August 31, 2014

Horse 1743 - The Islamic State - Over Before It Started

Laying aside morality for a moment and the utter barbarism of laying people to waste for no discernible reason that I can fathom, the Islamic State (inasmuch as it can be called a 'state', which I don't think that it is yet) will need to establish three things before it can properly live up to its self proclaimed; incorrectly described epithet. Those three things are:

1. Legitimacy
2. The Rule of Law
3. Provision of Public Services

1. Legitimacy
Suppose that the Islamic State does eventually form some semblance of statehood or transforms into something closer to that of being a nation; even if it does achieve those ends via the means of the Kalashnikov, it still needs the consent of those people which it intends to govern.
Empires of old including those at their most brutal like the Romans or the Mongols and even the British, all learned that although you could subjugate peoples and even force them into slavery by the use of brute force, to actually go about the task of governance requires the tacit support of at least some kind of organisational structure, even if it is a military one.
Usually this is done by the use of military force which acts as some form of de facto martial police force. Whilst the Islamic State has proven itself very effective at taking territory and conquering people, I'm not sure if it has even proven itself capable of doing much else yet. Even the Taliban in northern Afghanistan did show that for a while it was capable of at least a passable degree of governance even if it was savage in doing so.

2. The Rule of Law
If you were to take a survey of all the laws enacted by governments, then apart from those which govern the physical standards of things (like weights, measures, voltages &c.) then pretty much the rest of all laws hinges on property rights and responsibilities; those being the rights as they relate to rights and responsibilities as applied to one's person and those relating to property that can be owned, both real and intellectual.
The rule of law is the principle that it is the legal framework and the laws as enacted which should govern a nation and not the whim of government officials, kings or kaisers. If kings and kaisers should feel themselves above the rule of law and declare that they have some divine right, then history has proven time and time again that it has interesting ways of eventually making them submit to it.
Again, the Islamic State hasn't even looked like it has even thought of any real overarching cohesive structure apart from a top-down sort of self proclaimed theocratic absolute monarchy led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. If it wants to achieve any sort of lasting effect, then this will need to be rectified or else face descending into splintered anarchy.

3. Provision of Public Services
This is going to sound really dumb to anyone not familiar with Afghan politics before 2001 but the Taliban had actually established things like schools and marketplaces. The problem was that under the Taliban, the regions of Afghanistan which they controlled were run by 'jirga' which presumably ran like Pashtun tribal councils. The Taliban did not hold elections as they felt that political process itself was in opposition to sharia law.
The problem with the Islamic State is that if they decide to run their caliphate anything like the Taliban did with the regions of Afghanistan that they held, then it will be marked by a notable absence of state institutions; this hold distinct problems. People expect to live in places that have access to even basic provisions like water and maybe electricity. I seriously doubt how or even if the Islamic State has even thought about how or if it is going to set about making policy to do with the provision of public services. If it decides to do nothing, then that is highly likely to cause angst and unhappiness, which potentially could plunge the whole thing into a desperate rabble and general civil disorder is likely to follow.

All governments face those three issues and most civilised nations get about to answering them in one way or another. Failure to do so, usually results in a failed state.
Curiously the NGO think tank the Fund for Peace characterizes a failed state as having the following characteristics:
- Loss of control of its territory, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force therein
- Erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions
- Inability to provide public services
- Inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community

Apart from the last of those four, they marry up with what I've just described. The problem is that the Islamic State if it isn't actually a failed state already is a violent non-state actor and that in itself is still cause for concern.

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