Thursday, December 11, 2014

Assess This! Pondering Progress and its Discontents

I am in the lovely city of The Hague for a couple of days for the final workshop of the ISAF Strategic Assessment Capability folks.   With ISAF wrapping things up and turning the international effort over to something else in Afghanistan, this is the last time these folks are meeting to consider how to measure progress in this complex effort. 
Taking pics of NATO meetings is apparently one item to indicate progress: we met!
I wrote a short paper that does not really assess progress--I do not focus on discussing changes in metrics or which metrics to use--but posits a series of challenges inherent in NATO, in domestic politics of democracies, and in counter-insurgency that make progress pretty damned hard.  I am linking to the paper, but be forewarned--it is rough, relatively cite-free and lit review-less. 

The basic claims are these:
  • that NATO operates in certain ways that cause problems
    • that opt-out clauses are hard-wired into NATO as one could not get decisions that require consensus if such decisions actually required countries to obey without reserverations/opting out.
    • that alliances tend create divisions of labor--in terms of both geographic areas of responsibility and functional ones--that create a variety of unhelpful dynamics.
    • that NATO had never done much of the governance/development work before--Bosnia and Kosovo had other agencies leading in these areas.  
  • that domestic politics within each country have dynamics that cannot be avoided
    • that bureaucracies have different cultures of delegation so that the locus of decision making for one might be in the field and another in the national capital, making "synching" damned near impossible.
    • there is a desire to pick specific goals so that progress can be assessed but counter-insurgency requires adaptation.  But adapting means to opposition parties that one is "moving the goalposts"
    • the need to prove to domestic audiences that one is making a difference might mean designing signature projects but that cuts against making projects in Afghanistan look like they were Afghan-led, designed.
    • most members had no experience in expeditionary efforts, so their civilians sent into the field may not have had proper insurance policies, making it hard to go outside the wire (same was true for Polish military)
    • that getting competing bureaucracies to work together requires attention at the very highest levels (President/PM), but Afghanistan was never anyone's top priority.  Thus, attention was hard to sustain especially once financial crisis of 2008 hit.
  •  that Counter-insurgency is really, really hard
    • especially when the countries never dedicate enough troops to the effort
    • especially when countries refuse to agree that COIN is what they were doing
    • especially when the local allies have their own agendas
      • The Karzais were lousy clientelists--they should have given some of the "rents" to folks they disliked to keep them on board. 
Again, the paper is brief but might be of interest. 

No comments: