Obama, les drones et le contre-terrorisme

Dans un discours très attendu prononcé hier à la National Defense University, Barack Obama s’est prononcé pour la première fois sur l’ensemble de la stratégie des Etats-Unis contre Al-Qaïda et ses affiliés. Loin d’être le tournant annoncé par certains, sa déclaration semble surtout avoir été motivée par le désir de répondre aux interrogations et aux craintes suscitées par l’utilisation des drones dans des campagnes de décapitation.

 

Parmi ces contestations, il faut noter la crispation sur certains points: la pratique des "signature strikes" (tirs d’opportunité), la légalité de l’utilisation de la force sur des territoires d’Etats avec lesquels les Etats-Unis ne sont pas en guerre, le cadre légal de l’emploi des drones (et donc le statut des individus ciblés), la peur de conséquences contre-productives (aliénation des sociétés locales voire de leurs élites), la question de la transparence du processus de sélection des cibles et de la  mise en oeuvre des drones, enfin, la crainte de voir s’épanouir un dispositif global de surveillance et d’élimination, y compris contre des citoyens américains. Au-delà de ces interrogations légitimes, il peut être utile de se pencher sur ce discours et sur les modalités du recours aux drones armés par les Etats-Unis qu’il annonce, redéfinit et – d’une certaine manière – normalise.

L’Amérique à la croisée des chemins?

Le discours d’Obama doit d’abord se comprendre comme un exercice de style propre au président: une manière qu’il juge politiquement efficace de façonner les termes du débat et de faire savoir les nuances de son approche, loin de tout manichéisme. En second lieu, il s’inscrit dans un contexte de politisation croissante de la stratégie d’éliminations ciblées et de l’approche contre-terroriste adoptée par son administration. Qu’il s’agisse des objections formulées par le rapporteur spécial de l’ONU pour les exécutions extrajudiciaires, sommaires ou arbitraires, des critiques émanant d’universitaires ou encore d’activistes, voire de la tentative du sénateur Rand Paul de porter le débat sur la place publique, la question des targeted killings a pris une place croissante dans les débats au moins depuis la mort de Anouar Al-Aulaki, ce citoyen américain considéré comme un membre important d’Al-Qaïda dans la Péninsule Arabique (AQAP). Dit autrement, le discours d’Obama n’a pas pour seule fonction de répondre à ces critiques mais bien de modeler la perception de l’attitude passée, présente et future de l’administration.

Ainsi, le président américain fait-il remarquer que pas une seule frappe de drones n’a été soustraite à la connaissance des commissions ad hoc du Congrès. De la même manière, le président rappelle que le choix des individus ciblés et de l’exécution de la frappe répond à des considérations  concernant le risque que poserait une tentative de capture, l’imminence de la menace que l’individu représente pour les Etats-Unis ainsi que le manque de volonté ou de capacités des forces de sécurité locales. Il annonce son souhait de réduire le nombre de frappes en encadrant davantage encore l’utilisation des drones. Du reste, il semble que l’administration ait fait preuve de davantage de retenue ces derniers mois (à l’exception peut-être du Yémen), ce qui correspond à l’analyse donnée dans le discours: la technologie et l’efficacité tactique du drone ne doivent pas laisser croire qu’il soit sage de les utiliser en toutes circonstances. En d’autres termes, le président fait une analogie entre la nécessité de la retenue et le désengagement progressif d’Irak et d’Afghanistan qu’il a initié.

Au-delà, ce discours se veut d’abord l’occasion pour Obama de rappeler son attachement à l’Etat de droit et aux valeurs fondatrices de l’Amérique. C’est la raison pour laquelle il tend la main au Congrès concernant la révision (et l’abrogation éventuelle) de l’Authorization of the Use of Military Force (AUMF) ainsi que la mise en place de procédures de contrôle par la branche législative. Il réaffirme ainsi son souhait de ne pas laisser se développer un pouvoir présidentiel absolu dans la conduite du contre-terrorisme ainsi que sa volonté de respecter l’équilibre des pouvoirs. Enfin, il rappelle l’impératif formulée dès 2009 de fermer la prison de Guantanamo.

Enfin, le président américain tient à rassurer ses concitoyens: à l’image de ses prédécesseurs, il ne souhaite pas conserver une posture de "guerre permanente" d’autant que la nature de la menace présentée par Al-Qaïda a changé. Selon lui en effet, les branches locales du mouvement sont davantage intéressées au niveau local et régional et ne présentent pas une menace directe pour les Etats-Unis, à l’exception d’AQAP. L’attentat de Boston lui donne l’occasion de réaffirmer la menace des homegrown terrorists et d’insister sur les trois dangers auxquels l’Amérique fait face: ces derniers, les attaques contre les intérêts américains, le fait qu’Al-Qaïda dispose encore de capacités même si l’organisation est moins létale. D’après lui, tout ceci s’apparente à la situation qui prévalait avant le 11 Septembre. Paradoxalement peut-être, ce constat prudent (mais modérément optimiste) justifie la poursuite des campagnes d’éliminations ciblées.

La logique du moindre mal?

La nécessité de se pencher sur les questions éthiques et légales ne répond pas seulement à des impératifs politiques internes. Nul doute que cela s’inscrit dans l’approche pragmatique d’un président qui a cherché à gérer l’héritage de son prédécesseur en donnant une nouvelle signification politique, stratégique et morale aux dispositifs mis en place par ce dernier.

L’utilisation des drones dans des campagnes d’éliminations ciblées doit se comprendre en effet comme une réponse élaborée par les organisations en charge de la lutte contre Al-Qaïda à la demande formulée par le président Bush après le 11 Septembre. Si ce dernier a demandé la mise en place d’une véritable chasse à l’homme globale, il n’a pas particulièrement pesé sur les choix stratégiques. Ceux-ci sont revenus à Donald Rumsfeld d’une part, aux directeurs successifs de la CIA (Georges Tenet, Porter Goss et Michael Hayden) d’autre part. Les drones sont progressivement devenus une arme de choix dès lors que le Pentagone a bâti une organisation capable d’opérations spéciales et de renseignement (le JSOC). Pour l’Agence, les réticences initiales de nombre de fonctionnaires ont été levées par les critiques internes portant sur le réseau de prisons secrètes et les "techniques d’interrogatoire avancées". La dernière année de la présidence Bush voit ainsi s’accélérer le nombre de frappes dans les zones tribales pakistanaises, d’autant que la CIA a patiemment mis au point un réseau d’informateurs sur ce territoire de manière à pouvoir se passer de l’ISI.

