especially the blood-letting during the Second World War,
as nationalist folly perpetrated by narrow (capitalist) interests (Baskin
2007: 266). In this view, socialism as embodied in the Federal Republic
offered a route to emancipation. The collectivist consciousness meant
that nations and nationalities were overshadowed by ‘working people
and citizens’ (ICG 2002: 2). Of course the narratives constructed by
socialist politicians and post-Dayton international administrators con-
tained a degree of disingenuousness: nationalism could not be wished
away. Both the SFRY and the post-Dayton administrators recognised
this and made significant efforts to accommodate nationalism. The
narrative script, however, remained largely the same: nationalism is an
inferior political creed, and both the socialists and the liberal inter-
nationalists made draconian efforts to hamper nationalist political
The meta-narrative underpinning the Dayton Agreement was that
nationalism was destructive and self-defeating; people must abjure
nationalism or ethnic and religious particularism and instead accept
plural, civic identifications. The international community regarded
ethnic nationalism as ‘an evil to be suppressed, or better yet, eradicated’
(Donais and Pickel 2003: 5). International commentators routinely asso-
ciated nationalism with organised crime (Kang 2006: 2). In those rare
cases where nationalism could be valorised in the former Yugoslav con-
text, it was the ‘good nationalism’ of the Titoist struggle against Nazism.
The ‘bad nationalism’ of inter-ethnic civil war was to be condemned
(Pavlakovic 2008). The Dayton-inspired civic identification was as

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Hybrid Statebuilding: Bosnia 147

artificial as the new ‘national’ flag, currency, anthem, and other sym-
bols of statehood invented by international bureaucrats. According to
Hayden (1998: 49), the Office of the High Representative intentionally
chose a flag design that had no emotional connection with anyone in
Bosnia-Herzegovina. The new state was not an obvious source of identi-
fication for many of its citizens: ‘A large share – perhaps a majority – of
Bosnian citizens remain to some extent unreconciled with the very fact
that they are citizens of Bosnia rather than Croatia or Serbia, or perhaps
an independent Republic of Serbia, or indeed Yugoslavia’ (Vogel 2006:
27). For many of its citizens the new state was inorganic and unable to
meet their identity aspirations. It was ‘a state without a nation’ (Donais
and Pickel 2003: 19). As a result, the international overlords of Bosnia-
Herzegovina had to work hard to construct an appealing narrative. One
argument championed by the international community was that citi-
zens should not focus on their ‘Bosnian-ness’; instead, they should seek
to emphasise their European-ness. Donais and Pickel (2003: 12) note
that by the new millennium, the Office of the High Representative was
underplaying the development of Bosnia-Herzegovina as a state in its
own right. Instead, ‘the establishment of a civic Bosnian state is por-
trayed as a vehicle through which Bosnian citizens may one day reap
the benefits of broader European citizenship, rather than as a worth-
while construct in and of itself’. This strategy differed from that rec-
ommended by the international community in other contexts, where
a plural post-transition sense of nationhood has been encouraged as a
sign of ‘moving on’.

Top-down control
A second continuity between the socialist and post-Dayton eras is the
top-down nature of political control. Although both deployed the lan-
guage of participation and empowerment, and although both used
various devices, such as elections and workers’ councils, to facilitate
participatory politics, both were essentially centralised and directive
systems. The similarities in the top-down control utilised by both sys-
tems were noted by Hayden (1998: 47): ‘Ironically, the course chosen
by the High Representative seems most similar to that of the commu-
nist regimes of the former Yugoslavia.’ In both cases, this centralisa-
tion and direction were justified by the ‘higher goals’ of socialism or
civic pluralism. Even though Yugoslavia broke with the Soviet Union-
controlled Communist International Bureau (Comintern) in 1948, it
retained a Soviet-style centralised political control. For all the talk of
a ‘third way’ between capitalism and communism, Yugoslavia was a

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148 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

single-party police state that exercised considerable repression of politi-

cal dissidents (Bebler 2006: 7). The police force was centralised and mil-
itarised (Perdan 2006: 186). Notwithstanding the devolution of power
to the regions and other liberalising reforms undertaken in the 1960s
and 1970s, Bebler (2006: 7) characterises Bosnia-Herzegovina in the
socialist era as ‘a miniature of Yugoslavia’. It ‘operated as a unitarian
political system combining an authoritarian single party monopoly of
power, a non-competitive majoritarian electoral system, a unicameral
parliament, weak and fragmented civil society and a strong underbrush
of authoritarianism in popular culture’. Despite the rhetoric of brother-
hood and unity, the SFRY bureaucracy was dominated by Serbs, and
they held key positions in the ruling party, the League of Communists
of Yugoslavia (LCY) (Pesic 1996: 12). Surveying both the SFRY and the
post-Dayton entity, Caplan (2007: 238) noted that ‘There is no real tra-
dition of participatory politics in BiH, which is critical to a functioning
democracy. Rather, there is a tendency among citizens to view poli-
tics as the preserve of elites over whom ordinary citizens can have no
It is not difficult to find evidence of the top-down nature of the post-
Dayton dispensation. The new state of Bosnia-Herzegovina was never
subject to ratification by its population (Hayden 1998: 48). The pow-
ers assumed by the NATO Implementation Force (IFOR) as part of the
Dayton General Framework Agreement were a harbinger of the political
and economic powers deployed by the Office of the High Representative
as the new state of Bosnia-Herzegovina was created and steered through
its formative years. NATO personnel were awarded immunity from
prosecution and were exempt from taxation (Chossudovsky 1996: 524).
Annex 1A of the General Framework Agreement stipulated that ‘IFOR
shall have the unimpeded right to observe, monitor and inspect any
forces, facility or activity in Bosnia-Herzegovina that IFOR believes may
have military capability’ (Office of the High Representative 1995). It
further awarded IFOR unlimited rights to ‘bivouac, maneuver, billet,
and utilize any areas or facilities’. The High Representative held extraor-
dinary powers. Indeed, these powers were strengthened in 1997 as
the persistence of nationalism and the extent of the statebuilding task
became clear (Szewczyk 2010: 28–30). On key legislative and economic
issues, sovereignty rested with the High Representative and other une-
lected international personnel. Such was the power of the EU in forging
the course of the new state that it was dubbed the ‘European Raj’ (Knaus
and Martin 2003). The new state was unable to implement independ-
ent monetary, fiscal, pricing, and foreign exchange policies (Donais

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Hybrid Statebuilding: Bosnia 149

and Pickel 2003: 6). Article VII of the Dayton Agreement stipulated
that the first governor of the Central Bank was to be appointed by the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) and ‘shall not be a citizen of Bosnia-
Herzegovina or a neighbouring state’ (Office of the High Representative
1995). The Office of the High Representative used extraordinary powers
811 times between December 1997 and October 2006, and removed
168 elected and unelected officials during the same period (Baskin
2007: 277–8). According to critics, the international trusteeship of the
new state of Bosnia-Herzegovina seemed to be straight from the ‘insti-
tutionalisation before liberalisation’ script. Chossudovsky (1996: 524)
observed that ‘Behind the democratic façade, actual political power
rests in the hands of a “parallel government” headed by the high repre-
sentative and staffed by expatriate advisers.’ Indeed, for many citizens,
it was the international community who were the parallel or ghost gov-
ernment, and they found their own forms of political representation
and governance more ‘real’.

Repeated interventions
The third area of continuity between the post-Dayton dispensation
and previous constructions of Yugoslavia and Bosnia was the repeated
nature of interventions to manage the national question. Bosnia has
been in a state of ‘permanent transition’ since at least the 1960s (Baskin
2007: 258). In the socialist era, the interventions usually took the form
of constitutional revisions that attempted to make the state more inclu-
sive of national groupings, while still ‘within the revolution’ (Howard
2001: 317). In the post-Dayton era they usually took the form of political
interventions by the OHR to thwart the strategies of nationalist politi-
cal parties. The repeated interventions illustrated two common threads
in socialism and liberalism: a belief in the reformability of individuals
and institutions, and the assumption that the power of individuals and
groups could be usurped by the state or a higher authority for a greater
good. Pajić (1998: 135–6) pointed out how the concept of individual
rights was subjugated to a concern for group rights in both the socialist
and post-Dayton dispensations: ‘Preoccupation with the rights of eth-
nic groups reflects the transition from communist to nationalist collec-
tivism, where the despotism of the one and only ruling party is replaced
by the despotism of the presupposed group (ethnic) interests.’
The interventionist nature of the SFRY was captured by Baskin (2007:
261), who likened the state to a series of economic and political ‘experi-
ments’. The economic experiments attempted to place the state between
Soviet socialism and western capitalism and involved market socialism.

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150 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

Politically, the socialist state enacted a series of reforms and liberali-

sations aimed at widening representation and recognising nationalist
sentiment. This was significant in that the apparently nation-blind state
took on board identity aspirations of its citizens and recognised the
potentially destabilising effects of inter-group enmity. It is important to
note that individuals and groups of individuals experienced Yugoslav
socialism in different ways. The socialist state did not impose its will
uniformly, thus allowing individuals and groups to feel marginalised or
discriminated against (Dimitrova-Grojzl and Simon 2010: 5). This non-
uniform experience of socialism had a significant impact on the extent
to which national groups pressed for constitutional change or felt satis-
fied with the prevailing order. Bosnian Muslims in particular perceived
themselves ‘forgotten’ by Belgrade.
There were three major constitutional revisions, in 1946, 1963, and
1974. ‘Each had an impact on “national identity” either by fostering it,
recognising it, or both’ (McGoldrick 1999: 7–8). It should be stressed,
however, that these changes occurred within the parameters of ‘the
revolution’ and that they did not recognise the political autonomy of
national groups. It was, in Howard’s (2001: 317) phrase, ‘organized plu-
ralism’. In 1961 the state allowed Muslims to identify themselves as
Muslim, although this categorisation was not introduced into the cen-
sus on a par with Croats and Serbs until 1971 (Bebler 2006: 6; Campbell
1999: 405). In the late 1960s, a system of tri-national parity was intro-
duced in Bosnia-Herzegovina such that the three communities were
equally represented in key positions in the federal structure (Glenny
1996: 141; Bebler 2006: 6–7; Zaum 2003: 111). This was a primitive
powersharing exercise, although it rested on the fiction that each
group was of demographic equivalence. In the early 1970s, Muslim
functionaries in the LCY pressed Belgrade to elevate Muslims’ status
from national minority to constituent nation in the SFRY (Glenny
1996: 141). This goal was realised in the 1974 constitutional amend-
ment. The 1974 amendment was probably the most significant of all
the constitutional revisions in that it effectively institutionalised the
autonomy of the six Yugoslav Republics, ‘thus implicitly allowing the
acceleration of national, economic and ethno centrisms’ (Liotta 2001:
no pagination). Ultimately, the state’s attempts to assuage and contain
nationalist and identity claims failed. As Pesic (1996: vi) observed,
‘Despite the regime’s attempts to control national aspirations by insti-
tutionalizing them within the political and territorial boundaries of
the titular republics, the more abstract aspects of nationhood could
not be so confined.’

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Hybrid Statebuilding: Bosnia 151

Post-Dayton interventionism was fuelled by international frustra-

tion at the persistence of nationalism and the audacity of national-
ist political leaders. Just as Yugoslavia was threatened by nationalists
who wanted to undermine it, the new state of Bosnia-Herzegovina was
threatened by the secessionist claims of its Serbian population (Eckert
2002: 30). Interventionism was also prompted by what outsiders saw
as the slow pace of change, particularly given the massive investment
of time, personnel, and finances by elements of the international com-
munity. Kang’s (2006: 2) prescription is typical of these sentiments,
and is seemingly unaware of the irony of ‘strengthening’ statehood by
taking sovereignty away from locally elected leaders: ‘the international
community should more deeply assert a realignment of fundamental
powers in Bosnia to strengthen the statehood of Bosnia and its indi-
viduals and to weaken nationalists and organized crime’. In a similar
vein, the self-appointed International Crisis Group interpreted a 2002
Constitutional Court ruling on equality in BiH as an ‘unrepeatable
chance to push the Dayton Peace Accords to their limits’ (ICG 2002: 1).
The post-Dayton interventions did not come in the form of revisions
of the Peace Accords. Instead, they took the form of institutionalised
intrusion into the affairs of Bosnia-Herzegovina by the OHR.

The fourth continuity relates to personnel. A feature of many liberal
peace interventions has been the identification, prosecution, or dis-
missal of those associated with the ancien régime (La Haye 2008). In
part this has been a symbolic statement of the need for a clean break.
It has also been a function of the supposed unsuitability of political
actors and administrators from the old system to engage in the gov-
ernance of the new system. In Afghanistan, the Taliban were put to
flight. In Iraq, a price was placed on the heads of the Ba’athist leader-
ship, while Party functionaries and the military were sacked en masse.
A number of international and national judicial and quasi-judicial
systems have been employed to indict former leaders, or at least com-
pel them to acknowledge past wrongdoing. The years after Dayton
saw the indictment and prosecution of various leaders for war crimes,
and a number of high-profile figures from the 1992–1995 period went
into hiding. Yet, to a certain degree, there was a continuity of per-
sonnel from the socialist era through the period of nationalist wars
and into the post-Dayton period. Slobodan Milošević, for example,
was ‘a product of the communist bureaucracy whose authoritarian
traditions fitted snugly with his own behavioural patterns’ (Glenny

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152 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

1996: 36). Prior to the break-up of Yugoslavia, Milošević was an eco-

nomics adviser to the mayor of Belgrade, the director of a bank, and
president of the Belgrade League of Communists City Committee.
In short, he was a socialist insider who made the transition to post-
socialist nationalist leader with relative ease. Indeed Pesic (1996: 3)
postulates (though ultimately does not agree with) the proposition
that the socialist nomenklatura sought to preserve their threatened
positions by fomenting and exploiting nationalism in the late 1980s
and early 1990s.
Milošević’s position differed from those of Franjo Tudjman (the first
leader of independent Croatia) and Alija Izetbegović (the first president
of Bosnia-Herzegovina). Both had been political dissidents during the
socialist era and had long associations with their respective nationalist
projects. Yet peppered among the ‘new’ political classes in BiH, Croatia,
and Serbia were a good number of party apparatchiks from the previous
socialist political order. Baskin (2007: 265–6) summarises the political
continuity in BiH in the post-Dayton period:

The three dominant nationalist political parties – Croatian

Democratic Union (HDZ), Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), and the
Party of Democratic Action (SDA) – came to be identified closely with
administrative and political power within ethnically dominated
entities or quasi-entity. These new parties have assumed a position
akin to that of the LCY during the period of socialism; many of the
new leaders were themselves former members of one of the more
hard-line sections of the LCY.
These informal networks shaped the three Bosnian leaderships
that emerged from the fighting and were charged with (1) imple-
menting the peace; (2) working directly with the wide array of inter-
national military and civilian agencies mandated to implement the
agreement; and (3) facilitating a transition to stable civilian rule.
It should have been no surprise that individuals in these vital and
informal networks of authority would resist international efforts to
compel them to find consensus on cosmopolitan political principles
that appealed far more to lawyers in Geneva than to their true con-
stituents – the ordinary people in Doboj, Livno, or the Srebrenica
displaced persons community. It should also have been no surprise
that these leaders, powerful in good measure because of their ties to
these informal networks, displayed little acceptance of the universal
value of modern liberalism that is rooted in market economies, cul-
tural heterogeneity, and Western-style political pluralism marked by

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Hybrid Statebuilding: Bosnia 153

the routine transfer of power among relatively similar and mutually

loyal parties.

The continuity of personnel extended to the permanent bureaucracy.

One international administrator stationed in BiH reflected that ‘The
corridors of government in most former East bloc states harbor sub-
stantial numbers of officials implacably opposed to reform, for per-
sonal as well as philosophical reasons’ (Huddleston 1999: 156). Yet
despite their opposition to many reforms, some members of the old
guard were well placed to benefit from privatisation: ‘Virtually the
only locals with resources to buy state-owned enterprises were mem-
bers of a rather unholy alliance among the ruling parties, the increas-
ingly powerful mafia, and elements of the old socialist nomenklatura’
(Donais 2002: 5).

Concluding discussion

The most significant continuity of all was the persistence of national-

ist and identity aspirations, and the inability of various constitutional
configurations to contain them. Nationalism and ethnicity remained
the principal political referents for the majority of the BiH population
in the post-Dayton era, and attempts to establish a civic, plural Bosnian
‘nation-ness’ foundered (Nikiforou 1997: 84; Donais and Pickel 2003:
19). Post-Dayton nationalisms were not exact replicas of pre-war nation-
alisms. One of nationalism’s special talents is its transformative ability
that allows it to adapt to changing circumstances. The war and Dayton
presented Croat and Serb nationalism with tremendous challenges and
opportunities. Bosnian Muslim identity also faced immense contextual
change: the group was transformed from being a tolerated minority in
a socialist state to a majority in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the space of a
few years.
The longer-term historical perspective is to be recommended as it
allows us to see the hybridities and fusions that characterise politics
and society in this region. Thus Bosnia-Herzegovina should be seen
as a post-socialist society as well as a post-conflict society. Baskin’s
(2007: 261) perspective is the correct one: ‘The nasty war in Bosnia-
Herzegovina that took place from 1991 to 1995 was one act in the
failed drama of the Yugoslav transition from one-party socialism to a
liberal, democratic order.’ This is not to deny the significance of the
war and the Dayton Peace Accords. It is, instead, to recognise the util-
ity of a much longer historical timeframe that allows us to see how

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154 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

values and identities persist and morph to produce hybrid political

Just as it is important to emphasise the continuity of nationalist and
identity-based aspirations, it is important to recognise the persistence
of ideas of co-existence and tolerance in BiH and the wider region.
In keeping with observations on everyday conflict management in
Northern Ireland made in Chapter 8 of this volume, Bringa (1995: 21)
emphasises the everyday tolerance required for stability in a multi-
ethnic society:

To most Bosnians (particularly those of the post-World War II gen-

erations) difference in ethnoreligious affiliation was one of the many
differences between people, like the differences between men and
women, villager and city dweller. It was acknowledged and often
joked about but it never precluded friendship. Indeed, for these
Bosnians being Bosnian meant growing up in a multicultural and
multireligious environment, an environment where cultural plural-
ism was intrinsic to the social order. Dealing with cultural difference
was part of people’s most immediate experience of social life outside
of the confines of their home, and it was an essential part of their
identity. In the village mutual acknowledgement of cultural diversity
and coexistence was an intrinsic quality of life and people’s everyday
experience, and therefore was an important element in the process
of individual identity formation.

