Thursday, June 17, 2010

Theory Confirmed Again, Unfortunately

I posted two days ago about the challenges of doing social science about conflict.  Specifically, events can prove one right, making one happy, but those events can be pretty bad for people in general.  Well, my focus on the role of governments in civil conflicts, with new emphasis on the need for civilian control over professional militaries, has received more support from the latest from Kyrgyzstan.  Elements of the Kyrgyzstan military seem to have taken sides and used violence against the minority Uzbeks.  Is this surprising?  No.  It should remind us, however, that violence occurs not just when states become weak and fail, but when agents of the state act against particular individuals or groups in a capricious or predatory manner.

Other social scientists (Steven Wilkinson) have found that riots occur not because governments are incapable of stopping them but when the relevant local leaders actually want a riot so that the populace becomes radicalized. 

What is going on in this case?  I am not sure since I have never studied any of the non-Afghanistan "stans."  But it suggests that the new caretakers in the aftermath of the removal of the previous president, Bakiyev, do not have complete control over the military.  Indeed, it may be the case that Bakiyev still has some influence and is using it to undermine the current government.

Leaders of the Uzbeks are asking for an international set of peacekeepers since they do not trust the Kyrgyz.  Well, they are most likely to get Russian peacekeepers, so they should be careful about what they are asking for.  Russian peacekeepers tend to have their own agendas, as Georgia has experienced, and peace is not always one of them, although pieces often are.  Pieces of this place or that place.

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