Barack Obama renforce ce recours aux drones dès lors que se pose la question de la détention et qu’émergent des menaces croissantes au Yémen et en Somalie. Dans aucun de ces deux pays en effet, l’administration n’est désireuse (ni capable) de déployer des forces spéciales. Au Pakistan, la collaboration difficile avec les élites pakistanaises rend de plus en plus périlleux le déploiement de troupes au sol. En dépit de son succès, le raid sur Abbotabad aggrave encore la difficulté à planifier et à conduire ce type d’opérations. De ce fait, le recours aux drones apparaît bien comme la seule issue possible.

Enfin, dans un contexte où le président américain considère qu’une intervention massive et de longue durée est à exclure, les drones paraissent résoudre partiellement la quadrature du cercle, promettant une plus grande discrimination, des pertes nulles et des coûts politiques d’autant plus réduits qu’il s’agit d’une guerre menée dans l’ombre.

Contraintes et réalités du contre-terrorisme:

Si donc la politisation croissante entourant les drones et les éliminations ciblées est à l’origine du discours d’hier, il ne faut pas négliger l’impact des contraintes locales. Le choix d’une stratégie à l’empreinte légère (light-footprint strategy) nécessite en effet de s’appuyer sur des relais locaux, qu’il s’agisse de gouvernements ou d’agences de renseignement (comme au Yémen), d’informateurs (comme au Pakistan) ou bien de seigneurs de guerre ou de factions (comme en Somalie). Comme toute stratégie, celle-ci présente des risques importants: celui d’être instrumentalisés (d’autant que les gouvernements yéménites et pakistanais limitent l’accès à leur espace aérien, ce qui leur permet de faire intervenir les drones parfois à leur profit), celui de ne pas maîtriser les dynamiques politiques locales (le soutien aux seigneurs de guerre somaliens ayant abouti à renforcer davantage l’emprise des Shebabs), celui de s’aliéner les populations civiles ou les élites (comme c’est le cas au Pakistan). A terme, il est certainement de plus en plus difficile de mettre en oeuvre les plate-formes sans pilote – même si les Américains ont sécurisé des bases en Arabie Saoudite, à Djibouti et aux Seychelles – d’autant plus que l’adversaire s’adapte également. Si les drones sont efficaces en ce qu’ils maintiennent la pression sur les "militants", les forçant à se cacher et à ralentir leurs opérations, ils ne peuvent suffire en eux-mêmes à vaincre Al-Qaïda. Le président Obama le reconnaît sans peine lorsqu’il rappelle la nécessité de lier les frappes de drones à une stratégie globale visant à éradiquer les "racines" de la radicalisation, ou encore lorsqu’il précise que l’objectif est de dégrader l’organisation ou ses filiales, et non l’anéantir.

Ainsi, on constate que la stratégie et l’approche de l’administration ont lentement mûri. Notamment, Obama a progressivement fait basculer l’appareil de sécurité nationale d’une "guerre à la terreur" qu’il faut gagner à tout prix vers une gestion  de la menace visant à atténuer celle-ci. Dans cette évolution, les drones ont largement trouvé leur place mais nécessitent certainement une adaptation vers un usage plus retenu. Obama n’a pas déclaré que la guerre était terminée, ni même qu’elle pourrait être gagnée, mais simplement que les Américains devaient apprendre à vivre avec la menace.

Stéphane Taillat (posté également sur Alliance Géostratégique)

Bibliographie:

Mark Mazetti, The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army and a War at the Ends of the Earth, New-York: Penguin Books, 2013.

Daniel Klaidman, Kill or Capture : The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency, New-York : Houghton Mifflin, 2012.

Tom Shanker et Eric Schmitt, Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America’s Campaign Against Al-Qaeda, New-York: Times Book, 2011.

Gregory D. Johnsen, The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al Qaeda and America’s War in Arabia, New-York: Norton&Co., 2012.

Sources:

Données du Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Données du Long War Journal (PakistanYémen)

Données de la New America Foundation (PakistanYémen)

 

"Pyrrhic Victory"? US drones in strategic perspective

Last June, I wrote a post (Fr.) summarizing current questions and assessments about the use of drones by the Obama administration in which I concluded that that had the potential to raise further issues. Last week, the debate inside the US bounced back with the release of a leaked memo by the Department of Justice outlining legal criteria for targeting American citizens, and with the confirmation hearing of John Brennan before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. It now seems that legal and ethical questions trump  strategic considerations on the relation between short-term tactical efficiency and long-term strategic outcomes of using that weapon in a broader campaign the US is waging against Al-Qaeda and its affiliates.

To be fair, those two realms of ethical issues and strategic efficiency are intimately intertwined. If waging a war necessitates to frame narratives toward a broader range of audiences, it also implies that "winning" is achievable once those audiences become convinced that political objectives are met, even if partially, and that  our will has been imposed on the adversary (which is less than evident in case of actors pursuing absolute goals). Yet, the American strategic imagination is mainly idealistic in its mainstream current: war is waged according to values. Furthermore, the set of norms and rules established and enforced through the US Hegemony, even if it proves elastic at some times, constrains military actions and strategic decision. That implies that ethical and legal issues arising from the use of armed drones in at least nominally sovereign states may have strategic consequences. Put it otherwise: the tactical efficiency of drones has to be considered in the right way, as a temporary achievement and not as a silver bullet, because of the potential unintended consequences on the long run and the risk of "Pyrrhic victory".

Lire la suite

Stabilization: closing the doors or closing the Gap?

In two recent articles, two French prominent scholars lead an assault against the French intervention in Mali. The first is from Olivier Zajec – a researcher at ISC – in Le Monde Diplomatique (In French and behind a paywall unfortunately): he basically explains that western interventions in the last decade are characterized by a lack of strategic vision which amounts to a strategic hiccup. Unable to draw the right conclusions of past quagmires and failures, Western States would be doomed to repeat the same mistakes, especially regarding four elements he deems  necessary in order to succeed:

  1. a failure to assess the threat on its own right (by labeling "terrorists" any insurgent or ethnoseparatist movement)
  2. a failure to see how legitimacy (and especially that of the local government) should preclude any long term commitment
  3. a failure to recognize the limited role our military forces should play in unlocking the tactical situation in order to let local dynamics freely develop
  4. a failure to plan an exit strategy which would amounts to a greater  political freedom of action

The second is from Olivier Roy – a world known scholar on Muslim societies – in Le Monde: his main argument highlights the dilemma raised by the characterization of the enemy as an irreconcilable terrorist. Indeed, by labeling the adversary as a unitary actor, one would ignore the more complex political and social dynamics at play, thus precluding any chance to disrupt AQ by letting the local actors whom it tries to be a parasite to give up their protection. Put otherwise: that would prevent any opportunity to collaborate with less extremists actors whose agendas are more amenable to compromise.