Oberschall (2000: 987) recounts how many Yugoslavs were stunned by

the onset of war given the relatively tranquil inter-ethnic relations that
they had experienced among their personal and professional acquaint-
anceships. Clearly the war, ethnic mobilisation and cleansing, inflam-
matory speeches and actions by political leaders, and Dayton all posed
severe challenges for individuals and communities who favoured eth-
nic tolerance over division. Yet everyday reconciliation and tolerance
did take place, and doubtless it was partially inspired by a cultural
memory of inter-group interaction before the war. Minority return (or
the return of displaced persons to areas in which they constitute an
ethnic or religious minority) was also able to take place in significant
numbers (Buyse 2009). The chief point is that alongside the narrative of
war and division, we must also be aware of the persistence of voices for
tolerance and pluralism.
All four parts of the hybridisation model are represented in the
case study of Bosnia-Herzegovina before and after the 1992–1995 war.

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Hybrid Statebuilding: Bosnia 155

The coercive power of the liberal peace agents was evident through
the NATO bombing of Serbia to the conference table, the arming of
Bosnian Muslims, and the interventionism of the OHR. This coercion
was not always applied consistently (see, for example, the failure of
the European Union to restrain Serbia in the 1990s). The incentivising
power of the liberal peace was evident in the creation of a pro-peace
political economy by the EU, USAID, the United Nations, and hundreds
of INGOs. Financial, material, and esteem-related resources poured into
the country. A political ‘market’ was created in terms of seats in the
parliament, grants for political party training, civil society capacity-
building, and the supposed ‘carrot’ of membership of the European
Union. Some political and civic actors sought to avoid entanglements
with international actors and their local agents. But such entanglements
were difficult to avoid given the scale of the statebuilding exercise and
the inter-group competitive dynamic that develops in deeply divided
societies. Local political actors were drawn into a post-Dayton political
architecture and issue agenda that was, in significant ways, the creation
of international actors. Once enmeshed in that political architecture, it
was difficult for local parties to extricate themselves; this applied even
to nationalist parties who were fundamentally opposed to aspects of
the Dayton process.
The third part of the hybridising model was evidenced through
local resistance to international peace-support efforts. While the
Stabilisation Force (SFOR), IFOR, and the EU-backed police forces had to
deal with riot situations, they did not face outright armed opposition.
This was partly because of the overwhelming force deployed by NATO
prior to the Dayton Accords, but also because the political leaders of
the Bosnian Muslims, Serbs, and Croats realised that little was to be
gained by further warfare. Instead of outright insurgency, as was the
case in Afghanistan and Iraq, resistance took other forms. One form of
resistance was the exploitation of the statebuilding agenda in order to
maximise the autonomy of nationalist groups. For example, nationalist
groups demanded and were ceded the right to control the privatisa-
tion of state assets in the areas under their control (Donais and Pickel
2003: 11). Another form of resistance was non-engagement with some
of the Dayton-mandated institutions and directives. Delay was another
favoured form of resistance, as legislators in BiH dragged their heels over
the implementation of legislation championed by the OHR. Judging by
the frustration of the OHR, and by the remedial interventions it felt
compelled to take to put Dayton ‘back on track’, much of this resistance
was successful.

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156 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

The final aspect of the hybridisation model, the ability of local actors
to deploy alternatives to the liberal peace, can also be seen in the BiH
case study. The alternatives were often to be found on a small scale and
at the local level. They did not take the form of fully fledged alterna-
tives to the massive internationally supported statebuilding and peace-
building project. At times these alternatives had a mocking quality and
were intended to highlight the coercive nature of the Dayton-imposed
system. For example, the Croatian nationalist party, the Croatian
Democratic Union, held its own unofficial referendum on Croat rights in
2000 to coincide with OSCE-organised elections (OSCE 2000). Bosnian
Serbs and Croats, and their political parties, looked towards Serbia and
Croatia for material and moral support in the post-Dayton period. To a
certain extent, this provided them with an alternative locus of politi-
cal and cultural power and identification. Perhaps the most significant
alternative was the persistence of notions of nationalism that ran coun-
ter to the stated aims of the Dayton settlement, which emphasised –
rhetorically at least – civic pluralism. The fortunes of nationalist parties
ebbed and flowed in the post-Dayton period, and the OHR worked hard
to frustrate many of the gains made by nationalists. Yet nationalism
remained a significant trope in political life in BiH, as evidenced by
the significant ‘memory wars’ whereby various sides attempted to assert
their version of history and commemoration (Jelacic 2005). Such activi-
ties provided an alternative political project to the multi-ethnic project
envisioned by the international architects of Dayton.
The case of BiH illustrates the dynamic nature of the four-part hybrid-
isation model. Circumstances compelled international and local actors
to change their course of action in reaction to each other. Despite the
enormous coercive and incentivising capabilities deployed by the inter-
national community, they were unable to achieve the smooth, uniform,
or efficient rolling out of the liberal peace. The liberal statebuilding
project in Bosnia-Herzegovina was full of distorting factors: the social-
ist legacy, the persistence of nationalism, the whims of particular High
Representatives, and the attention span of international donors all
combined to produce a hybridised peacebuilding environment. The
distorted nature of the BiH liberal peacebuilding project is in sympathy
with the picture that emerges from the other case study chapters in
this volume. In Afghanistan, the post-Taliban state has failed to achieve
a monopoly of violence, partly through its co-option of warlords and
militia commanders. In Northern Ireland, the notion and practice of
civil society is bastardised through the British government’s sponsor-
ship of non-plural organisations and its acceptance of these groups into

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Hybrid Statebuilding: Bosnia 157

civil society. In Iraq, the privatisation agenda – one of the centre-pieces

of the reconstruction strategy put together by the western ousters of
Saddam Hussein – has been a miserable failure. Yet the everyday econ-
omy, or the political economy of necessity, is thriving. In Lebanon, the
western-sponsored governance agenda has to take cognisance of the
strength of Hezbollah. The picture that emerges is that the liberal peace
is neither invincible nor uniform. Instead, it is forced to take account of
other actors and forces.

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Hybrid Governance: Lebanon

And at a certain moment a Druze on the battlefield laid hold of

one of the Christians and they clinched and threw each other
and got up again and did not cease their mutual assaults, keep-
ing close together until they reached the seashore where they
tumbled into the water and yet they continued their fight. And
while this was going on, a huge wave came and carried them
out of their depth and drowned them both.
I. Abka-riu-s, on sectarian strife in 1860 (1920: 71–2)


Governance interventions are often subtle, taking the form of incre-

mental, behind-the-scenes changes in how governments operate and
how they deliver services. Those who promote governance interven-
tions tend to use language that is difficult to argue against: change is
necessary to enhance fairness, efficiency, and participation. Although
more velvet glove than iron fist, governance interventions can be truly
transformative. They can recalibrate a series of relationships that make
up society: between citizens, between citizens and the state, between
citizens and the market, and between the state and the market.
In the case of societies emerging from violent conflict, governance
reforms are often driven by external actors, and so it is possible to
develop a narrative of governance reform as a top-down, technocratic
process through which western administrative values and practices are
injected into a society as part of an international peace-support inter-
vention. While governance interventions are indeed largely top-down
and externally driven, the picture is not always so clear cut. Hybrid
forms of governance abound in which endogenous and exogenous


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Hybrid Governance: Lebanon 159

forms of governance conflict, co-exist, and cooperate. This chapter

attempts to capture this hybridisation, using a case study of governance
reforms in post-civil war Lebanon. The case study reveals the extent to
which the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the UNDP,
the European Union, and others embarked on intrusive and highly
political projects under the guise of ‘efficiency’ and ‘participation’.
Central to these governance interventions has been the elimination of
corruption. Yet this chapter demonstrates that opposition to corruption
is not the preserve of external actors. Many Lebanese actors oppose cor-
ruption, including Hezbollah, the Shiite politico-military organisation
that is classed by the United States and others as ‘terrorist’. So Hezbollah
and liberal peace champions such as the World Bank share the goal
of eliminating corruption and have instituted and supported anti-
corruption governance ‘reforms’. This chapter illustrates the hybridities
attendant on liberal peace governance interventions. It shows the blur-
ring of boundaries between categories that are labelled ‘internal’ and
‘external’, ‘local’ and ‘international’, or ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’. The
chapter also shows how resistance and alternatives to the liberal peace
emerged from Lebanese sources.
While the focus is on Lebanon as a case study, it is hoped that many
of the insights in this chapter will be relevant to other societies under-
going internationally supported peacebuilding or development inter-
ventions. Indeed, governance interventions are not unique to societies
emerging from civil war or authoritarianism. They will be familiar to
the billions of inhabitants of developing world states, as international
actors have sought to help ‘engineer’ these states towards a ‘better’ way
of managing their affairs. Externally driven governance interventions
will also be familiar to citizens in the developed world, especially in the
wake of the global financial crisis as international financial institutions
dictate budgetary conditions and regulatory mechanisms (RTE 2010;
Hannon 2010).
In the context of liberal peace interventions, governance is often seen
as part of wider statebuilding processes. While the constitutional and
political aspects of statebuilding were dealt with in Chapter 6, govern-
ance plays such a crucial role in liberal peacebuilding that it deserves
its own chapter. This chapter begins by introducing the concept of
governance and explaining how governance ‘reform’ and ‘good gov-
ernance’ have become centre-pieces of liberal peace interventions. The
chapter then outlines some of the criticisms that are commonly levelled
against governance interventions in developing world and post-war
contexts. Following this conceptual discussion, the chapter moves on

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160 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

to the Lebanese case study. The peculiar context of Lebanon is outlined,

before the chapter describes the extent, significance, and origin of gov-
ernance interventions by international institutions. Importantly, inter-
national actors were not alone in their frustration at the perceived and
actual inefficiencies of the Lebanese state. National actors, including
Hezbollah – an organisation that ostensibly stands opposed to many
articles of faith in the liberal peace canon – shared this frustration and
instituted their own steps to ameliorate it. In a sense, Hezbollah (and
others from Lebanon’s civil society) introduced their own governance
reforms. The chapter seeks to illustrate the complexity of the governance
and reform landscape, and counters arguments that ‘good governance’
is the exclusive preserve of international actors. Fieldwork conducted
by the author in 2006 and 2008 informs many of the insights in this

Governance and its critiques

Discussion of governance is hampered by at least two factors. Firstly,

definitions of governance tend to be so all-encompassing that they
are unwieldy catch-all categories. Secondly, much of the literature on
governance (especially policy documents from international organisa-
tions) is cursed with a dullness that would make even the most earnest
scholar wilt. Governance refers to the guiding principles, decision-
making processes, and operating procedures of organisations and col-
lectives. It is defined by the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees (2002) as ‘the process whereby public institutions conduct
public affairs, manage public resources and guarantee the realization of
human rights’. As adopted by one its principal champions, the United
Nations Development Programme, it applies to states, the private sector,
and civil society and strives towards a mutually supportive relation-
ship between all three sectors (UNDP 1997). Most emphasis in terms
of governance intervention, however, has been on the state, and par-
ticularly on ‘reforming’ state bureaucracies in the developing world so
that they operate in a manner deemed to be transparent and equitable.
Governance reforms are particularly interested in the coherence of pol-
icy formulation and effective public administration (Alence 2004: 164).
Internationally sponsored good governance interventions may take the
form of introducing a new code of conduct for a public utility provider,
distributing leaflets to make citizens aware of their rights, or training
civil defence personnel so that they can respond more effectively in the
event of a natural disaster.

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Hybrid Governance: Lebanon 161

The themes of accountability and transparency run through virtually

all governance interventions. Such interventions invoke the Weberian
spirit, and attempt to perfect the state bureaucracy so that it operates
efficiently using formal and advertised mechanisms, and is unhindered
by the sectarianism and clientelism that might restrict public goods
and services to some citizens. The need to tackle corruption has become
a core part of the governance intervention agenda. The issue has univer-
sal resonance in that donor states and their publics demand value for
money, and publics in target countries are aware of waste and the diver-
sion of funds (Kolstad et al. 2008). Given that corruption may poten-
tially take place at any level of government, and can vary enormously in
terms of scale and type, external governance agents may be tempted to
scrutinise all levels of government. In 1996 the World Bank announced
six Worldwide Governance Indicators that illustrate the ambitious and
potentially all-embracing character of governance interventions: voice
and accountability, political stability and absence of violence, govern-
ment effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law, and control of cor-
ruption (Apaza 2009: 139).
In one reading, governance reforms can be interpreted as neutral,
non-ideological attempts to improve the technical efficiency of govern-
ment policymaking systems in order to improve the lot of citizens. The
language employed by many advocates of governance reforms is entic-
ingly straightforward. Thus, according to the World Bank (2003: 1, 23):

Public governance relationships ... manifest themselves in almost every

situation in which individuals and groups interact with the govern-
ment. The challenge for governments and people ... is to expand the
interactions that are smooth and productive and to minimise the ones
that are frustrating and wasteful – in a move towards ‘good’ govern-
ance. If public governance is the exercise of authority in the name of
the people, good governance is exercising that authority in ways that
respect the integrity, rights, and needs of everyone within the state. ...
There is no mystery to developing governance. It requires just two
things: open commitment followed by action by all. If the people
and governments – the primary actors in governance – join together
in the process, everyone in the region can have access to the fruits of
faster growth, to better public services, and to a future replete with
the attributes of human development.

Such ‘motherhood and apple-pie’ descriptions of the benefits of gov-

ernance reform abound in reports and policy briefs from international

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162 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

organisations. In this view, governance is non-political and progres-

sive. Moreover, it can connect with universal projects of human bet-
terment such as attaining the Millennium Development Goals (Alberti
and Bertucci 2007: 3). Proponents of governance interventions point to
the prominent role played by bad governance in conflict and poverty.
According to this logic, the causes of conflict and underdevelopment
can be addressed by tackling bad governance. McAuslan (1996: 169)
summarises these sentiments in relation to Africa:

The blunt fact is ... that African governments have been characterised
by their incompetence, their dishonesty and their authoritarianism.
Good officials and politicians have been driven out by bad ... and
much of Africa’s considerable resources (and aid) have been squan-
dered or stolen by those bad persons. The argument that ... ‘Western’
imposed boundaries and systems of government do not mesh with
traditional African boundaries and systems of government is uncon-
vincing. It is also devaluing the efforts of all the fine public servants
and scholars in Africa who have worked for and argued for account-
ability, transparency and probity in government and public affairs,
often in extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances, long
before the World Bank discovered the virtues of those concepts, at
least for others if not for itself.

The remedy therefore would be to ‘institute regular “good govern-

ance” audits in governments’ (McAuslan 1996: 174). By minimising the
opportunities for sectarian or ethnically motivated abuse of the distri-
bution of public goods and resources, the opportunities for individuals
and groups to become disaffected would also be minimised. As a result,
governance reform has the potential to become a conflict-prevention
tool. Thus good governance became a key part of United Nations inter-
ventions in Timor-Leste, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and elsewhere (Cogen
and de Brabandere 2007; Inoguchi and Bacon 2003: 169). Before we
move on to more critical readings of governance interventions, it must
also be acknowledged that, in many cases, governance reforms have
improved citizens’ access to goods and services, introduced meritoc-
racy into government, and improved participation, transparency, and
In the critical view, governance interventions are a Trojan horse used
by international actors to mould developing world states into ‘mini-me’
versions of western states in order that they operate in ways that are
amenable to the political and economic desires of leading states and

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Hybrid Governance: Lebanon 163

international financial institutions. This critical view regards ‘good gov-

ernance’ interventions as inherently normative and as political projects
that seek to overwrite local and traditional forms of governance with
apparently superior and modern forms of governance. According to
the critics, governance interventions follow a script written by leading
states and international financial organisations, and amount to a form
of expropriation in which international actors meddle in the affairs of
sovereign states. It is a process of one-way knowledge transfer in which
western ‘best practice’ must be adopted by states that are often desper-
ately poor or lacking in capacity following the dislocation of war. Critics
also point to the extreme hypocrisy of proponents. Thus, for example,
the IMF may demand changes in how national ministries are organ-
ised to make them more accountable, while the IMF’s own governance
structures remain largely unaccountable (Woods and Lomardi 2006).
While proponents of good governance interventions may point to
local partners who embrace change for the benefit that it promises
their society, critics say that target countries often have little choice
and are compelled to adopt governance reforms through donor con-
ditionality regimes. According to the critics, governance interventions
reek of neo-colonialism. Rather than holding territory and maintain-
ing garrisons, the new colonialists use edicts from the international
financial institutions that compel states to act in particular ways or face
penalties. Gunboat diplomacy has been replaced by regular monitor-
ing visits by IMF inspectors. Governments are compelled to gather and
publish information that allows their international ‘mentors’ to main-
tain ongoing surveillance of their performance. By adopting govern-
ance ‘reforms’, states become enmeshed in a system of compliance and
reporting through which state sovereignty is compromised.
The critics charge that under the guise of ‘reform’ and improving
efficiency, a consortium of international actors can change the entire
nature of a state and how it relates to its citizens, civil society, business,
and international actors. Certainly the impact of governance reforms
can be far-reaching. Although they can be depicted as innocuous and
sensible, they can also have a profound impact on the political life of
the citizen. Consider, for example, the case of a rural-dwelling fam-
ily in Indonesia or Nigeria who have become accustomed to a clien-
telist polity. This system is based on exchange and may be flavoured
by sectarianism, kinship, or other prevailing cultural mores. Although
very different from that experienced by readers more used to western
democratic polities, this system of governance may be the ‘natural’ or
intuitive political order to our Indonesian or Nigerian family in that it

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164 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

conforms to cultural practices and values (for example, patrimonial-

ism). In order to secure public goods, the family would mediate their
concerns through the head of a local prominent family who was also
the mayor of the local municipality. So, for example, the family would
speak with the mayor in order to secure an electricity supply, or a public
sector job for their son. In return, the mayor would expect the family’s
votes in elections, and the family would show respect to the mayor by
inviting him to family occasions such as weddings.
The political economy of this exchange would be implicit, and, for
the most part, it works for both parties. For western observers, however,
this is a clientelist relationship that relies on the arbitrary use of power.
Under good governance ‘reforms’, the United Nations Development
Programme may work with the Ministry of the Interior to develop a
plan to re-organise local government so that it functions in a more
meritocratic, formal, and transparent manner. This might involve the
dispatch of a governance programme officer (perhaps a graduate from
the capital city) to the local municipality. Once there, the governance
officer would institute reforms to formalise the business of the munici-
pal offices. Rather than having an informal chat with the mayor and
seeking his approval for a request for an electricity supply, constitu-
ents – including our Indonesian or Nigerian family – may have to fill
out a form and await the allocation of resources according to a publicly
announced rubric. As a result of such governance reforms, the nature
of the relationship between the citizen and the polity is changed. A
change that to western eyes is entirely innocuous and merely intro-
duces meritocracy into the distribution of public goods and services
has the capacity to rupture finely calibrated and culturally embedded
systems of exchange and political behaviour. The political dynamic
of the local area may be changed, clearing the way for other politi-
cal actors and types of political interaction between citizens and their
Perhaps the most insidious aspect of many governance interventions
is their subtly, or their ability to encourage small-scale changes in citi-
zen behaviour that, when observed incrementally and at the societal
level, amount to fundamental change. Daly (2003: 117) observes how
governance interventions can modulate ‘conduct through inculcating
a command structure in the constitution of the individual and thereby
“normalising” society and recreating social solidarity’. Taken incre-
mentally, multiple pin-prick governance interventions have the capac-
ity to effect significant change. Such change may be difficult to notice
in everyday social and political interactions. Once the individual and

