Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Wither the Wizarding Alliance: Fighting Alone, Not Together

With great power comes great responsibility, so when I see this on twitter:

I must respond.  After all, I have demonstrated here at the Spew (and in my classes) a mastery of all that is Harry Potter, including extensive fieldwork AND I now have a handy dandy book on NATO co-written with Muggle expert David Auerswald.  So, where was the alliance when Britain succumbed to a civil war between the Order of the Phoenix and Dumbledore's Army versus Voldemort and the Dark Forces?

To be clear, just as the British police force and army were not involved in this particular battle, I would not expect NATO to enter this war either. 
  • NATO has never intervened in the intra-state conflicts of members... only non-members such as Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Afghanistan and Libya.  NATO never got involved in the "troubles" in Northern Ireland or Spain's Basque conflict, so I am not sure why a wizarding war would be any different.
  • To intervene, NATO would have to gain consensus to do something.  That is not easy and probably would be most difficult when it comes to a magical war, given that some countries might just be under the influence of the dark magic users/xenophobes.  Indeed, if there was some risk of intervention, Voldemort almost certainly would have gained enough control over the Prime Minister so that the UK would not have agreed to the intervention.  
  • NATO, as far as we know, has no magical capabilities, either by itself (such as its AWACS planes) or generated via NATO's force generation process.  It is not clear how muggle weaponry would have been useful against the Dark Forces especially given the latter's ability to hide among the population.  So, NATO really had no role to play.
We know that there were magic users elsewhere, that Dumbledore had allies in other countries, and so on.  This question then breaks down into two distinct ones: what about a Wizarding Alliance?  If not a formal alliance, why not a Coalition of the Willing Wizards?  While JK Rowling does not mention any NATO-like alliance among the wizarding communities of the world (there is some international cooperation, but seems more focused on games and trade restrictions), one could imagine that the countries that were on the same side in World War II, which was really about the rise and fall of Gellert Grindelwald, might have formed a lasting alliance aimed at the wizards and witches that used Communism as cover.  In search of a post Cold War mission, this Wizarding Alliance could have been interested in intervening, but again, the difficulties of gaining consensus might have gotten in the way.  Voldemort, despite being a poor tactician, was adept enough to put a stick in the spokes of international organizational decision-processes. 

The primary advantage of ad hoc coalitions is that one does not need to gain consensus to act.  So, one could imagine the magical governments within the U.S. (Department of Magic), Canada (the Department of National Magic), and a few others cooperating to fight the Dark Forces.  Since the HP series was written by a Brit, it is not surprising that it underplayed the role of the outsiders.  I mean, the Brits still think Monty was the bee's knees.  So, in this case, my guess is that there was some assistance rendered to the British wizards and witches.  However, it might have been in the form of sending over mass-produced wands (since the British lost their primary supplier), advanced brooms, and the like. 

Of course, more research is required to better document the role of outsiders in Britain's civil war among magic users.  I have no doubt that kinship ties mattered and so did the complex dynamics of nationalism and xenophobia.  Time to write up a new grant application.

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