Of course, both articles have strong argument, and I share them for a large part. But I disagree with each on two points:

1) The conditions outlined by Olivier Zajec are too idealistic. In other words, they preclude any intervention or stabilization on the basis that they are not likely to be met in the real world. To be fair, those four principles could be met, but only during the course of the operation.

2) hence my second point: those two pieces (and especially Zajec’s) seem to ignore the necessity to study strategy in a dialectical way. A strategy of exit, tactical operations which would unlock the situation and even a fair and autonomous analysis of the enemy would depend on the adversary’s strategy, its capabilities and its own political freedom of action and capability to unlock the situation on the ground. Iraq is a good example: the ’07-’08 surge unlocked the military situation and let local dynamics develop with a relatively low US pressure and inducement. But to be fair, during the surge, US needed to pressure, induce, persuade and leverage the various political actors (first and foremost Prime Minister Maliki). On the other hand, both pieces fail to fully recognize AQ’s strategy to embed itself in the locals’ very social fabric: when Roy uses the analogy with a parasite, he seems to forget that it is more than that. Jihadists often use gaps and fault lines, first seducing but also using coercion and intimidation in order to establish their social and political order. Of course, local societies may be tempted to rise against foreign fighters, but as the failed 2005 revolt in Anbar should demonstrate, it is likely to be crushed without external alliance (in that case, the successful alliance between several cheiks and the US military at fall ’06).

To me, closing the gap (that is, in Odierno’s words, to boost the host-government legitimacy) is a far more realistic way, under certain circumstances, than closing the doors (letting local dynamics creating more chaos and instability). The colonial era is over, and thus no western country can stabilize alone: it has to build coalitions both outside and inside the targeted state’s society. But on the other hand, as we are in a hierarchical world (maybe it could be or even it should be otherwise, but it is not), western states are the most powerful and hence have more chances to assert their interests than local states. In that perspective, if such a state (or its leaders) perceives that it has stakes and interests to intervene and stabilize, and if it calculates that the obstacles and anticipated costs are low enough to allow that, it is likely that it will act accordingly. Eventually, by doing so, it is also likely that the best course would be to help build the legitimacy of the local government. It is obviously a dilemma, since an external-imposed legitimacy is more difficult to enforce and sustain, but no dilemma can be resolved by starting from what the world should be rather than what it really is…

"Should I stay or should I go" (The Clash)

Somewhere near Sirte in October 2011, dictator Muammar Gaddafi met his fate. That event seemed to make an end to a successful western-led and UN-endorsed intervention which had aimed to protect the Libyan from a brutal repression and eventually toppled a decades-long authoritarian regime.

To some, it appeared as a good news: from now on, it would be possible to rely on military force to enforce the liberal order and, in a somewhat romanticism way, wage war for the salvation of innocent civilians. For others, that success triggered concerns that western power (and maybe others) would use Libya as a precedent in order to legitimate any intervention.

But neither occurred. On the contrary, the messy civil war in Syria and the brutal repression exerted on the population by Bacher Al Assad have not seen yet a western intervention. Proponents and opponents of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) have then argued that that situation of "double standards" is another proof of western states’ cynicism.

Underlying this assumption is a fundamentally flawed perception of what is intervention in the strategic realm and, moreover, what is its meaning in today’s international relations.

R2P and "just war": a case for intervention

As Jean-Baptiste Jengène-Vilmer argued in an insightful article in July, R2P is frequently misled as a legitimating tool to intervene. In fact, R2P is neither a duty nor a free-hand given to a particular state in order to violate the norm of sovereignty upon which the international political system rests. More accurately, it could be depicted both as a condition for sovereign states to be recognized as such and as a right given to external actors, under certain circumstances, to act under UN mandate to interfere in the internal affairs of another state in order to protect its civilians.

In short, R2P functions more like the "just war" doctrine as a set of criteria to discern when and how going to war. It is worth remembering that "just war" is not only about a "just cause" but also about consequences: war is deemed "just" when its expected consequences is not to add more harm or to aggravate the conflict. Put otherwise, that implies intervention is neither a tool of last resort nor a task to be performed in every situation where civilian population is put at risk by a specific government.

Values and interests:

States, and especially great powers, are thus more prone to intervene when there’s a strong consensus among them to do so (in the case of "humanitarian intervention") or when they have both the power and high perceived stakes to act (in the case of "regime change"). Put simply, intervention is function of a particular actor’s logic. That logic rests upon a balance between perceived interests and perceived values. Both matter: values are often framing the way a particular conflict is inscribed into that actor’s interests, and interests are of course what drive the actor to include intervention in its strategic opportunities.  It is critical to make that point because values and interests are more often than not perceived as opposed and sometimes conflicting categories. In most cases, there’s a necessity to balance between them rather than to oppose them. In the case of France in Libya, values and interests are melted to a point that is nearly impossible to really separate them. Indeed, France was willing to assert its role as both a Mediterranean power and a promoter of Democracy. On the domestic stage, intervening was also seen as an opportunity driven by the perceived necessity to act in order to restore the president’s image.

But if either values and interests shape the stakes in a particular situation, they have to be balanced with obstacles and potential costs in a strategic calculus. In a sense, Libya presented only a few obstacles: for France, the necessity to frame public opinion and international audience to present intervention as neither a post-colonial move nor a casualties-creating conflict. Those obstacles (mainly internal) drove the way France chose to intervene. That’s not to say that public opinion really mattered as an objective obstacle. On the contrary, it is worth saying that public opinion was seen by political and military elites at the time as either a potential multiplier of legitimacy or a potential constraint in case France would suffer casualties.

In the case of Syria, obstacles are much more important and constraining. First, there are those constraints emanating from the international stage (i.e. the opposition of both China and Russia at the UNSC). Second, political elites are not willing to rely on direct military force and subsequent occupation to deal with Syria. That may be explained by either the interpretation of the last decade’s interventions or by political elites’ perceptions of costs overcoming benefits. Put another way: stakes and interests are not seen as sufficient to risk military or political backlash on either the domestic or the international stage. Third of course, military operations would prove much more difficult in Syria than in Libya, for a great range of reasons.