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Hybrid Governance: Lebanon 165

society are acculturated to such change, the new system of governance

becomes the standard. Governance interventions have often taken the
form of awareness campaigns that alert social actors to the existence
of their obligations as citizens and to the responsibilities of the state. A
mix of incentives, coercion, and administrative fiat may then compel
citizens to moderate their behaviour (Zürn 2003: 348).
Also potentially insidious is the manner in which many proponents
of governance reform frame the justifications for their preferred form
of change. Under the mantle of ‘reform’, governance interventions
are depicted as being necessary and as part of an automatically pro-
gressive agenda. Implicit in the qualifier ‘good’ (as in ‘good govern-
ance’) is the notion that internationally recommended governance
practices are – at all times – superior to prevailing governance prac-
tices that doubtless draw on values deemed to be normatively bad,
such as tradition or custom. Target countries and their citizens are
encouraged to ‘normalise’ to ‘international standards’ that were set
by a self-selected group of good-governance-promoting states. Critics
point out that governance interventions are an ethnocentric exer-
cise whereby values and practices deemed acceptable by prominent
liberal peace agents overwrite traditional and customary practices.
This means that far from being value-free, good governance inter-
ventions have a strong ideological dimension evidenced by a bias
towards democratic and neo-liberal types of governance. Over the
past two decades, many governance interventions have extended far
beyond improving administrative efficiency, to the extent that the
term ‘democratic governance’ has become commonplace, as though
governance interventions must automatically include reforms deemed
‘democratic’. The democratic aspect of many good governance inter-
ventions strays far beyond electoral process to encompass a much
wider range of issues connected with public participation in the pol-
ity and the extension of human rights. Thus civil society enhance-
ment, gender equality, awareness of minority groups, constitutional
reform, and financial transparency all come under the governance
remit (Khatib 2009: 4). While all governance issues are political to
some extent, many of these issues are acutely political and touch on
subjects that are fundamental to the organisation of society. A neo-
liberal bias is also evident in many governance reform interventions
through the unquestioning association of ‘efficiency’ with the pri-
vate sector. In this view, many governance interventions are part of
a wider ideological project that sees the rolling back of the state and
the shifting of power to the market as means to ‘liberate’ citizens

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166 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

(Daly 2003: 114). According to the critics, it is no coincidence that

ideologically neo-classical organisations such as the IMF and World
Bank are among the strongest advocates of governance reforms, and
micro-manage governance programmes once in place.
A final criticism of governance interventions in the developing world,
and in societies emerging from violent conflict, is that the emphasis
on technocratic change means that although it is possible to make a
government more efficient in its dealings with citizens, this does not
necessarily mean that the citizen experience is improved. It is possi-
ble to have what Youngs (2009: 911) terms ‘upgraded authoritarianism’
through which a state adopts the discourse of reform, meets interna-
tionally set targets, and implements modest governance initiatives but
does not engage in a genuinely liberating reform process (Bayart 2000:
226). Egypt provides a good example of this. The government has
engaged in a series of governance reforms driven by the Organisation
for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the UNDP, the
EU, and others. According to the OECD, the Egyptian government
has an ‘ambitious’ public governance reform agenda that includes the
modernisation of governance structures, improving public service
delivery, increasing integrity and transparency, and improving capac-
ity for reform (OECD undated: 1–2). In the 1975–2005 period, total
US assistance to Egypt totalled $28bn, with substantial amounts being
directed towards governance projects (USAID undated). The USAID
strategy was ‘tailored to respond to the mode, pace and scope of politi-
cal liberalization in Egypt’ (USAID 2004: 20). Yet, for all the US invest-
ment, evidence of Egyptian political liberalisation – up until the 2011
protests – is difficult to find. Emergency legislation has been in place
since 1981, and has been regularly renewed and extended (Amnesty
International 2010). By 2010 President Mubarak had been in power
for three decades, maintained brutal repression of political opponents,
and was reported to be attempting to engineer a political succession
to his son. Around 9,500 people were imprisoned for political offences
(Fisk 2010). Egypt was able to ‘talk the governance talk’, and was paid
handsomely to do so, yet the regime was unwilling to engage in mean-
ingful political reform. In the decade between 1999 and 2009, and
despite sustained governance interventions, Egypt actually fell three
places (from 120th to 123rd) in the UNDP development index (UNDP
1999: 136; UNDP 2009).
In summary, governance plays a core role in liberal peace interventions,
and seems to have been elided with statebuilding and peacebuilding to
comprise a large, but not very well-defined, mass of policy interventions.

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Governance programmers believe that governance reforms will allow

them to tackle the poverty, exclusion, and underdevelopment that
they deem responsible for conflict onset and re-occurrence. Critics
charge that ‘peace as governance’ is intrusive and ethnocentric, and
takes power away from citizens and developing world states despite
the rhetoric of empowerment and participation (Sriram 2008). In some
cases there has been something of a rollback in terms of internation-
ally sponsored governance agendas. The ambitious ‘shopping lists’ of
some donor states have been pared back to take account of contexts
that prove resistant to reform. ‘Good enough governance’ has replaced
the ever-expanding governance agenda (Grindle 2004). In other cases,
the security imperative brought on by the War on Terror has meant
that states from the global north prioritise securitising the state over
governance issues. Yet, despite the rollback, governance interventions
remain at the heart of liberal peace interventions, and the north–south
dynamic remains intact.
Having sketched some of the debates surrounding governance as
part of internationally sponsored peacebuilding and peacemaking pro-
grammes, the chapter now considers the case of Lebanon. Following a
brief overview of the Lebanese context, the chapter turns to interna-
tional (that is, western) governance interventions in the period after the
1975–1990 civil war. These interventions were extensive, intrusive, and
largely driven by western states. Yet it would be incorrect to say that the
governance goals (especially the elimination of corruption) were the
exclusive property of international actors who championed the liberal
peace. Many Lebanese actors shared a distaste for corruption. Yet liberal
peace actors in the form of the EU, the UNDP, the IMF, and others had
the material power and leverage that allowed them to set the formal
anti-corruption agenda and re-orient the state in service of externally
set goals.

Lebanon in the aftermath of wars

Rather than present a narrative history of modern Lebanon, it is perhaps

more efficient to highlight three factors that have shaped the Lebanese
polity and are particularly relevant to our interest in governance
reforms: the persistence and deeply ingrained nature of confessional
politics, the penetration of the state and society by external actors, and
a vibrant civil society in the context of a constrained state.
The first of these factors is the extent to which Lebanon’s political,
social, economic, and cultural life is dominated by politico-religious

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168 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

divisions. Virtually all aspects of life are in some way shaped by a pri-
mary loyalty to Shiite, Sunni, Maronite, or Druze identity. This has pro-
found implications for the nature of the Lebanese state and the extent
to which its citizens are willing to identify with the state as a ‘neutral’
entity that is worthy of loyalty. The 1989 Ta’if Accord is based on the
demographic fiction of rough Muslim–Christian parity (there has been
no census since 1932, so accurate population figures do not exist). In
fact Muslims are in the majority, but the depth of Sunni–Shiite divi-
sions means that this is a divided bloc. Divisions are accentuated by the
multiple political parties, political dynasties, and shifting (sometimes
improbable) political alliances. The 1989 Accord provided for a conso-
ciational parliamentary republic with a rough powersharing rubric in
which the Prime Minister is always a Sunni, the Speaker of Parliament
a Shiite, and the President a Christian. The powersharing modus vivendi
was guaranteed by Syrian oversight, but the uneasy post-civil war peace
has stuttered in the 2000s following the 2005 assassination of former
Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the so-called Cedar Revolution of the same
year, which led to the departure of Syrian troops, a rise in sectarianism,
and more apparent interference by external powers. Lebanon represents
a near-perfect security dilemma in which parties of roughly equal size
warily observe each other and must calculate whether the others’ moves
are pacific or threatening.
In very broad-brush terms, Lebanon’s main political actors (some of
whom retain militias) are aligned around two groupings. The 14 March
group is a loose alliance of Sunni, Druze, and Maronite parties who
are generally oriented towards western political interests and have
received strong political and material backing from the United States,
the European Union, and Saudi Arabia. The 8 March group comprises
the two largest Shiite political groupings, Hezbollah and Amal, and is
aligned with Syria and Iran (Knio 2008: 451).
While it would be incorrect to depict Lebanon’s political actors as
mere ciphers of external actors, the extent to which external political
actors have penetrated the state, polity, and economy is remarkable.
This porosity has multiple sources: a location in a very sensitive region
in which both neighbours (Syria and Israel) are chronically insecure, a
history of colonialism, an open economy that relies heavily on financial
services and tourism, a very large diaspora population, and the presence
of large number of refugees (mainly Palestinian and Iraqi). Two further
sources of porosity are crucial, though. Firstly, the Lebanese state has
been unwilling and unable to fully assert its sovereignty over Lebanese
territory and governance. This has allowed external actors to play an

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Hybrid Governance: Lebanon 169

enlarged role. One frustrated interviewee in the civil service spoke of

INGOs arriving in Beirut airport and immediately driving south to
engage in reconstruction following the 2006 Hezbollah–Israeli war
without registering with the Lebanese authorities. In many ways the
government has abdicated its responsibilities or non-state actors have
felt emboldened to adopt roles normally associated with the state. It is
perhaps telling that Lebanon’s armed forces played virtually no role in
the 2006 Hezbollah–Israeli war, despite the scale of the Israeli incursion
and Israel’s attacks on infrastructure and the civilian population. In
part this was because of a realpolitik self-preservation assessment that
its armed forces stood no chance against Israel’s hi-tech US-backed mili-
tary. But it also reflected a sense of selective responsibility: Hezbollah
got itself into this mess and it could get itself out of it.
The second additional factor explaining the extraordinary perme-
ability of Lebanon is that virtually all political actors in Lebanon
have actively sought external patrons. For client states, Lebanon
has been part of a regional power play. A series of Middle Eastern
and international conflicts have spilled into Lebanon: Palestinians
versus Israel, Sunni versus Shiite, an orientation towards the west
versus an orientation towards Syria and Iran, an antipathy towards
Israel versus support or willingness to make peace with it, and rivalry
between Qatar and Saudi Arabia to see who could become the pre-
eminent dealmaker in the region. Reconstruction efforts after the
2006 Israeli–Hezbollah war became, to a certain extent, a proxy con-
flict between various external parties who sought to extend their
influence in Lebanon (Mac Ginty 2007). Iran and Saudi Arabia each
ploughed approximately $1bn into the reconstruction efforts in an
attempt to demonstrate their loyalty to particular factions within
Lebanon (Hamieh and Mac Ginty 2009). The porosity of Lebanon
and the inability and unwillingness of the state to assert its sover-
eignty are important given our interest in governance interventions.
Many within the state apparatus welcomed the external governance
interventions, but even if the state had opposed them it was in a poor
position to put this opposition into practice.
The final contextual factor worth highlighting is Lebanon’s vibrant
associational culture. In addition to the presence of many INGOs and
bilateral donors who have reacted to Lebanon’s reconstruction, recon-
ciliation, and development needs, Lebanon hosts many indigenous
civil society organisations. Predominantly, these organisations are
confessional and serve the needs of individual communities or locali-
ties in which particular confessional groups dominate. The tendency

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170 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

of civil society to reflect divisions in a deeply divided society is fur-

ther discussed in Chapter 8. As with other deeply divided societies, it
is prudent to adopt a generous interpretation of civil society in rela-
tion to Lebanon, even if this interpretation departs from the image of a
liberal and plural civil society championed by many in western states.
Yet it would be injudicious to view Lebanon’s third sector merely as
an extension of the confessional fissures that dominate the state. For
example, the main client base for the highly professional Imam Al Sadr
Foundation is Shiite, in keeping with the demographics of southern
Lebanon, where it primarily operates. But many non-Shiites have also
benefited from the Foundation’s educational and health-care services
(author observations 2006).
The preference of many Lebanese to contribute to, or benefit from, in-
group associations should not be taken as a blunt indicator of bigotry.
Instead, it is often more convenient, secure, and culturally appropriate
to inhabit a single community civic space. Importantly, though, many
inhabitants (both citizens and the very large number of Palestinian
and latterly Iraqi refugees) have been forced to rely on civil associa-
tions because of the inability or unwillingness of the state to provide
social services. State capacities have been severely limited by the civil
war, Israeli occupation, and Israeli incursions and attacks. For exam-
ple, Israel has a long history of destroying Lebanon’s electricity infra-
structure, thus forcing the Lebanese state to devote resources that could
otherwise be directed to social provision to emergency infrastructural
renewal programmes. Kingston (2002: 1) notes how the absence of
an effective state compelled many Lebanese to establish alternatives
sources of social provision: ‘Hence a wider and more interactive notion
of governance is inherent in the Lebanese context.’
The confessional nature of the polity has meant bias in the provi-
sion of public goods and services. Clientelism, which operates along
confessional and kinship lines, is embedded in the political culture,
with the result that public goods are often offered or withheld accord-
ing to religious identity (Hamieh 2007; Peleikis 2001). A final factor
that has limited state provision has been a widely shared post-civil
war consensus in favour of a small state. Lebanon has little tradition
of full public services provision, with the result that many citizens
have become acculturated to either relying on their own resources or
looking to non-state sources for their basic needs. Interestingly, and
despite its own programmes of social provision, Hezbollah is ideologi-
cally committed to a small state, a trait that it shares with many other
political actors in Lebanon.

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Governance interventions in Lebanon

Incremental growth of western governance interventions

The Ta’if Accord in 1989 and the end of the civil war in 1990 did not
herald a rush of governance interventions by western states as part of
wider statebuilding interventions. The liberal peace came only gradu-
ally to Lebanon, and not in the form of the ‘liberal peace-max’ coer-
cive statebuilding interventions experienced by Afghanistan, Bosnia,
or Iraq. Syria, rather than the United Nations or the United States and
its allies, was the main post-civil war external actor in Lebanon. Syrian
troops and intelligence agents maintained a visible presence in Lebanon
and acted as a stabilising force in the initial post-civil war years (Byman
1997: 6; Zahar 2002, 2005). ‘Pax Syriana’ limited the access of other
states and institutions to the levers of power in Lebanon.
Yet in the years following the end of the civil war a number of fac-
tors increased the desire of, and opportunity for, western governance
agents to further their involvement in Lebanon. Firstly, ‘good govern-
ance’ ascended the issue agenda of leading states and international
financial institutions during the 1990s and early 2000s. The champions
of the liberal peace became convinced of the potential of governance
interventions to address the poverty–underdevelopment–corruption–
conflict nexus and so made it an essential part of the intervention
toolkit. Secondly, international organisations – and particularly the
European Union – developed greater interests and capacities in promot-
ing governance reforms in other states. For example, the EU, as part of
its increased attempts to establish foreign policy coherence, developed a
Neighbourhood Policy to help promote stability on its borders. Thirdly,
the February 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri
ignited renewed western interest in Lebanon. It was as though western
states suddenly realised that Lebanon was in danger of being ‘lost’ to
the Syrian or Iranian fold lest remedial action was taken. Much of this
remedial action revolved around bolstering the Sunni-dominated state
and ramping up governance interventions. Related to this was western
concern at Hezbollah’s continuing appeal among Shiites, its refusal to
disarm, and its connections with Iran and Syria in a context dominated
by the War on Terror.
Fourthly, and not unconnected with Hariri’s assassination, public
protests (heavily supported by the US) led to the withdrawal of Syrian
troops in late 2005. This was a substantial change in Lebanon’s political
landscape and allowed further opportunities for western involvement
in Lebanese governance. The so-called Cedar Revolution inflamed

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172 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

sectarian tensions and prompted a prolonged constitutional crisis in

which the government’s ability to legislate was severely limited. By this
stage, an extensive externally driven ‘good governance’ infrastructure
was in place throughout Lebanon’s ministries and municipalities. To
a certain extent, these governance agents were able to act as a default
The final factor that opened the way for the gathering pace of exter-
nally promoted governance interventions was the devastation caused
by the 2006 Israeli–Hezbollah war. In a piece of stunning crassness,
western liberal peace agents exploited Lebanon’s urgent need for
humanitarian and reconstruction assistance by tightening the screw of
governance ‘reforms’.
The picture that emerges is that in the post-civil war decades, western
actors increased their interest in governance interventions in Lebanon
and developed further institutional capacities to promote such inter-
ventions. Governance agents became further embedded into the
Lebanese administrative system. In most cases these were Lebanese citi-
zens employed by the UNDP but implementing a script that had been
written elsewhere.

The continued need for governance reforms

The post-civil war context certainly demanded administrative reforms.
Sectarianism and clientelism persisted despite the Ta’if Accord’s ‘respect
for public liberties, especially freedom of expression and belief, social
justice, and quality of rights and duties of all citizens, without discrimi-
nation or preference’ (Section 1C). The Accord did not fundamentally
change the nature of Lebanese politics, which continued to be organ-
ised according to confessionalism and the concentration of power in
the hands of political dynasties. Makdisi (1996: 26) observed that ‘The
Lebanese state has been resurrected, but as in the pre-war period it is
again paralyzed by elite feuds and the neglect of ordinary citizens.’ The
post-civil war state was characterised by Choucair (2006: 6) as a ‘con-
fessional oligarchy’, and the particularism inherent in confessional-
ism acted as a brake on universalist policies, such as the rights agenda
(Hamzeh 2001: 176). In order to piece together the national consensus
required to end the civil war, various confessional groups had to be
‘bought off’ by the promise of access to power. In blunt terms, it was
‘jobs for the boys’. Militias became political parties and were absorbed
into the powersharing government. As Adwan observed (2004: 16),
‘Institutions were undermined, appropriated, and turned into rent-
seeking fiefdoms.’ The deal-making required to keep the macro-political

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Hybrid Governance: Lebanon 173

consensus alive limited transparency and accountability and fuelled

corruption. Given the confessional fissures in society, the perception
of corruption (that out-groups were unfairly benefiting from public
resources) led to public disaffection with the political system.
The fragile powersharing balance encouraged legislative timidity.
Politicians feared that new legislation would upset the delicate power-
sharing balance, with the result that many did not press for new legis-
lation. Where legislation was introduced, there was no guarantee that
it would be implemented or respected (Kingston 2002: 12). Legislation
and regulations were also skewed to fit the confessional nature of the
polity. For example, the granting of licences to television companies was
decided on political grounds, thus paving the way for Maronite, Sunni,
Shiite, and Druze stations (Kraidy 2007: 148). Policy was formulated in
the absence of accurate baseline data on the requirements of society.
Political delicacies meant that Lebanon had last held a census in 1932,
with the result that government planning was often based on guessti-
mates (Faour 2007: 909). As the post-civil war order became embedded,
so too did corruption and public disquiet at the extent of ‘nepotism,
favoritism, patronage, embezzlement, kick-backs, and vote-buying’
(LTA 2010).

