Pragmatic | The Maoist millstone around our kids’ necks

We will continue to slip into state failure and co-exist with the Maoist insurgency

Over at the ZenPundit, good man Mark Safranski tells us some harsh truths about the nature of the modern state, non-state actors and insurgencies.

The state as an organization of coercion and defense is unrivaled in human history by any other political form except the tribe. The state is fine-tuned to be a beast of prey and open challenges to the state, in all it’s panoply of might, without a long preparatory period of eroding it’s legitimacy and attriting it’s will to power, seldom turn out well unless the challenger is another state. Non-state actors who challenge state authority tend to survive and thrive initially only by being elusive, deceptive, adaptive, faster and by inflicting moral defeats until they accumulate enough armed power to co-opt, thwart, deter or topple the state by force. This requires the challenger engaging the state in such a way that it habitually reacts with excessive restraint punctuated by poorly directed outbursts of morally discrediting excessive violence (see Boyd’s OODA Loop).

When non-state actor challengers gain sufficient political momentum and break into a full-fledged armed insurgency, a dangerous tipping point has been reached because insurgencies are generally very difficult, expensive and bloody to put down, often representing a much larger pool of passive political discontent. The advantage begins to turn to the challenger because the mere existence of the insurgency is itself an indictment of the state’s competence, authority and legitimacy. Some states never manage to regain the initiative, slipping into state failure and co-existing with the insurgency for decades or being ignominiously defeated.[Link]

Two points are worth noting here, particularly in the context of the challenge of Maoist insurgency India faces today. One, India is a state which habitually reacts with excessive restraint punctuated by poorly directed outbursts of morally discrediting excessive violence. And two, the mere existence of the Maoist insurgency is itself an indictment of the state’s competence, authority and legitimacy.

Another point, perhaps more pertinent to India, is the nature of its instruments of governance (including the instruments of internal security). They are blunt instruments. When these blunt instruments are hastily applied to the problems — whether under directions of the judiciary, or under pressure from the civil society and the media — they end up causing more grief instead of solving the problems. Applying more force to these blunt instruments only tends to worsen the situation, after the initial applause for boldly using the instrument has subsided.

Finally, the way India (the union and the affected state governments) is handling, or mishandling, the Maoist insurgency, it seems unlikely to regain the initiative any time soon. We are destined to continue to slip into state failure and co-exist with the Maoist insurgency for decades. Alas.


DISCLAIMER: This is an archived post from the Indian National Interest blogroll. Views expressed are those of the blogger's and do not represent The Takshashila Institution’s view.