Moreover, consequences matter: there are growing concerns that an intervention in Syria, while desirable in the light of many interests or values, would lead to unintended and unwanted aftermaths.

The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 seems to prove that when stakes are high enough, political elites in the world’s most powerful actor can overcome perceived obstacles. On the international stage, the US was able to do it because of its unchallenged capabilities. On the domestic stage, the aftermath of 9/11 allowed the administration to secure a large support in favor of the intervention.

In short, interventions are much likely to occur when stakes and capabilities are higher than dealing with both external and internal constraints. That’s obvious, but that has two implications. First, context matters of course. But second, the way political elites perceive the desirability of a particular course of action seems to be more important than objective constraints.

Beyond intervention:

Those points highlight the fact that Libya has not become the precedent some feared (or hoped) to be. Political elites in most western countries seem to perceive much higher costs and difficulties to intervene in Syria.

It is more likely that, in the near future, western states will choose another course of action, absent the very conditions that allowed the intervention in Libya to be  decided, waged and successfully put to an end. In reality, the alternative is not a binary one: between intervening or doing nothing.

States could choose to manage conflicts, humanitarian catastrophes or so-called "rogue states" instead. That’s not to say that we are returning back to the 9/11 era. In many ways, western elites have learnt many lessons from that period. On the other hand, they’ve also drawn wrong lessons from the last decade, especially with regards to which effects military force may and can achieve.

Managing those situations would mean that states would rely on other means to deal with them. First, states could use sanctions or other tools in order to persuade. They could also use proxies or a light footprint approach in order to avoid being entangled in these situations. More probably, great powers would choose to intervene indirectly in order to contain potentially threatening consequences for a particular areas or for themselves.

Conclusion: France in Mali

That’s why France would certainly choose not to intervene directly in Mali. More accurately, one would not expect France to rely on the same assets and on the same course of action than in Libya. First, political elites are willing to avoid any accusation of attempting to reassert control in a previous colony. Second, external threats are seen as less important than domestic issues. Third, further cuts in the defense budget would weigh on capabilities to act. Fourth, France’s political leaders are unwilling to use force by fear of potential reprisals on French hostages. It seems that we forgot the very necessity of deterrence in that particular case. If France intends to remain a global power (albeit with reduced capabilities), it would be critical to remember the political message the use of force may send to both adversaries and partners. Because force means determination, it would be regrettable to lock ourselves in the binary alternative of fear vs. posture.

"Survivre, c’est vaincre" (R. Aron)

In his seminal book, Paix et guerres entre les nations, Raymond Aron chose  to take a particular stance vis à vis the Cold War: he stated that, in order to survive, the West had to win. By that, he did not mean achieving a clear victory in the traditional sense, that is by compelling the Soviet bloc to accept a peace that would end the global confrontation of his time. On the contrary, that sentence, widely discussed and debated at the time, meant that the West had to manage the threat. Put otherwise, he thought that winning could be equated to not losing or, more accurately, to preventing the adversary to achieve a decisive victory. Of course, during the Cold War, any confrontation would certainly have led to a global nuclear struggle, with no winner in sight.

That assessment remains true today, where western countries and the international liberal order they managed to build is put at risk by extremists movements threatening to either destabilize a given area or to wage a campaign of attacks against western or western-supported societies. Furthermore, the rise of the "rest" – while not a threat – is giving birth to a world in which we have to recognize the plurality of cultures, norms and values.

An important caution is needed before outlining my main argument. I was raised in a country mostly secure in the sense that no external state threatens it (to be fair, I remember having been scared by the risk of a nuclear armaggedon when I was a child). I’m aware of the fact that today’s threats are also a matter of perception. But I would not discard them, since the actors behind those threats are real, and have the capabilities to strike. But, make no mistakes: I’m not an alarmist and I despise those so-called "pundits" who raise the specter of catastrophic attacks in order to gain more audience. I despise them just as those who demonstrate constant blindness and indulgence toward the risk of real attacks.

Deterrence: Managing threats

In the April issue of Contemporary Security Policy, Thomas Rid wrote a highly scholarly and insightful piece about the way deterrence functions in Israel’s security strategy. Basically, deterrence is a way for Israel to manage "current security" threats, i.e. bomb attacks or rockets lobbed by the Hezbollah, Hamas or other non-state organizations. Thomas explains that Israel is experiencing for a long time a kind of ‘postmodern’ deterrence, relying on punishment and reprisals designed to enforce several norms. By making its action both more predictable and more unreasonable (or, more accurately, by shaping perceptions toward those conclusions), Israel is able to establish and enforce "rules of the game" which guarantee that threats to its security remain relatively low and manageable. Of course, that strategy is not free from contradictions. But the whole strategic realm is made of contradictions which strategists and policymakers  alike are tasked to balance.

The main problem of that particular approach is its interference with the mainstream western strategic culture which values decisive victory and a subsequent strategy of annihilation. There are many reasons which could explain that preference. I do not aim to explore here its many historical, societal, cultural and political roots. Suffice to say that it is deeply internalized and plays a great role in shaping strategic choices.

Nevertheless, the US is experiencing a shift toward a more coherent and comprehensive approach to deal with "extremists" threat. The very notion of deterrence itself has been used by strategists and policymakers since 9/11. In the war against Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, a strategy of attrition has been progressively adopted and implemented. In a sense, the so-called "shadow wars", their other political opportunities notwithstanding, are a first step toward the perception that threats can only be managed and not totally and decisively defeated.

Values?: 

In that context, it is important and critical to emphasize the discrepancy between values and actions in France’s strategy to counter "extremists" in the Sahel (and mostly  in Mali). Values are certainly a good point of departure to make political choices. Unfortunately, they often conceal the lack of political will or, worse, poor strategic thinking. Of course, I consider France to have a particular ability to pursue its own national interests on the international stage. But I’d like to underline the importance of the way we perceive threats and the way to manage them. In a sense, we are still locked to an old fashion view of deterrence as mainly a characteristic of the nuclear threat. We conceive the use of force in a sophisticated way, but we avoid to consider that coercion still plays a role in order to prevent further threat. Put otherwise: we consider that, if force is used, deterrence failed.

Of course, context and the way it is perceived matters: neither France nor the US have stakes higher than those raised by the Israeli government. But that doesn’t invalidate the opportunities set up by deterrence. On the contrary, given our perceived interests to remain an influential actor in West Africa, and given our means, such a strategy would be well suited.