The drivers of governance interventions

The need for governance reform was not in dispute. The interesting part
of the story, from our point of view, is the source of governance reform
and the nature of the reforms introduced. In the wake of the civil war
there was widespread domestic acceptance of the need for administrative
reconstruction. A National Administrative Rehabilitation Programme
(NARP) was set out in 1994 to restore capacity to ministries and public
agencies, and in 1995 the Office of Minister of State for Administrative
Reform (OMSAR) was formed to oversee the short-term rehabilitation
and long-term institutional development of the public sector (Geha
2008: 102). Over time, however, the main drivers for governance reform
became external actors, especially the international financial institu-
tions, the EU, the OECD, the UNDP, and bilateral donors. The IMF and
the World Bank were particularly strident in their interventionism. This
can be evidenced by the language used by Lebanon’s own Ministry of
Finance to describe IMF and World Bank interventions (emphasis added):
‘The World Bank and IMF warned the Government of Lebanon of the
need to take necessary measures toward reform at all levels ... The struc-
tural reforms adopted by the Government of Lebanon were taken on the
demand of Lebanon’s international partners ...’ (Antoun 2007: 122–3).

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174 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

Although the World Bank and the IMF often pulled the levers of gov-
ernance reform in Lebanon, and although the European Commission
was the largest donor to governance programmes, the United Nations
Development Programme was the main implementation agent. The
UNDP also outsourced many of its governance tasks to INGOs and con-
sultants. While many UNDP activities have been geared towards the
particular needs of Lebanon as a post-civil war society (for example,
to ‘organise national dialogue on national reconciliation issues’), its
activities can also be seen in a regional perspective (UNDP 2010). The
Programme on Governance in the Arab Region (POGAR) was inaugu-
rated in 2000 and was ‘dedicated to the promotion and development
of good governance practices in the Arab States’ (UNDP 2008b). It was
complemented by the Sub-Regional Resource Facility for Arab States
(SURF-AS), which aimed to support UNDP Country Offices and maxim-
ise knowledge-sharing across the region. Author interviews in Lebanon
attested that the UNDP in Lebanon was not an autonomous actor, nor
did its actions faithfully reflect the values and wishes of all 192 UN
members. Instead, individual states and certain regional organisations
and donors were at the forefront of driving the UNDP’s governance
agenda. Author interviews stressed that selected EU members (the UK,
France, and Italy in particular) were prominent in promoting the gov-
ernance agenda. Needless to say, UN members such as Burma, Saudi
Arabia, and Turkmenistan were not promoting the UNDP’s governance
agenda, particularly in relation to democratic governance. In effect, a
universal body was appropriated by a few.
The European Commission and the UNDP have had a strategic part-
nership on democratic governance since 2004. Mirroring the UNDP’s
regional approach, the European Union has engaged with Lebanon on
a regional basis, first through its European–Mediterranean Partnership
(EMP) and, from 2004, through its European Neighbourhood Policy
(ENP), which offers ‘neighbours a privileged relationship, building
upon a mutual commitment to common values (democracy and human
rights, rule of law, good governance, market economy principles and
sustainable development)’ (EC 2010; Gänzle 2008).
Although many of these governance interventions are termed ‘bilat-
eral projects’, there can be little doubt that the essential dynamic is one
way – the transfer of western practices into the target state. The 2003
EU Communication ‘Reinvigorating EU Actions on Human Rights and
Democratisation with Mediterranean Partners’ led to a series of bilat-
eral projects: training and technical assistance for the judicial system,
the strengthening of civil society, human rights micro-projects, and

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Hybrid Governance: Lebanon 175

activities to protect the rights of migrant workers (EC 2004). EU policy

is set out in the EU-Lebanon Action Plan. Although it dates from January
2007, the Plan does not mention the July 2006 Israel–Hezbollah war or
the resultant reconstruction needs. This is remarkable given the scale of
destruction and dislocation caused by the war: over 1,000 dead and over
$6bn in damage (Mac Ginty 2007). The Plan focused on the EU’s strate-
gic ambitions and amounted to an incredible level of intrusion into the
affairs of a sovereign state. It also made clear that governance interven-
tions were about ‘normalising’ the Lebanese state to standards deemed
appropriate by the EU. The Plan aimed towards ‘the approximation of
Lebanon’s legislation, norms and standards to those of the European
Union ... [to] build solid foundations for further economic integration’
(EU 2007: 2). The Plan also noted that ‘Special emphasis must be put on
control, accountability and transparency to achieve “good governance”.
This requires an update of legislation; especially with regard to redefin-
ing the missions and responsibilities of the Ministries and public agen-
cies and consequently restructuring these organisations and mobilising
competent and motivated human resources’ (EU 2007: 2).
Lebanon’s indebtedness gave external creditors leverage with which
to promote the governance agenda. In 2006 the state’s debt-to-GDP ratio
was 180 per cent, dropping to 148 per cent in 2009 (Moussaoui 2010).
Two international conferences (known as Paris I in 2001 and Paris II in
2002) allowed Lebanon to seek reconstruction assistance and to restruc-
ture its public debt. But such assistance came at the price of an ongoing
governance reform programme. Citing Lebanon’s failure to adhere to
previous IMF reform plans, the US and UK refused to participate in Paris
II, leaving France and the Gulf States to take the lead role (Owen 2003).
Supported by the World Bank and the European Investment Bank, the
reform process was in keeping with neo-liberal interventions in other
developing and post-conflict societies and included modernisation of
the taxation system, removing barriers to trade and investment, intro-
ducing financial instruments to minimise inflation, and restructuring
the public sector. By 2004, however, it was becoming clear that Lebanon
was having difficulty in meeting its Paris II targets (Daily Star 2004).
The impetus to move the reform agenda to another level came from
the July 2006 war, which presented international actors with renewed
opportunities to press ahead with their governance agenda. While
the August 2006 Stockholm Conference on Lebanon’s Early Recovery
raised almost $900m in reconstruction pledges, much of it in the form
of grants, the January 2007 Paris III conference exploited Lebanon’s
predicament (Ministry of Finance 2006). The Paris III conference raised

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176 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

significant sums ($7.6bn), but these were tied tightly to the reform
process (Ministry of Finance 2007). Author interviews with Lebanese
civil servants reported that much of the emphasis in Paris III was on
ensuring accountability and transparency in relation to reconstruc-
tion donations. A number of oversight committees were established to
track financial flows and progress on the reform agenda. Remarks by
World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz underscored the extent to which
Lebanon’s misfortune was an opportunity for proponents of the liberal
peace. He lectured Paris III attendees that ‘Lebanon’s needs go beyond
reconstruction’ and that the World Bank was prepared ‘to continue
and intensify our efforts in assisting the Government to implement
its programs, to build institutional capacity, to improve procurement
and financial management to undertake sector reforms’ (Wolfowitz
2007). The Lebanese government presented delegates with a detailed
plan in which it emphasised its commitment to the reform process. The
reform agenda was sold as the fuel that would help ‘stimulate growth,
create employment, reduce poverty, and maintain social and political
stability’ (Government of Lebanon 2007).
In May 2007, the IMF approved approximately $76m in Emergency
Post-Conflict Assistance to Lebanon. Yet, on closer examination, these
funds had very little to do with Lebanon’s emergency needs (the emer-
gency phase of Lebanon’s July 2006 war had long passed anyway). The
IMF funds were ‘to protect financial stability, contain the budget def-
icit, and to initiate structural reforms that are crucial to the success
of the authorities’ medium-term reform program for 2007–2011’ (IMF
2007). This was governance programming dressed up as emergency
aid. In interviews with the author, senior civil servants made clear that
overseas governments and the international financial institutions used
the fallout from the July 2006 war to press home the urgency of the
reform agenda. Moreover, Lebanon’s 2006–2008 constitutional stand-
off boosted the ability of external governance agents to further their
cause. UNDP staff were embedded across government ministries, and so
they were able to continue with their agenda amid the political paraly-
sis. Capacity in ministries and municipalities was often low, allowing
a small number of UNDP personnel to make a significant difference.
This was particularly the case in those southern municipalities that had
been occupied by Israel until 2000.
Three points are worth making by way of conclusion to this summary
of post-civil war governance interventions in Lebanon. Firstly, the gov-
ernance interventions were extremely political in nature. They went far
beyond technocratic reforms concerned with administrative efficiency.

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Hybrid Governance: Lebanon 177

While all governance issues are political to some extent, issues such as
electoral reform, improving the quality of criminal investigations, and
inter-communal dialogue – which featured prominently in governance
interventions by international organisations – were all extremely politi-
cal issues. The political nature of these issues was exacerbated by the
deeply divided nature of Lebanese society. A strong argument can be
made that governance programming amounted to a form of political
engineering that opened up Lebanese political space to external scru-
tiny and attempted to mould this space into a format deemed accept-
able by leading states in the global north.
Secondly, it is clear that the governance agenda was set by external
actors. The EU, the IMF, the World Bank, the OECD, and the UNDP
were the donors of governance advice and resources, while Lebanon
was the recipient. Governance-related documents from international
organisations do not even pay lip-service to the notion that local actors
in Lebanon would have anything to contribute to governance pro-
gramming by way of knowledge, values, or practices. Old-school peda-
gogy runs through these documents; they have a hectoring tone that
makes it clear that Lebanon is deficient and only rapid conformity to
international standards will suffice. In much of the development and
humanitarian sector, literature from international organisations, inter-
national financial institutions, and bilateral donors stresses the utility
of local knowledge and practices. Yet such lip-service to the value of
indigenous and customary practices is notable by its absence from the
policy documents of international organisations on governance reform
in Lebanon.
Thirdly, although governance reforms were conducted in the name of
the Lebanese people, these interventions were conducted largely with-
out consultation. These were top-down interventions. A good exam-
ple comes from the World Bank’s urging that Lebanon’s nationalised
water utility be privatised, that consumers be made to pay for water,
and that the national water service be broken up into several companies
(Catafago 2005: 80–1). There was no public appetite for this change, nor
did the initiative for it come from the Government of Lebanon.

Resistance and alternatives in Lebanon

While external actors were able to amass considerable material and

moral power in service of the good governance reform agenda, it would
be incorrect to depict the governance reform agenda as being the exclu-
sive preserve of external actors. A wide range of Lebanese political and

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178 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

civil society actors were interested in governance reform. Evidence of

government corruption, inefficiency, discrimination, and incapacity
was not difficult to find. Some Lebanese actors were co-opted by exter-
nal actors and willingly enjoined the externally driven governance
reform agenda. Many were compelled to cooperate with the governance
reforms: given the economic leverage held by international actors, the
Lebanese government had little choice but to take on board governance
advice. In some cases, a mix of internal and external forces combined to
improve governance. The Lebanese Transparency Association (LTA), for
example, is the local chapter of the INGO Transparency International.
While it has a local membership and is well represented in Lebanese
civil society, the LTA also cooperates with external organisations such
as Mercy Corps, the UNDP, and the Center for International Private
Enterprise. The organisation’s mission is in tune with those of many
international good governance organisations and programmes, thus
raising questions about the extent to which the LTA’s agenda can be
judged to be Lebanese. In answering such questions it is prudent to
identify the locus of power in the governance agenda: who funds gov-
ernance activities; to what extent do NGOs depend on external fund-
ing; do they have complete autonomy in setting their own agenda or do
they follow international trends?
Hezbollah, the Shiite politico-military organisation, has a long-stand-
ing interest in one aspect of the governance agenda: attacking corrup-
tion. Yet Hezbollah’s opposition to government corruption was largely
independent of the internationally driven good governance agenda.
Liberal peace agents and Hezbollah chose very different methods to
tackle corruption. For the former, corruption could be tackled via good
governance programmes that sought to modify state mechanisms and
tutor state functionaries in ‘modern’ and transparent means of govern-
ance. Liberal peace governance interventions have largely been about
reinforcing the Lebanese state and moulding it in the likeness of a
preferred western model of the Weberian state. Hezbollah also judges
the Lebanese state to be deficient, equating it with many of aspects of
Lebanese society that it would wish to change: corruption, weakness
in the face of Israel, and an over-eager orientation towards the west.
Its approach to the state has been somewhat contradictory. On the one
hand, the organisation has developed a ‘state within a state’ in the
form of its own militant wing, its own communication systems, and an
extensive and sophisticated network of social service provision, mainly
directed towards its Shiite constituency. The organisation reasons that
since state social provision is partial (in both senses of the word) it is

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Hybrid Governance: Lebanon 179

compelled to provide basic services. The extensive nature of Hezbollah’s

parallel state means that, in some areas, citizens have little reason to
have contact with the official state.
On the other hand, Hezbollah has not attempted to overthrow the
state: it accepts the multicultural nature of Lebanon and realises that
Lebanon would provide infertile ground for an Islamic revolution
(Shanahan 2005: 5). Indeed, the organisation has been contesting par-
liamentary elections since 1992, has controlled municipalities, and
has participated in powersharing governments – even holding minis-
tries. Its wide Shiite constituency contains many aspirational middle
class Shiites who have a strong interest in political and economic sta-
bility (Norton 2009a: 35). Knio (2008: 451) postulates that Hezbollah
has been forced to engage more closely within the Lebanese political
system to protect its interests following the Syrian withdrawal and
increased international intrusion in southern Lebanon under the 2006
UN Resolution 1701. Hezbollah thus treads a fine line between being a
responsible political party with a role in government, on the one hand,
and being a politico-military organisation on the other.
The organisation has worked hard to exploit the corruption issue.
Its very existence and continuing popularity are a symbol of the defi-
ciencies of the state and rival political groups (Salamey and Pearson
2007). Its growth in popularity among the Shiite population was ini-
tially fuelled by frustration with the Amal movement, who were seen as
venal, corporeal, and ineffective (Norton 2000b: 24). It has contrasted
its own efficient social services with those of the state. This was par-
ticularly the case during reconstruction following the 2006 war, when
state reconstruction efforts were seen to be slow, overly bureaucratic,
and prone to corruption (Mac Ginty and Hamieh 2010a). In contrast,
Hezbollah made a show of the speed and efficiency of its reconstruction
programme, which included substantial and almost immediate cash
handouts to households whose homes had been damaged or destroyed.
In multiple interviews with the author, personnel from INGOs, NGOs,
and the Lebanese bureaucracy attested that Hezbollah’s approach to
reconstruction (based on local knowledge, prior planning, and expe-
rienced personnel) was superior to that shown by the state and many
international organisations (Mac Ginty and Hamieh 2010a).
Within the political system, Hezbollah has stressed the importance
of addressing corruption. Shanahan (2005: 4) observed that Hezbollah
members ‘are meticulous about maintaining a public reputation for
financial probity and an active opposition within government’. Norton
(2000b: 32) noted that ‘Hizballahi deputies have earned a reputation for

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180 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

acumen and flexibility. They have also sustained a singular reputation

for integrity.’

Concluding discussion

This chapter has outlined the centrality of ‘good governance’ pro-

grammes as part of wider liberal peace statebuilding interventions. It
argues that governance programming has the potential to institute
very substantial change within a society, changing the nature of politi-
cal, social, and economic relationships to the extent that society itself
changes. Although the changes are often subtle and incremental, and
dressed in soft-soap language, governance interventions are no less
potent than more explicitly coercive forms of liberal peace. Against
this critical view of governance is its potential to further social progress
by making governments more efficient in the services they deliver to
The example of governance programming in post-civil war Lebanon
is revealing in at least four respects. Firstly, governance interventions are
conducted on an extensive scale (and have been ongoing for over two
decades). UNDP officials are embedded in the Prime Minister’s Office,
Parliament, and most ministries and municipalities (UNDP 2010). And
behind this tier lies a raft of international organisations and bilateral
donor states that have been active in driving the governance agenda.
Secondly, the remit of governance programming has moved far beyond
the administrative rehabilitation and efficiency demanded in the wake
of the civil war. Instead, ‘democratic governance’ has extended into
political aspects of society. Much of the governance agenda takes a
stand on issues that are contentious in Lebanon, and so it is possible
to build a picture of much of the governance agenda contributing to a
political agenda that will – in the long term – favour pro-western politi-
cal actors at the expense of Hezbollah and its allies.
Thirdly, the governance agenda is largely a creature of specific ele-
ments of the international community (namely the United States,
selected European states, and the international financial institutions).
Although many Lebanese have an interest in better governance (see,
for example, the Lebanese Transparency Association), and although
many Lebanese citizens have been co-opted as good governance agents
through the UNDP and other employers, the impetus and nature of
the governance reforms are primarily external. While Gulf and Arab
states were the most significant donors to the post-2006 reconstruction,
they paid little attention to governance issues (Mac Ginty and Hamieh

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Hybrid Governance: Lebanon 181

2010b). Finally and crucially, despite the intensity, breadth, and longev-
ity of governance interventions it has to be said that they have not suc-
ceeded in fundamentally altering the confessional basis of society and
politics. Lebanon remains a sectarian society. Indeed, there is strong
evidence that sectarianism increased in the post-2005 period.
It is possible to apply the four-part model of liberal peace hybridisa-
tion to the case of post-civil war governance programming in Lebanon.
Two parts of the model, liberal peace coercion and incentives, are vis-
ible in the ministrations of international good governance agents.
International seed money was available for governance projects, but
liberal peace actors were willing to deploy coercion in the form of
conditionality, or the withholding of financial assistance until certain
conditions were met by Lebanon. The power relations with regard to
governance (one-way traffic from the global north to Lebanon) can be
interpreted as a form of coercion. The pushing through of further gov-
ernance reforms under the guise of ‘reconstruction’ in the aftermath of
the 2006 war was a form of coercive exploitation. But it is also possible
to observe the other two elements of the hybridisation model at work in
Lebanon: the ability of indigenous actors to resist and subvert the lib-
eral peace, and the ability of indigenous actors to present alternatives to
the liberal peace. Hezbollah can be seen as both a resistor to the liberal
peace and a provider of an alternative. Clearly this statement demands
multiple caveats: Hezbollah’s alternative was limited and was very dif-
ferent from notions of civic pluralism that western liberals would sub-
scribe to. Moreover, given Hezbollah’s links with Iran, it is possible to
question the extent to which the organisation can be deemed ‘indig-
enous’. Nevertheless, Hezbollah’s sustained and demonstrable interest
in governance integrity serves as a reminder that liberal peace agents
do not have a monopoly on issues associated with the good governance
A hybridisation of the Lebanese context is visible through the extent
to which political actors with very different worldviews have been
forced to accept each other’s existence. The author remembers visiting a
Hezbollah-controlled municipal office in southern Lebanon where the
antechamber outside the mayor’s office was crammed with petition-
ers who wanted the mayor’s attention. Among the local people, and
patiently waiting his place in the queue, was an Australian military
officer working with the UN. The mayor was the most important gate-
keeper in the area, and the military officer was seeking his approval
before proceeding with his mission. Liberal peace agents have been
unable to wish Hezbollah away, and have been forced to accept their

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182 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

popularity with some sections of the Lebanese population. At the same

time, Hezbollah’s linkages with the Lebanese state have developed. It
held two seats in the Sunni-led powersharing cabinet that lasted from
2009 to 2011. Remarkably, these included the administrative reform
portfolio. Hezbollah, an organisation regarded as ‘terrorist’ by many,
including the United States, administered parts of the liberal peace
agenda via internationally funded governance schemes whose over-
riding rationale was steering an ‘aberrant’ or ‘deficient’ state towards
‘normality’. So a complex picture of distortion and interaction emerges.
Actors are unable to steer a unilateral course. Instead, their positions
and policies are implicitly and explicitly established in relation to the
positions and policies of other actors.
The next chapter examines the last of the pillars of liberal peace
interventions: civil society. It uses the case study of Northern Ireland to
examine how the concept of civil society was stretched by internal and
external actors. The peculiar circumstances of the peace process meant
that various actors were able to tolerate (indeed, encourage) uncivil
aspects of civil society. As the chapter covers a context within the ter-
ritory of one of the principal promoters of the liberal peace (the United
Kingdom) it is able to raise questions about the differences between the
liberal peace ‘at home’ and abroad.

