Feature Article

Monopoly on Violence

[TamilNet, Monday, 14 January 2008, 02:05 GMT]
German social scientist Maxwell Weber said one hundred years ago that the monopoly on violence, and the provision of security and public order, are the cornerstones of modern, Westphalian, state legitimacy. A current school of conflict resolution theory has advanced a more progressive definition of "Public monopoly of force," that accommodates legitimate international intervention in "fragile or failing" states. In many cases, such as in Sri Lanka, the challenge by an armed non-state actor to the Weberian State's monopoly of violence can pose a serious threat to the State's stability, creating further need for an international response commensurate with "Public monopoly of force" doctrine.

Prof. Wulf
Professor Herbert Wulf, University of Duisburg/Essen Germany
In a recent article, Professor Wulf of University of Duisburg/Essen Germany, argues that contemporary challenges to the Weberian nation state arise due to global factors such as globalization, the internationalization of the application of force, and privatization in the use of force. Within Wulf's developing configuration of international relations, the Weberian state and its monopoly of violence are unrealizable axioms in the present, and a model of a public monopoly of force would be more realistic, and effective, to establishing and sustaining state stability, instead of focusing on solely strengthening institutions of the state.

In particular, Wulf says that the international community has responded to outbreaks of violence through concerted interventionist efforts. "The internationally perceived need to intervene in the sovereignty of states if governments cannot provide the most basic functions or they grossly violate human rights," correlates with the positive trend in ending civil wars through negotiations in the last 15 years through the leadership of the U.N.," Wulf asserts.

"[The] international community should not only be allowed to intervene in cases of gross violation of human rights, such as genocide and ethnic cleansing, but should in fact be obliged to do so," Wulf says quoting the United Nation's Kofi Annan's 1999 call for "a reinforcement of international norm of intervention for the protection of civilians," and the Annan's report on Larger Freedom, "the international community should embrace the 'responsibility to protect [R2P]' as a basis for collective action against genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity."

The recent calls by United Nations and rights organizations to have an independent monitoring mechanism in Sri Lanka arise from the concern by the international community of the widespread rights violations in Sri Lanka, particularly by the state armed forces. These organizations view with alarm the reluctance of the State apparatus to investigate rights violations, and the rise in number of abductions and killings, especially of Tamils between ages 20 and 35 in the north, allegedly carried out by the Sri Lanka Security forces and the SLA-backed paramilitaries.

While the Rajapaksa Government's use of force to resolve the conflict is grounded on the notion of the Weberian state, the breakdown of democratic institutions and worsening human rights situation in Sri Lanka support Wulf's paradigm which acknowledges the role of other actors and international bodies such as UN in state-building.

Gareth Evans, President, International Crisis Group, said in July, "The State has a primary responsibility to protect the individuals within it. Where the state fails in that responsibility, through either incapacity or ill-will, a secondary responsibility to protect falls on the wider international community. That, in a nutshell, is the core of the responsibility to protect (R2P) idea" and that "Sri Lanka is anything but an R2P," echoing Wulf, and the UN R2P doctrine.

The international community has condemned the termination of the CFA, and has accused Colombo of removing the last remaining independent Nordic monitors, as Colombo prosecutes the military campaign in the Northern theater.

Coupled with the international effort to intervene, challenges to the government's island-wide sovereignty also arises from the Liberation Tigers, the armed-movement which has denied sovereign authority to Colombo to large areas of NorthEast.

The Liberation Tigers run a mini-state in the vast stretch of Vanni, and in these regions appear to meet key Weberian state requirements, such as wielding a monopoly of violence, providing security and public order to the area's inhabitants. Furthermore, Tamils claim they have not acceded their sovereignty to Sri Lanka, and based on the doctrine of the right to self-determination and self-defense, claim they have the right to meet the State's violence with that of their own.

While the international community has repeated said only a political solution is possible to resolve Sri Lanka conflict, Rajapakse government, with overwhelming (85%) support from the South, has embarked on a military campaign to dismantle the "mini-state." Rajapakse has said his Government will present a political solution to Tamils only after the Tigers are militarily beaten.

The military project, however, is fraught with risks. A failure, or even partial, unconvincing success in the campaign, or a military scenario where the Tigers are able to demonstrate defensive dominance in the Vanni, will transfer the initiative irreversibly to the LTTE to dictate future terms. Despite projections of victory by Colombo, LTTE has been maintaining silence in demonstrating its military assets, last seen in 2002, and based on which, Sri Lanka thought it prudent to enter into a CFA.


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External Links:
TCF: What happens When a "Poor Man's Air Force" Goes Airborne?
Wiki: Westphalian sovereignty
AsiaTimes: The poor man's air force
FA: "In Larger Freedom": Decision Time at the UN

 

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