 

In short, Aron remains relevant precisely because he underlines the importance to recognize that a realist alternative is not between winning and losing, but between winning and preventing the other to achieve its political goals (when those goals are opposed to ours). Maybe it is worth remembering that being aware of that is not cynicism. On the contrary, Aron never gave up his hope in a more peaceful world. But that world could not emerge either through the temptation of Empire or through complete abdication. That’s why deterrence, either through attrition, reprisal or interdiction has still a future. Aron once wrote that one of the main way to demonstrate power and to remain in peace is for an actor to honor his bill or to keep his promises.

Israel and Hamas: a strategic analysis

The recent military operations between the Israeli Defense Forces and Hamas at Gaza triggered a flow of comments and analysis. Of course, given the fact that that conflict is highly politicized even in western audiences, many skirmishes between pros- and cons- occured, sometimes leading to  blur the question even further.

Whereas many could argue about what they think is "objective reality" (is Hamas an existential threat to Israel? Is Israel a colonial state willing to oppress the Palestinian people?), I deem it more enlightening to focus on a more nuanced approach that could take into account actors’ logic and perceptions. In addition to be more accurate in dealing with the strategic and political issues, it is also more relevant as it is really analytic and neither descriptive nor normative. Furthermore, such an analysis would have to gain a better understanding of the way those logic act in a dialectical way toward each other.

Hamas:

After "Cast Lead", it is highly plausible that the Hamas leadership understood that is was in its own interest to avoid any provocation toward Israel. Since it has become the ruling party in Gaza after the 2006 elections, Hamas had to navigate a very narrow line. On the one hand, avoiding any reprisal from Israel, fearing that the latter would be able to devastate the strip and endanger Hamas’ capability to provide public services and to act as an effective government. That explains why the number of rockets fired on Israel decreased significantly. At the same time, Hamas struggled to prevent the rise of more extremist groups (like the Islamic Jihad) and even cracked down on Salafis. On the other hand, those groups openly challenged Hamas whose legitimacy relies on its status as the representative of the Palestinian people’s resistance to Israel.

In the wake of the Arab uprisings, the hypothesis would be that Hamas attempted to seize the opportunity presented by the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, especially in neighboring Egypt. In addition, the demise of ruling powers in that very area meant that it became a path for funneling weapons and cash to Gazan Salafis. Thus, they were able to strike Israel and put Hamas in front of an alternative: relying on coercion in order to suppress the rising and competing Salafis groups (but with the risk of losing its credibility as a "resistance movement"), or tolerating the attacks in the hope that Israel would not retaliate (but with the risk of being held accountable by the latter).

Thus when Israel zeroed in on Hamas, the rank and file in the organization pressured the leadership to give up restraint and to resume attacks. If president Morsi officially condemned and criticized Israel, his support to Hamas did not go further. At the end of the day, the changing internal and regional environment was perceived by Hamas leadership as an incentive to act. Internal contest and regional changes seemed to provide the organization with new opportunities to exploit in order to gain a better position in the confrontation with Israel. The goal was not to break the siege of Gaza, since in many ways that siege is useful for the organization’s political aims and financial interests. But it was certainly to force regional actors to act in order to demonstrate to the Israeli leadership that it would not be able to break Hamas’ rule on Gaza.

Israel

To some political elites, Hamas’ political goals pose an existential threat. In addition, if the size of Gaza makes it vulnerable, that is also true for Israel, whose territory can be hit by rockets launched from the coastal strip.

Facing such a threat, strategic calculus coupled with strategic culture led to a strategy of attrition. That strategy aimed to further pressure Hamas as well as more radical groups in order to disrupt those groups’ capabilities to hit Israel with medium-to-short range missiles. At the same time, that strategy was coupled with an information campaign designed to frame the narrative of the conflict for both domestic and international audiences. Showing its willingness and its determination to act, Netenyahu’s government proved able to manage the threat posed by Hamas. Lastly, even if that system is not totally perfect, the Iron Dome deflected the threats posed by rockets and missiles on the Israeli population.

There’s an important point here: that strategy is not aimed to win "decisively’ against the Palestinian organization. That is nearly impossible, since there’s only two courses of action that could lead to that outcome: either Israel would prove capable to cut Hamas’ support among the Gazans (which would necessitate an "hearts and minds" campaign directed toward the Palestinians , which doesn’t seem possible given the growing gap and cleavage between the IDF and the population and which is also not deemed desirable nor achievable by the Israeli government), or Israel would decide to cut a deal with the organization (which is highly improbable given the fact that the latter’s legitimacy relies on its rejection of any long-term deal with Israel). Put otherwise: there’s little hope for Israel to achieve any decisive political objective against  Hamas, or at least this is the main perception.

In short, Israel’s strategy consists in dealing with Hamas thus opening the question of what to do on the long run. There’s a lesson to draw from that short (and sometimes questionable) analysis. The alternative in war is not necessarily between winning and losing. Sometimes, it is more reasonable and more rational to deal with a threat or with an adversary by preventing him to reach his political objectives. Attrition is particularly well suited for that kind of strategic attitude. It can either lead to the adversary’s exhaustion (or isolation) or to its complete annihilation. More probably, it is able to maintain a high level of pressure against him, thus preventing him to hit and to harm. It is also truer when combined with deterrence, both by reprisals and by interdiction. Of course, that cannot replace a long-term reflection on how to put an end to the conflict. In that particular case, and given the role played by mutual perceptions, it is unlikely to see that outcome before minds are able to change in a deep way.

Stéphane Taillat

Perils and promises of drones: a strategic appraisal

A short post to outline several ideas and thoughts about the use of drones in the US strategy against Al Qaeda.

1) we have to grasp the political significance of Obama’s choice to rely on drones and SOF in order to "disrupt, dismantle" Al Qaeda:

The president narrowed its political goals: fighting Al Qaeda and its allies or affiliates without relying on state building, and without committing too much troops on the ground in a comprehensive counterinsurgency approach. Instead, Obama understood his role as fighting the jihadist organization in order to deter further attacks against the US.

2) that goal led to a new strategy:

Using drones strikes as well as SOF raids (or other more conventional assets) is done through an attrition strategy. The main mechanism through which attrition is supposed to work is to inflict casualties to the enemy organization faster than it can replace it. It is not primarily intended to exhaust the adversary, but to raise its costs to pursue the war. In other words, exhaustion is only one possible outcome. At the other end of the spectrum, complete annihilation is another one.