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Hybrid Civil Society: Northern

There is no finer man in the British Empire than the Ulster

Protestant, but there is no more persistent tyrant than the
Orange Lodge.
C. J. O’Donnell (1932: 16)

How can one tell, from one minute to another, what is going
to happen in an area like that? If war did break out it would
probably be a war of extinction. We have the Nationalists
sandwiched between our forces, and they only have a few old
guns to rely upon. They could not possibly have a chance. Our
men are well-armed, and guns and ammunition are constantly
being ‘run’ into Ulster. We have the province in the hollow of
our hand, and our Volunteers would mobilise in a few hours,
if called upon.
The Earl of Clanwilliam, February 1914
(cited in Johnson 1918: 27–8)


Prominent among the pillars of liberal peace interventions is civil soci-

ety. Proponents of the liberal peace believe that if properly constituted,
civil society can assist in the creation of a sustainable peace environ-
ment. As a result, enormous international peace assistance resources
have been invested into civil society capacity-building over the past two
decades. Civil society, it is believed, can act as a bulwark against nation-
alist governments, deliver peacebuilding services more efficiently than
international actors or the state, and help with conflict transformation
and democratisation projects. Civil society is congruent with the liberal
and neo-liberal agenda in that it offers routes for greater participation


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184 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

in the polity, and makes clear that the state must face competition from
other actors. This chapter presents a critical examination of civil soci-
ety capacity-building efforts. In keeping with the overall themes of the
book – hybridity and the liberal peace – it is interested in the processes
whereby civil society dynamics, actors, and institutions come to reflect
the complexity of peace implementation contexts. These contexts are
hybridised, with actors rarely able to implement their policy aims uni-
laterally. Instead, they are compelled to compromise and take account
of other actors.
The chapter begins with a conceptualisation of civil society, followed
by a critical overview of the role of civil society in internationally
supported peace interventions. The case study for this chapter is the
Northern Ireland peace process that began in the mid-1990s. Specifically,
the chapter examines the Orange Order, a politico-religious organisa-
tion that holds distinctly illiberal views on some issues, but an organi-
sation that has also become an established part of Northern Ireland’s
civil society landscape. It illustrates the extent to which the expediency
required to keep alive a fragile peace process necessitated the distortion
of the concept and practice of civil society. The Orange Order received
material support and political protection from the British and Irish gov-
ernments (the guarantors of the peace process), while holding views
that were patently sectarian and non-liberal. Yet, in the context of a
deeply divided society, these views were more acceptable than those
held by more extreme actors. Moreover, the Orange Order did embark
on a process of transformation during the peace process by attempting
to re-brand some of its activities, and becoming more open through a
series of engagements with actors it traditionally framed as its political
opponents. This transformation (and the extent and genuineness of the
transformation are open to debate) was largely a product of the liberal
peacebuilding environment created by the British and Irish govern-
ments, the European Union, and others.
The case study of civil society in Northern Ireland illustrates the proc-
ess of hybridisation at work in liberal peacebuilding contexts. Liberal
peace actors, in the form of the British and Irish governments, were able
to deploy their incentivising and coercive powers to shape the environ-
ment in which civil society operated. At the same time, local civil soci-
ety actors – including the Orange Order – were able to resist, subvert,
and exploit elements of the liberal peace agenda. What emerges from
the case study is that the peace process was an enterprise in transforma-
tive collective cognition. The circumstances of the peace process meant
that actors retreated from previously held positions, engaged with other

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Hybrid Civil Society: Northern Ireland 185

actors, and employed a new (sometimes shared) discourse. The emer-

gence of shared perspectives, goals, and language amounted to a proc-
ess of hybridisation and the distortion of previously held views and
identities. The extent of this distortion becomes clear through the case
study, in that a sectarian organisation (the Orange Order) was accepted
by the British and Irish governments, and many others, as a legitimate
member of civil society in a deeply divided society. This marks a sig-
nificant retreat from notions of civil society as a bastion of pluralism
and tolerance, and has implications for the type of liberal peace being
pursued. Indeed, the case of Northern Ireland is made more interesting
by its location in the global north, and specifically within the consti-
tutional ambit of the United Kingdom. Given that the UK is a leading
exporter of the liberal peace, its tolerance and facilitation of non-lib-
eral actors in the peace process raise questions about its legitimacy in
promoting different, ‘purer’, versions of the liberal peace abroad (Mac
Ginty 2009: 690–708).

Civil society

Despite the protestations of some academics seeking to construct straw

men, there is significant consensus on the meaning of civil society –
especially within the study of peace and conflict. Tar’s (2009: 5) defini-
tion is a good one: ‘the participatory space between the formal apparatus
of the state and informal settings of families and atomised individuals,
whereby groups emerge to forge associational ties, articulate interests
and participate in public affairs’. Most definitional differences relate to
the extent of civil society in terms of its actors and activities. Minimalist
definitions of civil society relate to a narrow range of pluralist non-state
actors (principally NGOs), often at work in discrete programmes such
as democratisation or women’s empowerment. More expansive defini-
tions cover a wider range of actors, including those that may not seem
particularly inclusive, as well as activities well beyond internationally
supported projects and programmes. For two reasons, this book adopts
an expansive definition of civil society. Firstly, a narrow NGO-centric
view of civil society tends to overlook indigenous and pre-existing civil
societies found in all societies prior to violent conflict and international
peace-support interventions. Such a civil society may be severely dis-
torted by colonialism, war, globalisation, urbanisation, and interna-
tional peacebuilding, but it is likely at least to have echoes that survive
independently of modern donor-driven NGOs. To reduce civil society
to the narrow category of NGOs is to risk overlooking social, political,

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186 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

economic, and cultural strata that are not formally organised into
groups that look like western-style NGOs.
A second reason for adopting a more expansive definition of civil
society is to take account of the nature of deeply divided societies. It is
reasonable to assume that civil society will reflect elements of the soci-
ety from which it emerges, or is encouraged to emerge from. This reflec-
tion is not a precise mirror effect through which each sector of society
is proportionately represented in civil society. Instead, social entrepre-
neurs will make efforts to ensure that their causes gain prominence.
Thus, in deeply divided societies, civil society will not only reflect the
wider divisions in society; it is likely to amplify those stances and issues
that social entrepreneurs bring to the fore. The inclusion of particular-
istic elements and attitudes in our understanding of civil society neces-
sitates a move away from the axiomatic equivalence of civil society with
civic virtue (Tar 2009: 18). All associational space is, to some extent,
political, and in deeply divided societies it is to be expected that activ-
ists will seek to exploit this space. Given our interest in liberal peace
interventions, it is useful to note the extent to which much construc-
tion and reconstruction of civil society is depoliticising and attempts
to recast civil society as an anaemic service provider rather than as a
political actor that may be radical or critical.
Participation in intra-group activities in a deeply divided society does
not necessarily denote intolerance. As Varshney (2002: 43) observes,
‘Taking pride in one’s ethnic group and working for the group does not,
ipso facto, make one “uncivil”.’ Reasons of convenience, shared culture,
and physical security often mean that the in-group is the default space
for cultural expression. As we will see in relation to the Orange Order,
there is a danger of conceptualising all activities that are not expressly
cross-communal in deeply divided societies as somehow backward and
unhelpful. The past may be too readily portrayed in negative terms.
‘Tradition is considered intolerant and incorrigible beyond redemption.
And modernity is assumed to promise and deliver such a great deal’
(Varshney 2002: 42). While the Orange Order does indeed promote and
celebrate sectarianism, not all its activities or members deserve the label
Importantly, civil society should not just be seen as the sum of organ-
isations (for example, faith-based groups, professional associations, and
NGOs) and their activities (for example, campaigns to extend gender
rights). It also needs to be conceived of as a space and environment in
which individuals and groups feel free to operate. In deeply divided
societies the extent of this space will depend on the security situation

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Hybrid Civil Society: Northern Ireland 187

and expected reactions to certain types of behaviour. For example,

individuals and groups will be able to predict with reasonable accuracy
how other groups, the state, or international actors will react to par-
ticular civil society actions such as a march or a conference on a sensi-
tive topic. All societies, including those unaffected by violent conflict,
contain a series of explicit and implicit boundaries of acceptable and
unacceptable forms of civil society and civil society expression. For the
purposes of this chapter, it is interesting to assess the extent to which
the expediency required by the Northern Ireland peace process neces-
sitated the distortion of the boundaries of civil society and behaviour
deemed to be acceptable or unacceptable.
Also key to conceptualising civil society is the need to understand
it at the micro-communal level. This invites us to look beyond the
civil society comprising NGOs headquartered in capital cities, some of
which may be proxies for INGOs that operate from a handful of cities
in the global north. In many instances, it also invites us to look beyond
formally constituted organisations. Everyday associations take the form
of multiple prosaic actions and stances that form the life blood of com-
munities. Thus they might be the reciprocal lending and borrowing of
tools or labour at harvest times, attendance at funerals, or helping out at
a school function. This sort of everyday civic engagement may or may
not be cross-communal. The extent of this engagement is likely to vary
at the micro-level depending on geography, seasons and the weather,
demographics, the presence or absence of charismatic social entrepre-
neurs, or tradition. In contexts of ethnic division, cross- communal eve-
ryday civic engagement is incredibly important in retarding conflict.
Crucially, many such engagements do not deliberately set out to build
or make peace. Their primary purpose is a shared goal (for example, col-
lecting money for a non-contentious charity or enjoying a shared cul-
tural interest). In cases such as these, pacific relations are a by-product
and are not artificially induced through deliberately peace-oriented
programmes and projects.
Many of these everyday civic engagements occur ‘under the radar’.
Given that they are local, usually indigenous, often rural, and embed-
ded within the socio-cultural milieu, they may be difficult for outsiders
(INGOs or representatives of bilateral donors) to identify. The local-level
variations in the extent of everyday civic engagement may also stand
in contrast to the tendency among many outside observers to observe a
conflict as being national in character (Varshney 2002: 39). For exam-
ple, to refer to ‘division in Sri Lanka’ is to overlook the series of micro-
socio-cultural systems that make up the whole. Moreover, terms such

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188 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

as ‘civic’, ‘local’, or ‘communities’, while an attractive shorthand, can

hide the significant stratification that exists within and between groups
(Addison 2003: 265).

Civil society and the liberal peace

Internationally supported liberal peacebuilding interventions display
a number of staples, or policy provisions that are found in every peace
intervention. The precise weighting placed on each of these staples var-
ies from context to context, but in general terms liberal peace inter-
ventions can be relied upon to promote security, stable states, ‘good
governance’, free markets, and civil society. Civic associational ties
are seen as both a means and an end. They are a means for delivering
many of the aims of the liberal peace agenda: democratisation, media
freedom, changing attitudes to the free market, or safeguards against
autocratic or exclusive states. Civil society is also an end in terms of a
sustainable democratic polity that facilitates the withdrawal of interna-
tional actors.
The emphasis and expectation placed on civil society by liberal peace
promoters are startling. Civil society was, and is, regarded as an extremely
versatile, multi-tasking, cure-all remedy. Fagan (2006: 100) notes, in
relation to Bosnia, that there was an ‘assumption that a vibrant sector
of local advocacy networks can entrench democratic values, heal the
wounds of ethnic conflict, facilitate economic growth, bringing an end
to the international administration of Bosnia. In other words, a devel-
oped civil society will be the hallmark of successful state-building.’ The
list of tasks devolved to civil society, particularly local civil society, is
daunting. Paffenholz (2009: 5) identifies seven peacebuilding functions
for civil society: protecting civilians, monitoring human rights viola-
tions and peace accord implementation, advocacy, socialisation to val-
ues of peace and democracy, inter-group social cohesion, facilitation of
dialogue, and service delivery to create entry points for peacebuilding.
Prendergast and Plumb’s (2002: 334) list of peacebuilding tasks for civil
society organisations includes addressing trauma, organising problem-
solving workshops, training for conflict management, creating peace
media, assembling peace committees, resurrecting indigenous mecha-
nisms for conflict management, encouraging collaborative community
activities, and supporting democratisation and human rights. Although
the list of criticisms of civil society in peacebuilding contexts is equally
extensive and will be discussed below, it is important to recognise the
progressive, and often very brave, role that civil society has played in
numerous contexts. Civil society actors have forced difficult issues onto

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Hybrid Civil Society: Northern Ireland 189

government and international agendas, have disseminated informa-

tion that governments and companies would prefer to be hidden, have
limited abuses by states and their placemen, and have promoted and
protected rights. Thus, in relation to Northern Ireland, it was often civil
society organisations that sought – with varying degrees of success – to
hold state and non-state militant groups to account, and urged govern-
ment to avoid extra-legal routes.
The broad lists of responsibilities for civil society denote a recogni-
tion of the advantages of civil society actors, such as their knowledge
of the local environment or their lower costs compared with inter-
national actors. Yet in some cases the emphasis on civil society also
reflects a certain desperation on the part of liberal peace promoters.
In Bosnia and Afghanistan this desperation stemmed from frustration
that formal political actors, such as political parties or local govern-
ments, were not as malleable as had been hoped. Civil society was
regarded as a way of influencing the wider polity when the formal pol-
ity was regarded as uncooperative, too slow to introduce reforms, too
corrupt, or too wedded to nationalist agendas. In the minds of many
liberal internationalists, civil society could be a proxy government in
situations where the government was deficient. In some situations, it
could be used as a way of by-passing hostile or unconvinced public
opinion. Rather than go to the expense and effort of persuading the
entire population, in some cases selected civil society members have
been targeted as cheerleaders for the reforms advocated by interna-
tional actors.
Civil society attained such an elevated position in the minds of many
liberal internationalists because of its role in eastern and central Europe
at the end of the Cold War, and in Latin and Central America during
transitions away from authoritarianism (Belloni 2009: 184). This grow-
ing prominence was reinforced by the increased importance awarded
to individual rights in peacebuilding discourse as the 1990s progressed
(Prins 2002: 241). The rise of NGOs and other expressions of civil society
were also in tune with neo-liberal desires to take power away from ‘old
statist institutions’ (Chandler 2004a: 4). There was almost a sense in the
1990s that liberal internationalists had ‘discovered’ or ‘invented’ civil
society, and there was a fevered celebration of the merits of the third
sector, followed by a rush to engineer the ‘right type’ of civil society.
Herein lay a problem. Many liberal internationalists assumed that the
societies in which they were intervening lacked civil society (Goodhand
and Sedra 2010: 79; Moore 2009: 124–5; Tar 2009: 1). This starting
point – that the host society was deficient in something – is revealing

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190 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

of the assumptions that underpinned many liberal peace interven-

tions. Civil society had to be built or have its capacity enhanced. Perera
(2001: 383) noted in relation to Sri Lanka that ‘Concepts and practices
of equity, social integration, political participation, and cultural devel-
opment are not new to Sri Lanka ... What is new is that major economic
development institutions are now thinking along the same lines.’ But in
the rush to create and perfect civil society, pre-existing civil society was
often overlooked. Fagan (2006: 102) observed a pattern whereby the
new internationally sponsored civil society smothered existing civic
associations in the former Yugoslavia:

There is an implicit assumption that any existing civil society leg-

acy, from the communist and pre-war periods, could only have a
limited and perhaps restrictive impact on the necessary reform of
political, social and economic relations. Rather than attempt to res-
urrect social networks of the past, the international civil society pro-
grammes have attempted to begin anew with strata of professional,
policy-orientated advocacy NGOs.

Sending (2009: 7) observed the tendency for new peacebuilding NGOs

to ‘flatten diversity’. He noted that ‘The drive for standardization is,
after all, a ubiquitous feature of modern organisations.’
Despite decades of civil society capacity-building in numerous devel-
opment and post-war contexts, there is significant scepticism about the
ability of this sector to effect meaningful peace. Chapman (2009: 157)
asks, ‘what evidence do we have that vibrant civic life makes societies
more peaceful?’ Given that ‘the linkage between civic membership and
attitudes is complex and far from direct’, he is sceptical of attempts
to engineer the perfect civil society and thus the perfect polity and
society. McGregor (2008: 107) notes that ‘there is little evidence in
Southeast Asia that active civil societies lead to more equitable distribu-
tions of wealth and resources ... In the Philippines, for example, a well-
established civil society has not prevented the country becoming one
of the most economically unequal in the region.’ In a chicken-and-egg-
style conundrum, civil society requires a certain level of civility and
security in order to take root. In many cases this security can be fragile.
Bosnia had a significant peace movement, but this was powerless when
Serbs began to shoot peace demonstrators (Kaldor 1999: 122; Glenny
1996: 46–9). Similarly, the presence of hundreds of NGOs in Rwanda,
many of them enjoying international support, failed to prevent the
1994 genocide (Belloni 2009: 206).

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Hybrid Civil Society: Northern Ireland 191

Before proceeding to the Northern Ireland case study, it is worth sum-

marising the criticisms frequently levelled at internationally supported
civil society in societies undergoing peacebuilding interventions. A pri-
mary criticism is that civil society is made in a western liberal image and
too readily overlooks pre-existing local associations and practices (Tar
2009: 18). As a result, the newly engineered civil society may not ade-
quately reflect the society it claims to represent. The new sector may be
overwhelmingly urban and professional in a society that is largely rural
and engaged in agriculture. Indeed, it may siphon off the metropolitan
intellectual elite, denying the permanent bureaucracy an important
source of personnel (Fagan 2006: 103). The newly created civil society
may be very resource hungry, becoming unsustainable and dependent
on international handouts (Hudock 1999: 37; Verkoren 2005: 301). Such
a civil society may take the form of a narrow veneer of NGOs that do
not adequately reflect the breadth and depth of associational behaviour
in the society (Hudock 1999: 111). According to some estimates, the
societal dislocation caused by war and authoritarianism may mean that
it takes two or three generations for civil society to become embed-
ded (Korbonski 2001: 258). A civil society tasked by international actors
to provide services in lieu of a dysfunctional or incapable state may
actually reinforce the problem. Politicians and the state may quickly
become path dependent if civil society does their job for them (Fagan
2006: 103). Finally, it is worth noting criticisms that are sceptical of
the discourses of ‘local ownership’, ‘partnership’, and ‘participation’
that often attend discussion of internationally sponsored civil society
in societies emerging from violent conflict. Rather than empowering
local actors, some critics see the creation of a tier of NGOs as doing the
reverse: these NGOs are in servitude to international strategy. They are
funded and directed externally and must dance to their master’s tune.
Sending (2009: 19) notes that ‘Current practice tends to interpret own-
ership in a nominal, technocratic way, aimed at transferring responsi-
bility of externally defined reforms to local authorities, yet leaving little
room for genuine dialogue, experimentation and innovation to estab-
lish custom-size approaches.’ Given the dearth of mechanisms to hold
external actors to account, governance by remote control, via NGOs,
becomes open to abuse (Goodhand and Sedra 2010: 97).

Northern Ireland

The contextual differences between Northern Ireland and the other

case studies in this book are worth emphasising. Northern Ireland has

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192 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

not experienced United Nations interventions, or regime change by

self-appointed US-led coalitions followed by insurgency and chaos. The
British government was anxious to treat Northern Ireland as a domes-
tic issue and resisted, until relatively recently, the internationalisation
of the conflict (Guelke 1988: 2). Crucially, the state did not collapse.
The British government was able to maintain quite generous levels of
social and economic provision, usually administered from London as
Northern Ireland-based politicians were unable or unwilling to estab-
lish a powersharing administration. The absence of state collapse meant
that Northern Ireland was spared the traumas that are common in other
conflict zones: public health emergencies, widespread and long-term
displacement, disruption to education, and neglect of infrastructure.
Fatalities were contained at 3,600 during the 1969–2010 period. To put
this into perspective, Israeli-backed militias murdered 2,000 people in
thirty-six hours in 1982 in Beirut’s Sabra and Shatila refugee camps
(Flint 2001). While Northern Ireland was economically deprived by
UK standards, and much of this deprivation was flavoured by sectarian
discrimination, the region was firmly in the global north and was eco-
nomically advantaged compared with conflict areas in the global south.
None of the above is to detract from the very real and human costs of
the Northern Ireland conflict – merely to place them in perspective
against other conflicts.
While Northern Ireland did experience military intervention by the
British Army, it did not experience the large-scale combat operations
witnessed by Lebanon, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan in recent dec-
ades. Human rights were broken and ignored by the British state over
an extended period, but there was an element of restraint in British
state actions. The state was unwilling to take unilateral game-changing
action, such as re-partition or ethnic cleansing, that may have deliv-
ered strategic victory. The full coercive weight of the liberal peace was
not unleashed in Northern Ireland. This context of liberal peace-lite
is important in explaining the political and security environment in
which peace process actors interacted with one another, especially as
the peace process took root (Mac Ginty 2009: 690–708). Certain levels
of civility prevailed in Northern Ireland that did not prevail in other
conflict zones. For example, Northern Ireland never experienced aer-
ial bombing by the British air force, presumably because of the risk of
civilian casualties and its proximity to the British ‘mainland’. Yet, in
the name of ‘peace’, Britain has used very extensive aerial bombing in
Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, causing civilian casualties in all cases. A
political calculation was made by the British government that civilian

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Hybrid Civil Society: Northern Ireland 193

casualties were acceptable in some environments and not in others. The

key point is that Northern Ireland has experienced liberal peace-lite, or
a more emancipatory version of the liberal peace than that on offer to
other recipients of peace-support interventions. In turn, this environ-
ment has shaped the nature of party interaction in Northern Ireland
and the nature of hybridisation.
Most studies of the liberal peace see it as a case of north–south transfer
in which liberal states and institutions from the global north attempt to
implement their style of peacemaking and development in the global
south. The Northern Ireland case is revealing because of its location
within the United Kingdom. It raises questions about how the liberal
peace was calibrated for a home audience. For the purposes of this chap-
ter, our focus is on one organisation within Northern Ireland’s civil
society, the Orange Order. Before concentrating on the Orange Order,
the chapter will set out the more general context of civil society in
Northern Ireland.

Civil society in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is often portrayed in simplistic terms as a deeply
divided society. These divisions are real and have had profound con-
sequences in terms of residential segregation, apartheid in the schools
system, and a party political system based on ethnic headcounts. But
there is also a story of everyday cross-communal associations between
individuals and families in the Catholic–nationalist–republican popu-
lation and their Protestant–unionist–loyalist counterparts.
Consider my mother, Margaret Mac Ginty, who was born and died
in the same town in rural Northern Ireland. As for the vast majority of
people in Northern Ireland, her life was patterned by a society marked
by confessional division. She was educated in single-religion schools,
lived in a small town in which Catholics and Protestants tended to live
and shop apart, read a newspaper that catered for one side of the com-
munity, and listened to a radio station that only members of her own
community tuned into. She reared her six children, including myself,
in a community that was residentially segregated, was subject to enor-
mous militarisation, and had its town centre repeatedly destroyed in
bomb attacks. The communities consistently voted in a partisan way for
mono-ethnic political parties. It was, in many ways, a context of divi-
sion, an apartheid facilitated by collective cognition and government
policy. Yet, despite this context of division, Mrs Mac Ginty led a life that
was full of everyday cross-communal associations. The associations did
not take the form of civil society or NGO activity that was deliberately

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194 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

designed to deal with the conflict. Instead, they took the form of her
friendships and business dealings with members of the other commu-
nity, or her interest in local history. She devoted enormous energy to two
charities that drew volunteers from both the Catholic and Protestant
communities, the Save the Children Fund and the Multiple Sclerosis
Society. Certainly these associations involved awkwardness; the Patron
of the Save the Children Fund was Princess Anne from the British Royal
Family – an association that may have caused discomfort for Catholic–
nationalist members of the local group. The topics and speakers chosen
by the local history society may also have had the potential to generate
discomfort. Yet these civil society organisations were removed from the
constitutional, security, and identity issues at the heart of the Troubles.
Where awkwardness arose, Mrs Mac Ginty, like hundreds of thousands
of people in Northern Ireland, dealt with these problems with tact. The
essential point is that despite Northern Ireland’s tendency to be carica-
tured as a ‘deeply divided society’, and despite the very real nature of
these divisions, society was not completely bifurcated. Instead, signifi-
cant low-level cross-communal associations persisted in many areas,
even during the worst days of the Troubles. Moreover, the example of
Mrs Mac Ginty and her peers illustrates the futility of international
attempts to engineer or recreate societal civility. It is not some sort of
elixir that can be produced in a laboratory, bottled, and exported.
The everyday cross-community associations came under severe stress,
particularly in the wake of violent outrages by militant groups or the
British state. Yet their persistence helped maintain a basic level of civil-
ity into a context dominated – superficially at least – by conflict and
division. The everyday associations were also highly localised and did
not obtain across Northern Ireland with any consistency.
Northern Ireland has a long history of civil society activism. Indeed,
the modern phase of the Troubles arose from civil rights demonstra-
tions in the late 1960s. Inspired by similar demonstrations in the United
States, France, and elsewhere, students and progressive elements came
together to agitate for better rights for Catholics. The London-backed
Protestant government resisted calls for it to tackle anti-Catholic dis-
crimination. What began as civil rights protests morphed into a squalid
low-level war from the late 1960s onwards. The rights agenda became
subsumed by sectarianism and nationalism. Two sets of nationalism
were locked in conflict: an Ulster British nationalism that sought to
defend the constitutional association with the UK and a pro-united
Ireland nationalism that sought to force the British out of Ireland.
The British government, while maintaining a narrative of keeping the

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Hybrid Civil Society: Northern Ireland 195

‘natives’ apart, was partisan in its defence of the Union. This meant
committing troops, arming the local police force and militia, suppress-
ing a series of human rights, and sponsoring death squads.
Despite the ongoing conflict and the deepening of sectarianism,
some everyday cross-communal associations did survive, though many
such linkages came under severe stress. For reasons of safety and con-
venience, intra-group associations thrived as communities looked to
their own resources to lower the costs of the conflict. Thus, for example,
many found solace in religious worship (church attendance remained
high throughout the Troubles), while others may have joined groups
in support of prisoners from particular militant organisations (Brewer
2002: 27). Indicating high levels of social capital, contact among fam-
ily members is more regular and common in Northern Ireland than
in other regions of the UK (Daly 2004: 56). As cross-communal asso-
ciational space became further constrained by the deepening conflict,
politicians were quick to identify groups and issues as being partisan.
Thus, for example, calls made by the local NGO Committee for the
Administration of Justice for investigations into human rights abuses
by the state were often dismissed by unionist politicians as national-
ist propaganda. Some groups, such as the Society of Friends (Quakers),
attempted to bypass such partisan political discourse by striving for
virtual anonymity (Le Mare and McCartney 2009). They were able to
engage in very patient social and educational programmes to assist indi-
viduals and families under stress, some of which were cross-communal
in content, but sought no publicity.
Before the evolution of the peace process in the 1990s, the British
state did attempt to engineer civil society in a way that would encourage
citizen involvement but which would also support British government
objectives of the maintenance of the Union and the marginalisation of
non-state militants, particularly the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The
Making Belfast Work initiative, for example, sought to promote urban
regeneration in selected parts of Belfast from 1988 onwards by engag-
ing with community actors and businesses (DSDNI 2010). In its early
years, significant energy was spent on vetting community actors so that
‘approved’ partners could be identified (Birrell 1994; Doherty 1995). This
was an overtly political exercise. In Catholic communities it was inter-
preted as a government attempt to blunt the social activism favoured
by Sinn Féin, the political wing of the IRA. It was regarded as a British
government attempt to supplant genuine community organisation
with a safe variant of government-sponsored social organisation. The
British government established an ‘independent’ Community Relations

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196 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

Council to foster inter-community contact, and act as a filter through

which ‘approved’ community initiatives and groups could be funded.
A Central Community Relations Unit funded academic research at its
own discretion. This research, invariably, was in favour of the peace
The number of pro-peace and reconciliation groups grew rapidly as
the peace process developed. Although the peace process was largely an
elite-level endeavour, there was space for civil society interventions such
as the ‘Yes’ campaign in a referendum on the 1998 Belfast Agreement or
in the form of the Women’s Coalition, a political party that deliberately
adopted no stance on the constitutional issue at heart of the Northern
Ireland conflict (Fearon 1999). A large number of groups were funded
through generous European Union packages in support of the peace
process and more general peacebuilding aimed at Northern Ireland and
the border counties of the Republic of Ireland. PEACE I and PEACE II ran
between 1995 and 2004, with a combined cost of €1.49bn. An extension
to PEACE II ran from 2004 to 2006 and cost €160m. PEACE III, 2007–
2013, was funded to the tune of €333m and aimed to have ‘a continued
and renewed emphasis on reconciliation’ (Special EU Programmes Body
undated: 4). This enormous level of funding created a political econ-
omy of peacebuilding groups and peace work (Byrne et al. 2010). Many
groups and participants were genuine in their engagement with the
programmes. Others were not. Many groups and schemes established
under PEACE I devoted significant energies to securing funding under
PEACE II and III. Such donor-driven peacebuilding limited local initia-
tive and distorted many group activities into technocratic box-ticking
exercises. Central and local government also raided the EU monies to
fund activities, amenities, and infrastructure that had no possible link
with peacebuilding or reconciliation. Thus, for example, it is possible
to see toilet blocks in road lay-bys across Northern Ireland funded by
the EU’s Special Peace and Reconciliation Programme: useful for trav-
ellers but of dubious worth for promoting peace and reconciliation.
Indeed, the EU PEACE funding was introduced at the very moment that
Northern Ireland ceased to qualify for the EU’s Structural Funds. The
British government had little compunction in raiding ‘peacebuilding’
funds as a continuation fund for infrastructural development.
Two points are worth making in summary. The first is that despite
(and in some ways because of) the violent conflict, Northern Ireland
had a vibrant associational life. As Cochrane (2001: 99) commented, ‘In
a population of 1.5 million, with over 5,000 NGOs, people are seem-
ingly falling over one another to “do something” for their community.’

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Hybrid Civil Society: Northern Ireland 197

Secondly, this civil society was shaped by a series of constraining and

facilitating pressures: insecurity, the need for in-group identification,
civil society engineering by the British government, and EU and other
funding. This chapter will now turn to the case study of Northern
Ireland’s ‘largest organisation in civil society’, the Orange Order (Tonge
2005: 204). Other organisations, such as the Catholic Church, the
Royal British Legion, or the Gaelic Athletic Association could have been
chosen, but the Orange Order presents an interesting example of how
a liberal peace actor (the British state) engaged with a partisan actor
in a deeply divided society that was undergoing peace support. The
Order, in keeping with Northern Ireland’s deeply divided character, is
sectarian. Yet, despite the controversies that have been associated with
the organisation, the British and Irish governments have regarded the
Orange Order as part of the wider ‘civilising’ process that contributes to
the peace process. They regard the Orange Order as undergoing a proc-
ess of moderation, and have encouraged it to continue to do so, in the
hope that this will send out signals to less moderate groups, particularly
within the Protestant–unionist–loyalist community. This raises ques-
tions about the nature of civil society in deeply divided societies, and
the type of peace that the British and Irish governments are prepared to
accept in Northern Ireland. It also ties in with the focus of the book on
hybridity. The context of the Troubles and the peace process compelled
the Orange Order to change and adopt some of the stances and language
of more conventional civil society organisations. Similarly, British and
Irish government positions on the Orange Order shifted. In effect, no
actor was able to plot a unilateral course through the peace process.
Instead, all actors occupied contested space in which their stances, dis-
courses, and identities had to take cognisance of other actors.

The Orange Order

The Orange Order is a Protestant politico-religious organisation
founded in 1795 to commemorate the 1690 victory of Protestant King
William of Orange over Catholic King James II in the Battle of the
Boyne. Membership is restricted to males (although there is a small
separate Ladies’ Orange Association). Catholics, and anyone married to
a Catholic, are forbidden from joining, and members are barred from
attending Catholic services (Breen 1990: 14). The organisation is best
seen as a fraternity embedded in the Ulster Protestant politico-cultural
hinterland (Patterson and Kaufman 2007: 83). Its principal aims are the
preservation of religious (Protestant) liberty, defence of the Crown, and
providing an integrating thread to political unionism. It joins political

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198 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

and social capital with a network of local lodges across rural and urban
Northern Ireland, and a few in the Republic of Ireland and further
afield. The organisation is highly localised and decentralised, and can
be regarded as an example of grassroots social activism. It currently has
about 35,000 members, with membership in a slow decline (Geoghegan
For its supporters, the Orange Order is a staple part of Protestant com-
munity organisation. To see the Orange Order through purely sectarian
or politico-religious lenses would be to risk reproducing a caricature of
what is a complex social association. Many members join lodges because
of family, social, workplace, or residential connections. Certainly
the political stance of the Order is important, but this is one part of
a wider series of social identifications that drive membership of the
Order, and the acceptance of the Order among hundreds of thousands
of Protestant non-members. The most public faces of the Order are its
‘highly symbolic street culture’ and the annual twelfth of July parades
that commemorate the Battle of the Boyne (Cairns 2000: 443). About
3,000 parades occur across Northern Ireland each summer (Tonge 2005:
190). Although many Catholics find these parades offensive, particu-
larly when their routes are close to, or through, Catholic areas, for many
Protestants they are an ‘uncontentious, carnival-like event’ (Jarman
1997: 96). The leader of the Grand Lodge of Ireland called the parades a
‘family occasion’ and ‘the largest folk festival in Europe’ (cited in Breen
1990: 14).
Neil Jarman’s (1997: 98, 100) anthropological portraits of preparations
for the twelfth marches, and of an eleventh night bonfire, give a good
account of some of the collective endeavours involved in Orangeism:

Orangemen, bandsmen, bonfire builders, and also the women, whose

invisible work is no less necessary to a successful Twelfth, prepare
for their part in the celebrations independently of each other. There
is no central organisation overseeing this larger process, although
individual activities and groups are of course organised. Preparation
happens informally, to a great extent dependent on the number of
people able and willing to get involved. ...
On the eleventh of July the final touches are put to the bonfires.
From eleven o’clock people gather around the fire sites, young men
and women with carrier bags full of beer, families with young chil-
dren and babies in prams, older people who have seen it all many
times before, a few tourists. Chip shops and fast food vans do a roar-
ing trade; two small groups of evangelical Christians hold services

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Hybrid Civil Society: Northern Ireland 199

on the pavement, trying to convince passers-by of the errors of their

ways, but generate little interest. As a prologue to the main event a
small fire made of left-over wood is lit by the younger children ... The
main fire is lit on the dot of midnight to welcome in the Twelfth. The
fire starts slowly; but as it spreads around and up the stack the crowd
is forced to retreat across the road. As the flames eat their way up the
pile of sleepers and pallets, attention is focused on the Irish tricolour
at the top: a great cheer goes up as this is engulfed in flames. Once
the flag has been burnt and the peak of the fire has passed, the crowd
rapidly fades away: some get some sleep before the big parade, but
many of the younger ones move elsewhere to party the night away.

