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Global Governance, Local Rule: Counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan as territorial politics

Hameiri, S. (2010) Global Governance, Local Rule: Counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan as territorial politics. Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University.

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Exasperated with their inability to build functioning states, the world’s major governments and international organizations have attempted to overcome security and development problems in so-called failed states by acting locally. In particular, US counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have involved efforts to harness local actors, such as tribal leaders, towards the struggle against extremists and as a way of pacifying these countries. Critics argue that though potentially advantageous in the short-term this strategy is antithetical to the longer term objective of state-building. Moving beyond such zero-sum analyses, I argue that these developments represent the emergence of complex forms of statehood in which several territorial and political arenas are tangled across space. While counterinsurgents have aimed to manage conflict by scaling it down to anti-competitive ‘local’ spaces that bypass the institutions of representative democracy, accompanying the emergence of such governance arrangements is a kind of territorial politics centred on conflicts over who is governing what and at which scale. Yet, the boundaries of ‘national’ and ‘local’ spaces are not pre-determined. Transnational actors have played a key role in constituting ‘local’ spaces and in managing the relationship between overlapping political arenas. In tandem, other forms of intervention continue at the national level to foster effective state institutions. Consequently, conflict increasingly takes the form of clashes between competing transnationalized regimes that draw on diverging political logics to promote particular social and political orders within a multi-level state. This study demonstrates that global governance, rather than representing the emergence of deterritorialized forms of rule, in reality manifests in territorial politics.

Item Type: Working Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Asia Research Centre
Series Name: Working Paper No.164
Publisher: Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University
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