3) physical and psychological effects of drone strikes:

Drones are not used only to inflict physical casualties, thus undermining the operational capabilities of AQ/its affiliates to control effectively a territory, to keep safe havens or to prepare further attacks. They also have psychological impacts, mostly on the networks, and especially on its weaker nodes, that is those actors amenable to leave the fight, or to hide in order to escape the strikes. As such, the strategy which relies on drones is not only an attrition strategy, but also a part of a more comprehensive deterrence strategy. That’s what "disrupting" means: inflicting systemic blows that undermine the operational capabilities of a given network as a whole.

On the material side of the effects, drones have proven highly effective as a decapitation tool. On the psychological one, it’s difficult to really assess the effects, but it seems that drones, used in addition to other tools, may have produced subversive effects.

4) Pressuring Al Qaeda?

The problem is the relevance of such a strategy on the long run. A "pure" attrition strategy would likely lead to a slaughter, since AQ and its affiliates have been able to reinforce or to replace the losses. What could be the threshold that would trigger an annihilation, or exhaustion of AQ? The "search and destroy" experience in Vietnam should remember us that relying only on measurable metrics (especially in terms of "body count") is fraught with cognitive biases.

On the other hand, a "pure" deterrence strategy is difficult to wage against non-state actors, and especially "irregular" organizations. It is thus possible to limit AQ’s capabilities to wage a campaign of attacks, but up to a point. Zero-risk is not really a realist option.

That’s why using drones strikes – both more precise and less costly than conventional counterinsurgency i.e. as much efficient as a strategy can be – should prove more relevant on the long run if used as a way to sustain the pressure against AQ and its affiliates. The goal would not be to dismantle or to disrupt (not to speak of neutralize), but instead to compel AQ to stay on a defensive stance (or, at least, a less offensive one).

In addition, relying on drones and SOF raids, while highlighting other potential costs (in diplomatic terms since it is necessary to achieve an agreement with the host nation, with the very exception of failed states maybe; in terms of domestic support since both the military institutions and the public opinion could raised several political obstacles, in terms of local support since drones may have a negative impact on the local population), should not be thought as a silver bullet. Furthermore, relying on such an indirect way to deal with AQ should not let the military institutions to forget its institutional experience from Iraq and Afghanistan.

In short, that strategy has to adapt to the evolving character of the war, which is both conditioned by internal calculus and political bargaining and of course, by the adversary’s strategy.

Stéphane TAILLAT

Unleash Hell!!! "War logic" and the war in Iraq

As far as I can remember, the biblical story of David vs. Goliath has never been to me the story of a bright victory of weakness against strength On the contrary, I’ve always thought that David was the strongest of both opponents. Not only does he rely on the will of God but he also draws upon his cleverness in order to defeat his adversary. It’s not so counter-intuitive as it could appear at a first glance: power doesn’t necessarily imply strength or having much more material capabilities.

From "war" to "logic of war":

In the last issue of Res Militaris, Laure Bardiès wrote a smart and insightful piece in which she argues to give up descriptive categories  and instead promote analytical ones in order to better explain and understand contemporary wars.

Basically, her arguments draw on weberian sociology to build ideal-types that could account for the logic of actors (by which she means not only the belligerents, but also different actors, pursuing different and sometimes diverging interests, inside a political-military apparatus). The reason is clear: categories we are used to employ in order to depict contemporary conflicts are either too descriptive (i.e. tied to the formal characteristics of wars) or too normative (i.e. shaped by one actor’s perception of the other). "Asymmetric" war (war between a "weak" and a "strong") falls in the former while "irregular" war (war between state-soldiers and terrorists/insurgents) is clearly typical of the latter.

She proposes to look further: according to Clausewitz, war is waged for political purpose. Means as well as ends are a function of the significance of the fight given by the actor. It could thus be possible to design ideal types that could account for their logic, the dynamic interplay between them and their evolution in time. Accordingly, she offers to transform the categories of "total war" and "limited war" into "total war logic" and "limited war logic".

In order to build her ideal type, she suggests to analyze the relations between issues, objectives and means.

Thus, a "total war logic" would exist when an actor has absolute issues at stake (like its survival), design accordingly its objectives as imposing its will whatever the costs and thus relies on every means at its disposal in order to do so. On the contrary, a "limited war logic" would be characterized by relative issues, objectives restricted by a threshold beyond whom costs would overcome the expected benefits, and  thus means would be quantitatively restricted.

Eventually, Laure Bardiès concludes by articulating a dynamic interaction between those logic:  what if an actor has a "limited war logic" against his opponent waging (in its own perception) a "total war"? Obviously, the latter has the advantage owing to its greater capacity to abide costs. In addition, she argues that the real difference between both logic lies in two criteria

1) the determination to pursue the armed struggle

2) the proportion of means effectively engaged in comparison to the total amount of means at the actor’s disposal

Applying "war logic" to the US War in Iraq:

Empirically, it is difficult to apply that model. Of course, this is precisely the function that ideal type is supposed to perform: to serve as a reference in order to analyze contingent situations.  No historical configuration would exactly fit with one of the ideal type, the greatest probability being that it would be situated somewhere between both poles of the spectrum (or, more precisely, that it would shift from one to another due to the dynamic characteristic of war). But, if we take the three elements of the model, the Iraq war (as waged by the Bush administration) would fit in the following table:

In that case, issues and objective are congruent with a "total war logic" while means comply more with the "limited war logic". Indeed, issues were raised at a very high level, with the Bush administration arguing that Saddam Hussein could use weapons of mass destruction or funnel them to terrorist groups in order to wage war on the US soil. Objectives were also designed as absolute: first to destroy the regime and then to transform Iraq in a stable, democratic State allied with the US in its struggle against Al Qaeda. On the contrary, means were mostly limited, both in the invasion phase and in the subsequent stage of occupation (the main strategy during the first years being to withdraw troops as soon as possible).

In order to understand that gap, one should examine the very reasons of the war against Saddam’s regime, which have nothing to do with the real threat it posed to the US (even if Bush and his counselors thought it could be a real threat at the time), but more with several ideologically biased perspectives about  the threat. First, the invasion was supposed to prevent (or preempt in the Bush’s rhetoric) attack from Saddam and second to deter any aggression. Instead of assessing the threat of non state actors, the Bush administration at the time was more concerned by the threat posed by rogue states. Second, that move was a way to fix the problem posed by the the regime of sanctions imposed on Iraq. Third, the war was also a mean to restore the status of the US after 9/11.