As the quotations show, politics and protests in favour of religious free-

dom constitute only one part of these activities. Many of the activities
involved in Orangeism are festival-like, rely on community participa-
tion, and are – for participants – fun and celebratory. Orange halls are
used for discos, dances, barbeques, and community meetings, albeit
restricted to the Protestant community (Cairns 2000: 447–9).
This non-contentious view of the Orange Order and its events con-
trasts with views held by the organisation’s opponents. For them, the
Orange Order is a ‘furiously bigoted organisation’ interested in uphold-
ing Protestant supremacy and Catholic repression (Gageby 1984: 9). In
the 1930s, the Guardian newspaper likened the Orange stranglehold
over Northern Ireland’s unionist governments to the Nazi creation of a
one-party state (cited in Farrell 1976: 141). For its critics, the organisa-
tion is nakedly sectarian, has opposed Catholic emancipation and the
extension of civil rights, and has a long association with violence. These
critics point out that while the Orange Order may formally disavow
violence, ‘blood and thunder’ rhetoric from speakers using its platforms
has often incited Orangemen or their fellow-travellers to engage in sec-
tarian pogroms, rioting, intimidation, and murder (Lawlor 2009: 91). In
virtually every decade since its foundation, the Orange Order has been
associated with serious sectarian violence, usually around ‘the march-
ing season’ of the summer months (Parkinson 2004: 24–7).
The issue of Orange (and other) parades gained particular prominence
during the peace process in the 1990s as nationalist communities pro-
tested against the routing of parades through areas populated mainly
by Catholics. These disputed parades were small in number, yet they
were able to generate Northern Ireland-wide tension. Heavily policed
stand-offs, mass rioting, destruction of property, and associated sectar-
ian street violence were regular features in the summers of the late 1990s

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200 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

and early 2000s. A Parades Commission was tasked to adjudicate on a

zero-sum issue; generally speaking, Catholic–nationalists believed that
Protestant parades should stay in Protestant areas, while Protestant–
unionists saw the parades as an expression of religious and civil lib-
erty and so considered that they had the right to select any route. The
parading issue became an echo chamber of wider peace process-related
fears. Morrow (1997: 66) notes how Orangeism ‘thrives on existential
fears’, and for many unionists the treatment of the Orange Order by
the British government was an indicator of how Protestant–unionists
were valued by the state. Catholics, on the other hand, regarded the
ability of the state to contain what they saw as sectarian marches and
provocation as an indicator of how their rights would be respected in a
post-peace process Northern Ireland. Jon Tonge (2005: 205–6) sums up
the very liberal dilemma that lies at the heart of the matter:

Undiluted celebration of religious and political pluralism necessarily

leads to support for the right of Catholics to educate their children in
denominational schools (segregated education) and the right of the
Orange Order (anti-Catholic Church) to hold parades ... Either of the
above decisions could be seen as sectarian, yet both are defendable,
based on a cultural-pluralist, celebration of diversity approach.

Despite the regularity with which the Orange Order was embroiled in
controversy and associated with violent disorder, it has been part of an
interesting dynamic that has involved shifting its positions and dis-
course, and making engagements with a wider range of political actors
than it has in the past. To label this dynamic ‘moderation’ or part of a
‘civilising process’ is too simplistic: the Orange Order still adheres to
fundamentally sectarian beliefs. Indeed, in 2010 it called on ‘all the
citizens of the United Kingdom, and especially members of the Loyal
Orange Institution, to demonstrate their opposition to the Pope’s visit to
England and Scotland and to oppose any future visitation to Northern
Ireland’ (Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland 2010). Yet various peace proc-
ess actors – the Orange Order, the British and Irish governments, the
media and other civil society organisations, and some nationalist politi-
cians – have adopted different stances and language as part of the peace
process. This has involved movement by all actors, and a collective cog-
nition of the new opportunities provided by the peace process. Some of
this movement has been moderating; other parts of it have not. Taken
together, however, this peace process choreography denotes a hybridisa-
tion and distortion whereby actors, including a powerful liberal peace

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Hybrid Civil Society: Northern Ireland 201

progenitor like the United Kingdom government, are forced to take

account of the stances and positions of others. In so doing, all the actors
involved in the peace process underwent a process of change.
Three examples illustrate the shifting position of the Orange Order
during the long peace process. Firstly, as the peace process developed
and became entrenched, the Order held meetings with a widening vari-
ety of political actors, many of whom it had castigated or ignored in
the past. The Orange Order, in keeping with many unionist political
parties and affiliated groups, had spent much of the 1980s and 1990s
making a point of not speaking with their political opponents. In part,
this was due to the political environment of an ongoing violent conflict
in which the conditions were unpropitious for meaningful inter-party
talks. In part, it was a statement of their disapproval of their political
opponents’ positions or existence. The result was an isolation that was
partially self-imposed. During the peace process, meetings were held
with the Social Democratic and Labour Party, the Catholic Church, the
Irish President, and even Sinn Féin – all of which had been the tar-
get of withering criticism from the Orange Order in the past (Grand
Orange Lodge of Ireland 2006; Belfast Telegraph 2010; Bowcott 2006).
The Irish presidency has been assiduous in courting the Orange Order.
President Mary McAleese initiated annual garden parties at her official
residence to mark the twelfth of July and visited an Orange Hall in the
Irish Republic (Keenan 2009). The Irish government funded a two-year
development officer position for the Orange Order to help ‘build the
capacity of the Orange Family in the Republic of Ireland’ (Grand Orange
Lodge of Ireland 2008). This is quite remarkable given the historical
Orange Order stance on the Irish state: that it is aggressive, papist, and
anti-unionist. Of significance for our interest in hybridity is that both
the Orange Order and the Irish government changed their stance and
developed a relationship.
A second example of the shifting positions of the Orange Order
and other actors in the peace process came in the form of attempts
to re-brand the twelfth of July parades as ‘Orangefest’, or a tourist-ori-
ented carnival. Again, all those involved in the attempted re-branding
engaged, to a certain extent, in collective cognitive dissembling. All
were aware that the Orange parades were, by their very nature, sectar-
ian and controversial. They were all aware of the dreadful record of vio-
lence associated with the parades and counter-protests. The attempt to
re-brand the parades as ‘a family-friendly pageant’ did not detract from
their essential sectarianism – the celebration of a victory by a Protestant
monarch over a Catholic one (Independent 2007). Yet, according to one

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202 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

of the organisers, ‘You can enjoy the theatre of it all without buying
into the politics’ (Gibson cited in Geoghegan undated). In 2009, the
Culture Minister in Northern Ireland’s Assembly (who was also a mem-
ber of the Orange Order) noted that ‘Northern Ireland is at last being
recognised for its ability to host international events, for its hospitality
and for its friendly and welcoming people. Orangefest is an example of
complementing traditional Twelfth parades with festival events which
are welcoming for all, portray Belfast in a positive light and encour-
age visitors to Northern Ireland’ (Northern Ireland Executive 2009).
Orangefest’s development officer outlined the limits of inclusivity: ‘We
want to be inclusive but people have to understand that you can’t be a
member of the Orange Order unless you are a member of the Protestant
Reformed Church’ (Mawhinny cited in Geoghegan undated). According
to one Grand Master of the Orange Lodge, ‘Roman Catholics can’t take
part in our parades, just as they cannot join the Orange Order, because
we’re a Protestant organisation ... I can’t join Opus Dei ... The best we can
do is say to Roman Catholics: “Look, we want you to come, bring your
families and see that there is nothing there to threaten you” ’ (Nelson
cited in Independent 2007). In 2006 the British government awarded the
Orange Order £104,000, with an additional £6,000 from the publicly
funded Arts Council, in order to assist the transformation to Orangefest
(Peterkin 2006; Northern Ireland Executive 2009).
A third example of the shifting position of the Orange Order, and
of other actors towards the Order, came in the form of the growing
number of engagements that the Order had with statutory bodies. These
involved the Orange Order, or those associated with it, respecting local
government statutes in return for relatively small sums of money. One
example was the introduction of grants of up to £3,000 for loyalist com-
munities to avoid burning serious pollutants such as car tyres in their
eleventh night bonfires. According to Robert Saulters, Grand Master of
the Orange Order, ‘The Order is working with many different agencies
to ensure that bonfires are enjoyed by many in a safe environment. It is
very important that the people who build bonfires pay attention to all
the advice on what they should contain – and many items such as tyres,
which are harmful to the environment, should not be used’ (cited in
McDonald 2008). Entanglements like this can be seen as part of a wider
process of respecting the civil authority and a loss of autonomy for the
Order. Schemes such as that for ‘eco-bonfires’ drew the Order into a
web of governance that it had previously avoided. The form-filling and
reporting that this required signified a loss of autonomy, and the Order’s
interaction with an environment established by liberal peace agents.

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Hybrid Civil Society: Northern Ireland 203

The three examples must be placed in the context of declining Orange

Order membership, and a recognition among some in the Orange Order
that it had been attracting little but bad publicity. So part of the Orange
Order strategy of ‘coming in from the cold’ was based on pragmatism
and reputational salvage, or a recognition that the general dynamics
of Northern Ireland were changing in the context of a peace process
and peace accord and that it would be prudent to show some flexibil-
ity. Thus rather than deliberate attempts to resist, subvert, or exploit
the context provided by the peace process, many of the actions by the
Orange Order can be seen as adaptation to changing conditions.

Concluding discussion

It is worth emphasising that the example of the Orange Order could be

substituted with examples from the Catholic–nationalist community
such as the Gaelic Athletic Association, the West Belfast Festival, or sup-
port groups established for former republican prisoners. All these groups
broadened their engagements with other actors during the peace proc-
ess, and all were recipients of state funding. Such funding was awarded
in the expectation of certain conditions being met.
The peace process can be conceived of as a system of interaction in
which actors acted and reacted to the initiatives and reactions of oth-
ers. Actors sought to maximise gains and preserve as much autonomy as
possible. Some actors, however, had greater power than others in estab-
lishing the landscape of interaction. The most powerful actor in the
peace process was the British government, which, for much of the peace
process, acted in concert with the Irish government. These actors were
able to mobilise tremendous legislative, moral, and financial power. The
British government was also able to mobilise coercive power in the form
of its military presence, its militarised police force, and its intelligence
services. In many ways, the British and Irish governments were able to set
the parameters of the peace process, identify the limits of constitutional
change, and arbitrate over acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Part
of this agenda and scene-setting involved the creation of an NGO sector
that was pro-peace process. Importantly, the externally sponsored civil
society was required to be in favour of the version of the peace proc-
ess sanctioned by the British and Irish governments. This exercise in
NGO engineering was in part propelled by cash inducements (courtesy
of the British and Irish treasuries, and the EU). European Union fund-
ing was channelled through the British and Irish governments, thus
empowering these liberal peace agents to become arbiters of acceptable

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204 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

and unacceptable civil society. The creation of a new civil society was
also propelled by a widening public acceptance of the banal narrative
championed by the British and Irish governments: that violence should
be a thing of the past, that Northern Ireland should move forward, that
the two communities must share power with each other, that straitened
public purses compelled politicians to work together, etc.
Hudock (1999: 110) contends that a sign of maturity among NGOs in
the global south is their ability to say ‘no’ to donor support from the
global north. In the case of Northern Ireland, many elements of civil
society were unable say ‘no’. This applied both to NGOs that were a
creation of the peace process and to organisations that pre-dated the
peace process or even the modern round of the Troubles. The material
power of the British and Irish governments, assisted by the EU and the
US, saw the creation of a peace process political economy. Interestingly,
this was not a case of rich donors from the global north tempting pov-
erty-stricken individuals and groups in the global south with cash. It
was a north–north transfer from rich governments to relatively wealthy
societies. Yet the competitive political economy of a deeply divided
society meant that once a group from one side of the sectarian divide
sought and received funds from the British Exchequer, then the other
side felt compelled to do so. Howls of protest soon followed if the gov-
ernments were perceived to be discriminatory in their grant-giving. The
funding streams allowed the co-option of some civil society actors by
the British and Irish governments and the re-shaping of civil society in
general. A peace and reconciliation NGO sector was virtually created
courtesy of donor funds from the mid-1990s onwards. This sector was
important in creating the impression that there was such a thing as
‘the peace process’, but the sector was largely frozen out of the negotia-
tions between the main political parties and the two governments. It
is difficult to make definitive judgments on the extent to which – if at
all – the swathe of newly created NGOs actually assisted reconciliation
and peacebuilding. A consultative Civic Forum was established as part
of the Belfast Agreement but it was parked in the long grass and never
seen again. Positive results from the monetary investment into civil
society engineering are not obvious and questions must be asked about
the efficacy of the EU’s decision to plough almost €2bn into untested
peacebuilding schemes.
Despite the enormous material and moral power held by the British
and Irish governments, it is important not to paint a picture of Northern
Ireland’s civil society actors as craven cash-hungry supplicants. Some
were; others were not. Many non-state actors were able to ignore, exploit,

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Hybrid Civil Society: Northern Ireland 205

and subvert the intentions of the liberal peace agents. Some were also
able to bend the governments’ view of what constituted peace.
Most significant for this chapter was the ability of partisan local
actors, such as the Orange Order or associations of former militant pris-
oners, to convince the British and Irish governments that they were part
of civil society. This exercise in group-think did not happen overnight
and was not without its problems. Yet, over a period of time, a mutu-
ally beneficial relationship developed in which a disparate collection
of actors shared a worldview of what constituted acceptable civil soci-
ety and civil society behaviour. For the governments, drawing partisan
groups into ‘approved’ civil society was part of the ‘civilising’ process.
It sent signals to ‘less-civil’ non-state actors that a path of ‘moderation’
was open to them. It was reminiscent of the ‘surrender and re-grant’
policies deployed in Elizabethan times: if local groups were prepared
to show fealty to the ‘legitimate authority’ then they could retain some
measure of their power (Butler 1913). The British government’s inclu-
sion of organisations such as the Orange Order into a big-tent peace
process was a sign of the limitations of Track I (or formal) negotiations.
It was also a way of allowing non-standard actors into the process by
alternative routes. Yet, for the governments, this required a retreat from
meanings of civil society that interpreted tolerance and pluralism in
ways that excluded offence or threat. Despite being admitted into the
big tent of peace process civil society, the Orange Order was still a mani-
festly sectarian organisation, just as republican groups retained their
commitment to the removal of the British state from Ireland. A 2004
survey of Orange Order members found that less than a fifth supported
integrated Catholic–Protestant schools and that 87 per cent believed
that the Catholic Church played an important role in the Irish Republic
(McAuley and Tonge’s 2007: 47). Essentialist fears were fuelled by the
peace process. The Order held ‘a negative perception of the attempted
political restructuring of Northern Ireland based more upon a “last
stand” defence of the interests of a community in retreat than the artic-
ulation of an agenda for the future development of Protestant-Unionist-
Britishness or a common, cross-community formulation of Northern
Irishness’ (McAuley and Tonge 2007: 48).
Partisan organisations bought into the idea and practice of the ‘new
civil society’ for at least three reasons. Firstly, there were monetary
incentives. Secondly, receiving the imprimatur from the governments
was useful in intra-group legitimacy contests. Approval by the British
and Irish governments afforded some measure of respectability that in
turn had implications for access to the news media and civil society

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206 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

forums. Thirdly, many partisan organisations felt compelled to receive

the governmental imprimatur as part of their inter-group conflict.
Civil society engineering by the liberal peace powers, and the actions
of local actors, show a process of hybridisation in operation. There was a
hybridisation of ideas (of what constituted civil society) and of the civil
society sector. The worldviews and identities of all of those involved
were subject to change. Given the longevity of Northern Ireland’s peace
process, the notion that partisan actors can be included in civil society
has become a piece of embedded normality. Fundamental questions,
such as whether a bigoted organisation should receive government
funding under the banner of civil society capacity-building, were not

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This work has sought to reappraise two overly simplistic notions that
have taken hold in the literature of peace and conflict studies. The
first notion is that the liberal peace, or dominant form of internation-
ally supported peacemaking, is an all-powerful Leviathan and that its
dominance is assured. The second notion rests on a romanticisation of
local and indigenous responses to conflict and social change. In some
parts of the literature, it is almost as though there is a hunt for ‘the
last native’, or the unspoiled local individuals and communities who
are a repository of common sense and sustainable peacemaking. Both
advocates and opponents of the liberal peace engage in this hunt for
‘the last native’. The purpose of this book has been to revise arguments
that caricature both the local and the international into simplistic cat-
egories. At the same time, the book has sought to continue (not retreat
from) the critique of the liberal peace. Given that it is the dominant
form of internationally supported peacemaking, and given that leading
states and international organisations use liberal rhetoric to justify their
interventions, it is legitimate to subject this form of peace intervention
to critical scrutiny. The book, with its concentration on hybridity, has
also sought to emphasise the agency of local communities and institu-
tions and to show how this can represent resistance to international
Five themes recur throughout this book, and they are worth empha-
sising by way of conclusion. The first recurring theme has been to urge
caution in relation to the categories that we use to understand con-
flict. Many orthodox analyses of conflict rely on oppositional binaries
such as external versus internal or traditional versus modern. However,
a critical examination of the operation of the liberal peace, together
with an understanding of the processes of hybridisation, suggests that


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208 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

categories are much less discrete than many authors suggest. This
presents us with conceptual and analytical problems as we still need to
discuss conflicts in ways that are comprehensible. Terms such as ‘local’
and ‘international’ are defined in people’s minds and often have clear
meanings in academic and policy literature. Therefore an obstacle fac-
ing a work like this one is to encourage the reader to look beyond the
standard meanings we give to such terms. This is difficult, as the work
needs to remain intelligible. But there comes a time when every work
has to move beyond caveats and get to the point.
A second, and related, recurring theme has been the fluidity within
and between categories. Many accounts of peace and conflict, including
some critiques of the liberal peace, have given the impression of a fixity
within and between categories. This study has highlighted the prag-
matism of the liberal peace. For example, the chapters on Afghanistan
and Northern Ireland demonstrate how the guardians of the liberal
peace are prepared to deviate from their stated goals, despite the liberal
rhetoric that might be used to justify these goals. The liberal peace is
less doctrinaire and coherent than many observers may believe. Even
a cursory glance at most interventions suggests that much policy was
made on the hoof. Just as liberal peace promoters are capable of great
pragmatism, so are the states, governments, institutions, communities,
and individuals that are targeted by liberal peace interventions in socie-
ties emerging from violent conflict. The extent of their agency ranges
from voluntary cooperation with aspects of the liberal peace to violent
resistance to it. Again, the actions of local actors need not necessarily
be consistent or coherent. For example, local actors may cooperate with
some aspects of the liberal peace, reject others, and remain agnostic
about still others. The model of hybridisation advocated in this work
seeks to capture the dynamism associated with peace, conflict, and the
interaction between local and international actors in seeking to bring
conflict to an end. A crucial aspect of the constant processes of social
negotiation, coalescence, cooperation, and conflict that are associated
with the creation of hybrid forms of peace and processes of peacemak-
ing is that the identity of the actors involved changes as part of the
hybridisation process. Hybridisation does not merely mean that actors
change their stances and rhetoric. It also means that they change them-
selves through their interaction with other actors, and as they steer a
course through the issue agenda created by multiple actors.
The third recurring theme has been the prevalence of diversity, plu-
ralism, and tolerance at the local level, even in societies often dubbed
‘deeply divided’. There is a temptation to refer to this as ‘local liberalism’,

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Conclusion 209

yet to do so risks colonising local norms and practices with western con-
ceptions of liberalism. In many local communities such on-the-ground
practices of tolerance and pluralism are embedded within daily life and
do not necessarily have a name. They are pragmatic and prosaic social
coping mechanisms to ease the passage of life. This is not to suggest that
many of the societies that we have reviewed in this work are some sort
of plural idyll. There can be little doubting the capacity of such societies
to turn on themselves or of ethnic and political leaders to mobilise sup-
porters; and there is little doubt about the entrenched nature of systems
of division. Nor can there be any doubting how international systems of
commerce and political patronage can harness and magnify divisions.
Yet, often at the micro-local level of streets and villages, people engage
in everyday tolerance and cooperation to help them achieve other goals
such as earning a living, securing public goods for their families, ensur-
ing security, or pursuing entertainment. Social science and many policy
and journalistic observers from the global north have largely missed
these systems of local security and cooperation and instead have opted
to concentrate on the headline events of division and violent conflict.
The fourth recurring theme follows on from this and questions the
quality of the antennae of many external researchers who study other
societies, particularly those undergoing conflict. Academic disciplines,
the policy world, and journalism all have their own strictures, many
of which can be defended for very good reasons. Yet it is not always
clear that the conventions, methodologies, and language recommended
by various academic disciplines equip researchers with antennae that
allow them to pick up the most salient signals of societies under study.
It is as though external researchers have antennae tuned to intercept
analogue signals but many of the social, political, and economic phe-
nomena in a society can be read only as digital signals. In blunt terms,
many social sciences equip us with the wrong antennae with which to
‘watch and listen to’ societies. One of the travesties of contemporary
academia is that it has developed ways of discussing peace and conflict
that exclude the very societies that are under review. Swathes of aca-
demic literature (and the author’s output is in no way exempt from this)
amount to over-theorised conceit that bears little relation to the on-the-
ground lives of people in the midst of conflict or peace-support opera-
tions. Moreover, the liberal peace (through its militaries, humanitarian
and development aid organisations, INGOs, etc.) has produced a system
in which communities in societies undergoing liberal peace transitions
are ‘recreated’ as subjects (Richmond 2010a). They are variously ‘oth-
ered’ as beneficiaries, obstacles to change, lumpen victims, and so on.

