Dr. Peter Lock
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Dr. Peter Lock
c/o EART e.V.
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D - 22399 Hamburg
Oil and Peace: What future for Sudan?
(Seminar on Sudan in Brussels, June 12th, 2002, first session, commentary)
The recent ICG-report on Sudan conveys an urgent and somewhat optimistic message: The international community should act immediately using all possible leverage to press for peace and democracy in Sudan because it is assumed that the current juncture offers a unique window of opportunity likely to remain open for a short period only according to this report. The report presents a political history of the country and links it with topics currently dominating the American foreign policy and hence the international agenda. Combating terrorism and steam rolling Sudan into a democracy are portrayed as a dynamic symbiosis possible to achieve provided external actors can agree to join forces and use all their leverage on Sudan.
Contrary to the author of the IGC-report I believe that terrorism always reflects a specific (historical) social embeddedness of the actors. Without analysing and addressing the respective embeddedness the combat against terrorists will not succeed except at a very cursory level for a limited period of time. I therefore can not share the conclusions of the IGC-report as long as the social content of the democracy to be imposed is carefully laid out and checked for its realism in medium term. What next, once "democracy" is instituted by external pressure? What will be the model of development, what has it to offer to the people, particularly to the younger generations? Since I am not a specialist on Sudan I will approach the issue of peace or at least of a reduction of armed violence from a somewhat broader perspective.
Left without alternative visions and ideological certainties at the end of the Cold War, a confusing debate over the causes of continued (mostly) internal wars ensued among social scientists. It saturated social science journals and trickled eventually into rhetoric of the agenda of the United Nations (Agenda for Peace among others). The apparent helplessness and unwillingness of the international community to at least mitigate the most flagrant violations of human rights in the course of what came to be labelled "the new wars" led to an intensified search for the major causes of these armed conflicts which afflict mostly the backyards of the global economy . After various temptations to attribute this violence to supposedly ascribed features like ethnicity or to qualify it simply as absolute chaos beyond repair (Kaplan) among others, the economic patterns sustaining these wars recently turned into a major focus of the debate on the causes of war (I do not address the purely ideological attempts intended to instigate a self-fulfilling political configuration which pit Islam against so-called western values embedded in the concept of democracy.).
It is somewhat surprising how long it took the general debate to understand that the economies of these wars have little in common with what were known as war economies in the context of major interstate wars in the past century, which were focusing on maximising the use of all existing productive resources. Since it is obvious that in the absence of foreign patronage certain economic features must prevail in order to make war fighting sustainable in the context of weak or even failed states, particularly at the side of non-state actors in armed conflict.
In the footsteps of the pioneering publication Jean/Rufin "L'économie de guerres civiles" (1996) an intensive scrutiny into the economic patterns sustaining on-going wars resulted in a stream of "war economy" studies. The academic community studying the causes of "new wars" continues to engage in the search for common features of current war economies. This particular "mode of production" necessarily interacts with the global shadow economy and lacks transparency. In addition ideologies of identity provide a dynamic leverage to regulate social exclusion. The ultimate arbiter in the market is violence and the threat thereof.
However, it is necessary in this debate to emphasise that such patterns are at best the necessary conditions for sustained armed conflict to be carried out. Many countries not engaged in armed violence classified as internal war also display dynamic interactions within the sprawling networks of shadow globalisation, harbour ideologies of identity and are plagued with violence replacing a regulated market. Relying on findings based on macro-quantitative comparative analysis Collier and others emphasise the importance of "greed" in making war economies rather dynamic processes.
Could it be that we analytically miss some dramatic social transformation of the dominant mode of violence from what we recognise as warfare towards less organised, but still rational forms of violence at the level of fragmented social layers along both horizontal and vertical lines? Many agents of this violence operate globally, their spheres of operation are not bounded by the nation-state, while others focus on carving out small territories where they wield the monopoly of violence.
Thus, my first query seeks to explore the transformation of violence from warfare towards seemingly more anarchic forms of violence which reflect the structure and fragmentation of societies in the context of the current liberal globalism. Arguably the apparent transformation of the "war against terror" towards a totalitarian political design aiming at cementing the current distribution of power both internally and externally epitomizes this on-going subtle transformation. Formal democracy and elections, the code of arms of liberal globalism, remain manageable and have demonstrated their capacity to sustain high levels of violence and fragmentation through a pervasive privatisation and commodificaton of security.
My second query departs from the suspicion that the specificity regularly ascribed to war economies may actually be a myth. Every operational aspect of war economies can be found in non-war economies, sometimes even the configuration is similar. Hence, we may observe in war economies only the tip of an iceberg representing the current global economic pattern we tend or possibly prefer to overlook because it would force us to ask more fundamental "systemic" questions, the current political leaders (our employers) might not want to confront.