That gap could also be explained by the way Donald Rumsfeld and several strategists in the Pentagon thought war should be now waged: with limited, but more lethal and decisive, means. In their view, technological advance coupled with operational excellence would suffice to overthrow the regime.

Eventually, ideology had a vote: neoconservative Weltanschauung – which envisioned democracy as the "natural regime" of any society – coupled with the administration’s reluctance to nation building led to a poorly planned post-Saddam Iraq.

With regards to the means, they were mostly limited both in quantity (troops deployed on the ground were mostly insufficient to perform the task of securing Iraq after the fall of the regime and achieving Bremer’s revolutionary agenda) and in quality (meaning here that the strategy was oriented toward withdrawal).

Incoherent strategy: 

That discrepancy between issues and objectives on the one hand, and means on the other hand led to strategic incoherence.  In order to understand the difficulties encountered by the US military in Iraq, one has to add two critical variables.

  1. the dominant elements of the strategic and military culture insist on the necessity to achieve a decisive victory. In other words, even a "limited war logic" can imply the maximum use of force in order to win a quick victory (and one could add: all the more decisive that issues and objectives are "limited"). In the case of Iraq, that logic implied to deliver the maximum amount of force in order to topple the regime. The problem is that, once Saddam defeated, a much harder challenged emerged, which would have requested a much larger amount of political patience and strategic flexibility. Consequently, in the absence of a decisive victory in the other goal (building a stable and democratic Iraq), the Bush administration shifted to denial. That produced a lowering of the expectations regarding the final stage to achieve before withdrawing and releasing sovereignty to the Iraqi government. Hence, the hope raised by a temporary surge of force in order to achieve a decisive victory against insecurity. The fact that the Bush administration took such a long time to accept the challenge of the task and the reality suggests that the "total war logic" was almost rhetorical. The fact that it accepted to lower its expectations suggests that the logic became less and less "total" and more and more "limited" with time (and especially after Bush secured a second mandate). Nevertheless, the capabilities of the US to endure such a military effort on the long run is tied to both determination (especially regarding the political leaders and the officers deployed on the ground) and endurance (with regards to military capabilities to sustain a high tempo rotation cycle).
  2. given that first element, it is worth to underline the link between that culture of "decisive and quick victory" on the one hand and the reliance on a strategy of annihilation on the other hand. That link is in no way necessary. Insurgents’ strategy suggests that a "total war logic" can instead rely on a strategy of attrition, in order to raise the opponent’s costs until he decides to give up. Facing such a strategy, the Bush administration (and the theater commander) could not longer rely on the sole use of military force in order to win the decision. If the surge achieved several of the objectives set by the administration, it was a consequence of multiple factors, in which the US strategy is only  a part (even if I argue that it is the most important as it benefited from other political dynamics at play which it partially shaped in return). Although eventually that strategy morphed into a "hybrid" form, associating annihilation goals (dismantling "irreconcilable" actors) and attrition means (the use of SOF raids in order to disrupt AQI’s organization and leadership).

Time and interests:

That model is highly significant if one considers the very importance of time and interests. Actually, interests are what shape issues and objectives. Those interests lie in various actors and can take several forms: material as well as ideological, bureaucratic as well as corporate. In some case, they even can affect the whole society (when survival is at stake). But that doesn’t imply those interests to be stable or able to determinate issues and objectives in a strict causal way. A narrower view tends to show how the margin of maneuver for political leaders is more important than one would expect. Notwithstanding, interests play a role in limiting or raising issues.

But that’s also a function of time: the longer a conflict, the more the tendency to shift from one logic to the other. In the case of the war waged by the Bush administration in Iraq, determination and stubbornness was a byproduct of high issues and unrealistic objectives. But determination translated into denial and did not lead to raise the level of means deployed in Iraq, with the very exception of the surge. But Bush’s decision to escalate is not a proof a a "total war logic", it has more to do with the bias toward the need to achieve decisive victory. On issues and objectives, time tended to lower Bush’s expectations and focused his attention on more limited objectives in Iraq.  Quite the opposite, Obama’s narrowing of issues and objectives fit more with the "total war logic": by elevating the real objective of the US toward dismantling Al Qaeda and escalating drones strikes and SOF raids, the 44th president showed his willingness and determination to achieve victory.

In short, the Iraq war case study suggests that means are not necessarily determined by issues and objectives, but by other factors. Among them is the perception of what military force can achieve in terms of military and political effects. In return, that false perception gave way to a misleading assessment on those effects, leading to the belief that the US should avoid long term commitment on the ground in the near future.

To conclude, the war waged in Iraq by the Bush administration may fit the "war logic" model proposed by Laure Bardies. Indeed,both  determination and the relative level of means are  a function of the duration of the conflict. But, as her model deals more with the coherence between issues, objectives and means, it is worth to complete it with intermediary variables that would help to explain and understand the disjunction between those elements. In short, her work is the first step toward a better understanding of today’s dynamics of conflict. Further researches programs should focus on relevant question as the supposed role of the public opinion – or more accurately, its perception by political elites – in shaping strategic decision; while mine are more focused on the way "war logic" is an important component in the process of shaping political and military effects.. Because not only is strategy a bridge between ends and means, but its function is to generate effects.

 

Armée et Nation: le retour de la conscription aux Etats-Unis?

Le 29 juin dernier, lors du 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival, le général McChrystal s’exprimait ainsi:

"I think we ought to have a draft. I think if a nation goes to war, it shouldn’t be solely be represented by a professional force, because it gets to be unrepresentative of the population (…) I think if a nation goes to war, every town, every city needs to be at risk. You make that decision and everybody has skin in the game"

Autrement dit: le retour à la conscription.

Or, voilà bien quelque chose d’étonnant: l’établissement d’une force entièrement professionnelle en 1973 (All-Volunteer Force) répondait au soucis des décideurs militaires de reprendre le contrôle de l’outil militaire des mains des politiques qu’ils estimaient être responsables du désastre vietnamien. En cause: la micro-gestion, l’élévation artificielle des enjeux et la pression de McNamara ou de Johnson sur les chefs d’Etat-major (et même si on s’en tient à la ligne définie par Henry McMaster qui estime que ces derniers ont manqué à leur devoir en se taisant). La constitution d’une force professionnelle ainsi que la complexification des mécanismes de levée des réserves devaient permettre aux décideurs militaires d’empêcher toute interventionnisme. Dans la lignée de la doctrine Powell, les militaires s’érigeaient ainsi en arbitre de l’usage de la force, usurpant les prérogatives de la sphère politique (et même si on considère les sphères politiques et militaires comme distinctes sans être réellement séparées).