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210 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

The result is the creation of an often artificial discourse on local com-

munities that gives a less than complete understanding of how these
societies operate.
The notions of hybridity and hybridisation have been deliberately
deployed as a way of ‘bringing the local back into’ our studies. In a
sense, it is an appeal for a pause, a reality check, and a little humility
on the part of scholars and others. It encourages us to look beyond the
overly neat silos or transmission chains wherein liberal peacemaking is
something that is ‘done to’ local communities. Instead, the picture is
much more complex. As well as co-option and cooperation, it involves
‘blowback’, or local actors pushing back against international peace
interventions, which in turn has consequences for liberal peace progen-
itors. It also involves local actors creating and maintaining their own
space for political, economic, and cultural interaction that is largely
removed from the agendas and resource streams created by liberal peace
It should be noted that this book does not advocate hybridity per
se. As many of the case study chapters show, hybridity is often prob-
lematic and not necessarily pacific. We have seen hybrid forms of war
and injustice, as well as hybrid forms of sharing and tolerance. So it is
worth differentiating between ‘hybrid peace’, or forms of hybridity that
encourage inclusion, tolerance, and sustainable approaches, and wider
forms of hybrid politics, economics, and security.
A fifth recurring theme, and one presaged by the themes already men-
tioned, has been resistance. The term ‘resistance’ immediately suggests
a power relationship, or resistance against something. The liberal peace
is certainly capable of mobilising immense material and moral power
in service of its peace-support interventions. It also wields structural
power in that it operates through international political and economic
institutions and processes that it has been able to deem legitimate. Yet
the resistance offered by local actors is not always marginal. The resist-
ance can come in many forms, and, in keeping with the last recur-
ring theme, we may not always have the correct antennae with which
to pick up the extent of resistance. There is a tendency to focus on
obvious forms of resistance such as violent insurgency, but more subtle
and everyday forms abound in terms of non-compliance or ‘waiting
it out’. Moreover, the case studies in this volume attest that resistance
is not a simple binary of ‘local’ versus ‘international’. There are sites
of resistance and counter-resistance within actors (think of the differ-
ing attitudes of NATO members towards the slow train wreck of the
invasion-cum-occupation-cum-withdrawal in Afghanistan). As a result,

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Conclusion 211

it is useful to conceive multiple sites of resistance and counter-resistance

in the context of societies emerging from conflict. The summation of
these is a hybrid form of peace. Given that many forms of peacebuilding
have become ‘deep interference into internal politics and even social
life’ (Pugh 2010b), we should not be surprised that resistance operates
across many sites and in many spheres of life. As Richmond (2010b:
668) notes, ‘a possibility of a post-liberal peace emerges, in which eve-
ryday local agencies, rights, needs, custom and kinship are recognised
as discursive “webs of meaning”. This might herald a more realistic rec-
ognition of the possibilities of, and dynamics of, contextual and local
peacebuilding agencies within international peacebuilding.’
After our review of a number of contemporary cases of international
peace-support intervention, a great mystery remains: how have patently
absurd figures (such as George W. Bush) or strategies (such as opening
impoverished societies to rape by the free market) been able to persist?
The answer lies in the nature of the liberal peace as a system. It operates
at a systemic level and is the summation of an incredibly complex set
of interlocking actors, institutions, and norms. A broad range of actors
are complicit in keeping the system in operation and in maintaining
its dominant position as the key instrument of international peace sup-
port. All of these actors are rational and are usually goal-seeking. As a
result, al-Qaeda’s treasurers and US Presidents have the shared goal of
economic stability so that their assets can be protected. Perhaps the most
insidious aspect of the liberal peace is the extent to which its interests
and assumptions have become embedded in dominant thinking about
peace and conflict to the extent that they have become orthodoxy. A
series of hegemonic normative assumptions underpin the liberal peace.
For example, much of the discourse on peacekeeping has elided into a
discourse on peace enforcement, with the result that peacekeepers have
been relegated to the role of security agents (Pugh 2010b). This securi-
tisation has become normalised in some quarters. Many of the norms
and institutions of peace, development, and reconstruction have been
captured and are mouthpieces for particular worldviews. As a result,
notions of impartiality are dispelled. Yet the liberal peace ‘system’ rarely
acts in complete harmony, and does not have complete coverage. It has
blind spots that allow resistance and alternatives to take root, and per-
petrates outright injustices that invite more robust forms of resistance.
A worldview patterned by the liberal peace might be tempted to neg-
atively frame local action in the face of liberal peace interventions –
unless, of course, those actions conform to ‘approved’ types of action.
Resistance might be viewed as an inherently negative activity. Such a

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212 International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance

view is predicated on the righteousness of hegemonic approaches to

peacemaking. Yet much ‘resistance’ is simply people getting on with
their lives, opting out of the formal structures and norms offered by the
liberal peace, and creating their own solutions to local issues. It is often
a process of individuals and societies finding an equilibrium between
various pressures. As such, it is a form of conflict management. Much of
it is to be celebrated as it contains the types of ‘ownership’ and ‘sustain-
ability’ that international actors often try to create. Of course, we must
not romanticise resistance as ‘plucky locals standing up to the nasty
international’. Resistance can be sectarian and motivated by selfish
interests. But, in some cases, resistance leads to a better form of peace:
a peace that is more comfortable and sustainable for the communities
that must live that peace. A great difficulty is that many international
actors and perspectives are unable to accept such hybrid forms of peace
as ‘peace’. It is hoped that this book goes some way to redressing that

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9/11 28, 29, 41, 93, 99, 100, 101, 103, Cambodia 43, 82
112, 139 Canada 58, 61–2, 65, 80
Chiapas 49–50, 59, 65
Afghanistan 6, 13, 14, 19, 27, 33, 37, China 7, 11, 13, 33, 36, 37, 38, 45, 46,
38, 43, 44, 56, 64, 78, 81, 139, 79, 112, 123–4
189, 192, 210 Chile 64
Bonn Agreement 101–2, 103, 108 civil society 12–13, 16, 16–17, 27, 39,
Northern Alliance 99, 100, 102, 103 57, 63, 74, 83, 111, 155, 156–7,
occupation and counter- 165, 169, 174, 182, 196
insurgency 96, 100, 108 definition and concept 183–91
post-Taliban government 93, Clinton, B. 142
103–4, 107–11, 112 Colombia 58, 66
reconstruction 59, 108–11, 113 corruption 63, 96, 110, 111, 112, 116,
stabilisation 80 125, 127–8, 132, 159, 161, 167,
Taliban 14, 62–3, 80, 89, 94, 171, 173, 174, 178–80
99–100, 103, 104, 105–6, 108, crime 52, 53, 139, 146, 151
112, 15
warlords 62, 91–3, 97–100, 102–7, debt 121, 175
110, 156 demobilisation, disarmament and
African Union 45 reintegration (DDR) 14, 39, 81,
Australia 61, 64 82, 96, 102, 105, 109
Austro-Hungarian Empire 15 democracy 28, 36, 140, 188
democratic peace thesis 27, 29
Bangladesh 58, 128 Denmark 139–40
bin Laden, O. 99 DFID 58
Blair, T. 21 distortion 9, 17, 38, 69, 74, 89, 116,
Bosnia-Herzegovina 13, 15, 37, 77, 82, 125, 136, 140, 156, 182, 185, 200
188, 189, 190, 192 Dostum, A. 99, 104, 105, 107
civil war 136, 142, 154
constitutional change 141, 143, economic reform 14, 119–20, 127
148, 150 Egypt 36, 37, 166
Dayton Peace Accords 15, 132–3, elections 7, 27, 85, 109, 140
134, 143–4, 145, 146–9, 151 El Salvador 15
nationalism 136, 141, 145, 146, ethnocentrism 30, 41, 85, 138
148, 151, 153–4, 155, 156 European Union 11, 17, 19, 32, 34, 36,
Office of the High 83, 86, 142, 148, 155, 159, 171,
Representative 140, 143, 147, 148, 173, 174–5, 177, 184, 196, 203
149, 151, 155 everyday 66, 72, 87, 114, 116, 132, 144–5,
see also Yugoslavia 154, 157, 187, 193–4, 209, 210
British government 13, 17, 83, 112,
156, 184, 192, 195–6, 202, 203–5 France 58, 174, 175
Burma 28, 36, 37, 174 free markets 28, 29, 36, 38, 78, 83,
Bush, G.W. 21, 96, 101, 113, 121, 211 109, 116, 117, 129, 138, 188, 211


9780230_273764_13_ind.indd 237 3/30/2011 9:38:06 AM

238 Index

Galtung, J. 23 Iraq 6, 13, 14, 19, 21, 28, 37, 56, 78,
Germany 139 81, 105, 137, 151, 168, 170, 192
governance 15–16, 34, 35, 41, 75, 79, economy 83, 118–32
80, 95, 98, 120, 174–82, 202 invasion of 33, 35, 116, 124, 125
definition and occupation and insurgency 64, 80,
conceptualisation 158–67 85, 96, 120, 123, 126–9
good governance 40, 54, 60, 140, oil 116, 119, 122–4, 130, 131, 132
160, 161, 165, 171, 172, 174–5, post-Saddam government 123–4,
178, 180, 188 129
local governance 105, 111, 160, 163 reconstruction 59, 120, 122–4,
Greenland 64 127–9, 157
Guatemala 58, 76, 77 sanctions 117, 123, 124–6
Irish government 17, 184, 196, 201,
Hamas 36 203–5
history 135, 153–4, 156 Israel 7, 13, 37, 45, 168, 169, 176, 178,
human rights 28, 30, 37, 43, 57, 62, 192
64, 78, 100, 111, 165, 174, 188, 195 Italy 174
Hussein, S. 14, 28, 33, 116, 117, 119, Ivory Coast 15
121, 124, 126, 131
hybridity 15, 45, 51, 65, 103, 106, Karzai, H. 93, 94, 100, 103, 104, 105,
130, 153, 184, 207, 209, 211–12 107, 108, 109–10
analytical tool 4, 10, 11, 12 Kenya 20, 53
concept 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 12, 68–9, Keynesianism 138
70–4, 77, 89 Kosovo 15, 46, 137, 139
process (hybridisation) 2, 6, 8–9,
10, 12, 47, 69, 72–3, 77–90, 92, Lebanon 13, 15, 16, 78, 82, 83
95, 110–12, 121, 132, 135, 155–7, administrative and governance
159, 181–2, 185, 200–1, 206, reform 96, 172, 173–7, 180
207–9 civil war 168, 171, 172
economy 87
India 13, 36, 57, 58, 60, 62, 67, 79, Hezbollah 16, 37, 87, 157, 159, 169,
112, 128 170, 174, 178–82
indigenous Israeli attacks and occupations 169,
as a concept 49–51, 65, 93–4 170, 172, 174, 176, 192
peacemaking 2–3, 12, 31, 53–67, sectarianism 167–8, 172, 177, 181
188, 207 state 168–9, 170, 176
politics and practice 39, 71, 103, Ta’if Accord 168, 171, 172
106, 177 legitimacy 41, 46, 59, 80, 83, 85, 95,
rediscovery of 57–60 108, 140, 143, 185
Inter-American Development liberalism 3, 11, 14, 15, 17, 18, 20, 21,
Bank 58 22, 25–31, 43, 45, 47, 49, 60, 69,
International Monetary Fund 34, 70, 76, 81, 84, 89, 96, 101, 109,
126, 139, 144, 149, 159, 163, 166, 117, 120, 151, 200, 208–9
173, 175, 176, 177 non-liberal 16, 17, 27, 37, 135, 138,
international relations 4, 12, 21, 23, 184
74, 77 and the state 29, 96, 130, 134–41,
International Studies Association 4 149
Iran 13, 36, 81, 112, 121, 122, 168, liberal peace 2, 5–7, 8, 10–11, 12, 13,
171, 181 15, 20, 21–22, 34, 35, 54, 55–6,

9780230_273764_13_ind.indd 238 3/30/2011 9:38:06 AM

Index 239

60–5, 74–7, 78–89, 113, 116, 130, peacebuilding 24, 40, 47, 70, 75, 83,
132, 143, 180, 183, 188–91, 192, 95, 117, 137, 166, 185, 188, 196,
196, 202, 207, 208, 209–10 204
alternatives to 86–8, 131–2, 159, Philippines 190
181, 211–12 post-colonialism 62, 69, 71–2, 76
components of 12–13, 16, 69, 114 powersharing 15, 150, 168, 172–3,
critiquing and understanding the 16, 179, 192
17, 25, 41–4, 46, 68, 193, 207 privatisation 14, 30, 84, 114, 118, 119,
as a system 32–7, 44–6, 75, 211 131, 155, 157, 177
Liberia 77
local agency (also local participation Qatar 169
and local ownership) 2, 6–7,
10–11, 17, 32, 45, 47, 48, 55, reconciliation 39, 47, 48, 52, 55, 56,
59–60, 68, 79, 84–6, 95, 111, 114, 144, 154, 196, 204
132, 137, 140, 147, 156, 167, 183, reconstruction 35, 40, 59, 76, 82
191, 207 resistance 6–7, 10, 17, 32, 68, 72,
78, 79, 84–6, 106, 132, 155, 207,
Mexico 58, 59, 65, 76 210–12
Milosevic, S. 151–2 Richmond, O. 31, 37
Mozambique 7 Russia 7, 11, 33, 36, 46, 79, 112
Rwanda 48–9, 190
NATO 11, 32, 43, 44, 45, 62, 89, 111,
113, 142, 148, 155, 210 sanctions 29
natural resources 58, 64, 70, 122 Saudi Arabia 13, 28, 34, 37, 96, 98,
neo-liberalism 14, 29–30, 31, 38, 41, 122, 168, 169, 174
61, 117–22, 130, 138, 165–6, 175, security sector reform 13, 39, 96, 140
183, 189 Serbia 32, 142, 143, 155
New Caledonia 15, 58 Sierra Leone 77, 78, 96, 137
Northern Ireland 6, 13, 17, 19, 77, 82, Somalia 37, 139
83, 86, 154, 156–7, 182, 191–3 South Africa 96
civil society 184, 193–6, 203–6 Soviet Union 92, 97, 98, 147
Orange Order 17, 184, 186, 193, Spoilers 108
197–205 Sri Lanka 190
peace process 184–5, 187, 195, state (as a concept) 14, 16, 26, 28,
199–204, 205 29–30, 95, 112, 134, 136–41,
sectarianism 192, 193, 194–5, 198, 145
199, 200–2 statebuilding 14, 15, 16, 20, 25, 39,
Sinn Féin 195, 201 40–1, 61, 74, 77, 82, 83, 86, 95–6,
North Korea 81 97, 101, 103, 104, 106, 109–10,
112, 134–41, 155, 159, 166, 180,
Obama, B. 46, 106, 113 188
OSCE 142, 156 Sudan 58
Syria 13, 34, 81, 168, 169, 171, 179
Pakistan 139
Palestine 139, 168, 169, 170 Taliban see Afghanistan
participation see local agency Tanzania 53, 63
peace Timor Leste 137
study and critiques of, 1–2, 3, 4, 8, Tito, J. 146
10, 22–5, 31, 69, 116, 209 Turkmenistan 28, 174

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240 Index

Uganda 53, 137 Uruguay 34

United Kingdom 13, 32, 81, 174, 175, USAID 58, 96, 119, 155, 166
185, 193, 201
United Nations 10, 11, 13, 19, 32, 34, warlords 14
45, 58, 62, 78, 81, 93, 100, 119, War on Terror 96, 139, 167, 171
124, 142, 155, 179, 181 welfare 96, 117, 130, 141
peacekeeping 82, 211 women (and gender) 27, 52, 53,
United Nations Development 62, 64, 79, 101, 103, 111, 128,
Programme 34, 40, 43, 159, 160, 165
164, 166, 172, 173, 174, 176, 177, World Bank 10, 34, 58, 120, 122, 139,
178, 180 144, 159, 161, 162, 166, 173, 174,
United States 13, 14–15, 16, 19, 21, 175, 176, 177
29, 32, 34, 36, 37, 46, 56, 59, 65, World Vision 19
81, 93, 96, 112, 113, 119, 122,
124, 127, 139, 168, 175, 180, 182 Yemen 96, 139
development and humanitarian Yugoslavia 15, 32, 78, 145, 190
assistance 99, 121, 122, 166 socialist era 136, 141, 146, 147–8,
military power 33, 64, 85, 98, 100, 149–50
105, 142–3 socialist legacy 135, 151–2
Universal Declaration of Human
Rights 25, 57 Zimbabwe 81

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