Après 10 années d’interventionnisme, certains tenant de l’école de la "suprématie militaire" considèrent qu’ils doivent non seulement reprendre le contrôle de l’outil militaire, mais également assurer que soit garanti le soutien de l’opinion publique. Cela répond à l’un des mythes dominant au sein de la société militaire: celui qui explique la défaite par le manque d’implication de la société (ou de la "Nation" pour reprendre la terminologie souvent utilisée) à cause des médias, de la trahison ou de la microgestion du pouvoir politique. Lier étroitement Nation et Armées est vu comme naturel (l’Armée est fait pour gagner les guerres de la Nation, c’est même la définition que se donne l’Army, tandis que la Nation compose l’Armée) et doit permettre de garantir un soutien sans faille de l’opinion domestique.

C’est d’ailleurs l’argument repris par McChrystal:

"We’ve never done that in the United State before; we’ve never fought an extended war with an all- volunteer military. So what it means is you’ve got a very small population that you’re going to and you’re going to it over and over again (…) Because it’s less than one percent of the population… people are very supportive but they don’t have the same connection to it."

Bien entendu, c’est une voix qui n’est certainement pas dominante (puisque penser la sphère militaire comme unitaire est une erreur, à rebours de ce que voudraient faire croire de nombreux officiers), mais qui se fait entendre de plus en plus au sein de certains cercles. Elle montre que restent tenaces certains poncifs. Mais au-delà des préjugés, il est intéressant de saisir l’enjeu d’une telle demande (qui a peu de chance d’aboutir évidemment): il s’agit de lier véritablement le sort des armes (sur un théâtre expéditionnaire lointain) et celui de la société…

Loin de moi l’idée de ne pas saisir ce qui peut animer une telle demande, au-delà des préjugés et des poncifs sur les "civils": il s’agit de mettre fin aussi à cette dichotomie spatio-temporelle expérimentée par beaucoup en Irak et en Afghanistan (et qu’illustre aussi le sort des vétérans aux Etats-Unis)… Etre mieux compris en quelque sorte. Certes, cela ne doit pas empêcher de rappeler la hiérarchie qui doit exister entre les sphères politiques et militaires, et de prendre conscience que l’absence de menaces réelles ou d’ennemis identifiés  rend moins pertinente l’existence de la conscription…

Little America: quelques réflexions

Lisant l’excellent livre de Radjiv Chandrasekaran sur les Américains dans le Helmand, je ne peux m’empêcher de noter quelques réflexion. Bien informé, l’auteur nous livre en effet les éléments permettant de confirmer quelques hypothèses concernant d’autres théâtres (notamment l’Irak). Je prends deux exemples:

  1. Sur l’envoi de 10 000 Marines dans le Helmand en 2009. L’auteur montre que tous à Washington, ainsi que McChrystal d’ailleurs, savent que le déploiement de troupes supplémentaires à Kandahar serait plus pertinent. Au lieu de cela, le général Nicholson est envoyé dans cette province minée par l’insurrection mais ne représentant que 1% de la population du pays. On peut certes y trouver un enjeu: mettre fin à la culture de pavot qui alimenterait les Taliban (R. Holbrooke soulignant que l’essentiel du soutien financier vient plutôt de donateurs des pays du Golfe), faire pression sur les dirigeants corrompus d’une province que les Britanniques n’ont pu pacifier, démontrer enfin la validité des tactiques de "contre-insurrection". Il n’en reste pas moins que Kandahar est un objectif plus valable, non seulement parce qu’il s’agit de la troisème ville du pays, mais également en raison de sa situation de carrefour. Ce qui frappe sont les raisons avancées pour justifier le choix du Helmand: le refus des Canadiens de se faire épauler par les Américains (les Canadiens considérant que la sécurité s’est améliorée à Kandahar), la crainte d’aliéner les populations locales (Kandahar étant une cité symbolique pour les Pachtounes), mais surtout la demande expresse des Marines (via le général Conway lui-même) de déployer l’ensemble des moyens organiques d’une Force Expéditionnaire, bref de disposer d’un "Marinestan".
  2. Concernant la lutte contre la culture du pavot, on observe un écart -si ce n’est un fossé- entre les logiques des experts locaux, celles du Département d’Etat et celle de USAID. Ainsi, les spécialistes de la région recommandent de favoriser la culture du coton et l’industrie textile. USAID et le Département d’Etat considèrent au contraire qu’il faut transformer la région vers une agriculture de fruits et agrumes destinés à l’exportation. Les moyens qui sont alloués aux experts de la région et aux bonnes volontés locales sont extrêmement réduits, et on voit comment les représentants d’USAID s’enfoncent dans leur raisonnement, estimant que -dans l’attente du développement des vergers- il faut occuper la main d’oeuvre du Helmand à la construction de routes, ou bien favorisant les politiques d’épandage de défoliants dans les champs de pavot. Au bout du compte, les retards pris, l’insuffisance des moyens financiers et l’aveuglement bureaucratique conduisent non seulement à favoriser le pavot mais aussi à attiser la méfiance des agriculteurs locaux vis à vis des Américains (militaires, agences gouvernementales ou ONG) et même des représentants de Kaboul.

Ces deux exemples, hâtivement brossés, posent question. Ils montrent que, en dépit de la circulation accrue des informations entre le théâtre et Washington, l’enchevêtrement des logiques divergentes entre des acteurs multiples conduit soit à l’absence de décision, soit à l’élaboration de stratégies inefficaces voire contre-productives. Le deuxième enseignement, lié au premier, insiste sur l’éloignement géographique et social entre le terrain et Washington: la prise d’une décision et sa mise en oeuvre ne sont en rien linéaires. Il faut tenir compte de la médiatisation imposée par les acteurs et la distance. On peut certes arguer des lourdeurs bureaucratiques, des différences de perception, des logiques corporatistes. Mais c’est surtout l’existence de deux espaces distincts sans être séparés, de deux logiques (celle qui prévaut pour les acteurs sur place, celle qui anime les décideurs à Washington) qui démontre à quel point on ne peut simplement répliquer telles quelles des décisions et des stratégies décidées en haut lieu. Comment, en dépit des discours sur "la localisation de la contre-insurrection et de la stabilisation", le principe de subsidiarité n’est pas aussi simple à mettre en oeuvre.

Propulsé par WordPress.com.
Thème Esquire.

Suivre

Recevez les nouvelles publications par mail.