Posts by Daniel Rio Tinto

I am a PhD Candidate in Political Science and International Studies at the University of Birmingham (UK), Department of Political Science and International Studies (POLSIS), working closely with the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security (ICCS), having recently concluding my Masters (MSc) in Political Science and International Relations at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities (FCSH) of the Lisbon’s New University (UNL) in Lisbon, Portugal. My research interests include international relations theory, international security, conflict, strategic studies, political violence, the changing character of war, civil wars, peace operations and nuclear weapons, having contributed with the Brazilian Navy Naval War College (EGN), the Brazilian Combined Center for Peace Operations (CCOPAB), the Portuguese Institute of International Relations (IPRI), the Portuguese Institute for National Defence (IDN) and Oxford Analytica. I am also a pilot-in-training, a rugby and sailing enthusiast and a volunteer firefighter, as well as a jazz and gastronomy lover.

What do Brazilian Admirals want? Not a quiet expansion!

The Minister of Defence, the commanders of the Army and Navy, as well as other high-ranked politicians on a Brazilian Navy ceremony (photo by Felipe Barra, 2013)

The Minister of Defence, the commanders of the Army and Navy, and various other high-ranked politicians on a Brazilian Navy ceremony (photo by Felipe Barra, 2013)

The Swiss blog Offiziere.ch has recently published a piece by Paul Pryce, analysing the Brazilian Navy’s current endeavours whilst trying to figure out what bearing it is sailing. Pryce evaluates the ‘quiet expansion’ of the Brazilian Navy, and whilst he delivers a brief but sound level of analysis, he fails to deliver an accurate reading of some of the key underlying issues. These issues include the ‘military industrial compound’ dimension of the Navy, the often unspoken aspects of civil-military relations in Brazil and the competition for budget between branches.

Pryce maps out the debate about whether Brazil wants a brown, green or blue water Navy, but fails to contextualise the process in the hardships of a troubled civil-military relationship in a ‘recently established’ democracy. He analyses the Navy as if it was a single by-product of wider state determinations, without opening up the ‘black-box’ and examining the diverse layers of interaction between the various existing actors. As I will argue, Brazil’s naval expansion is not a ‘quiet’ one, nor is it particularly surprising. It is rooted in the way the Brazilian defence establishment rethinks its role in a ‘new, global Brazil’ whilst taking into account the complex relationship between the country’s Armed Forces and the Executive branch.

Since the 1964 Military Coup, the civil-military relationship has yet to be seen as a positive factor in the country’s defence establishment. For example, the fact that even though military rule ceased in 1985, it was not until 1999 that Brazil’s Ministry of Defence was even established. Before that, armed forces commanders would report directly to the President and be classed as Ministers (each branch had its own Ministry), thus retaining a disproportionate amount of political leverage. Despite a reduction in leverage in recent years, ‘old-schoolers’ frequently attempt to retain this imbalance of power. The civil-military relationship in the country still represents a rather turbulent sea to navigate, with constant fears of revanchism and mistrust.

The branches of the military have always competed for prestige and, just as important, budget. This competition materialises in the pursuit of self-justified ‘pet projects’. The nuclear-powered submarine is one of those projects where all three branches of the military competed to obtain an edge on nuclear technology, pursuing different courses of action. The Navy emerged ‘victorious’ in this process where building a Nuclear Submarine is seen as the final seal of excellence in in-force technological development as part of the ‘military industrial compound’ dimension of the Navy.

How has Brazilian defence policy embraced this industrial dimension? Each branch creates policy on its own terms, whilst the Ministry play the more passive role of coordination. Once again, the recognition of a national savoir-faire is part of the reason why Brazil has sought to natively develop and build ships. At the same time, the defence sector (across all branches) will only issue tenders for imports of military material that involve heavy technology-transfer and, in most cases, national manufacturing. An intense concern of Brazilian defence stakeholders is that relying on non-native technologies could restrict military capabilities in critical moments, or even create potential weaknesses in Brazil’s defence apparatus. This supports the belief that technological development – even if detached from immediate tactical or strategic considerations – is paramount to the country’s defence grand strategy.

Last but not least, understanding the submarine as a device intended for ‘swaggering’ rather than for actual strategic/tactical purposes could be conceptually useful for in-branch, between-branch and external audiences. The concept of swaggering can be defined as a display of might which:

“…is not aimed directly at dissuading another state from attacking, at repelling attacks, nor at compelling it to do something specific. The objectives for swaggering are (…) displaying one’s military might (…) and buying or building the era’s most prestigious weapons. (…) it aims to enhance the national pride of a people or to satisfy the personal ambitions of its ruler” (Art, 1980, p.10).

From an in-branch perspective, sailors seem more-or-less satisfied to become a blue-water Navy. The myth of a ‘strong / big Navy’ is common, and Naval officers are embedded in a culture in which they aspire to command an aircraft carrier or a nuclear submarine – projecting power far from home – very few see a successful career endpoint as commanders of patrol ships. The Brazilian Navy is also investing in smaller vessels, like the Macaé-class and the Amazonas-class offshore patrol ships yet they cost a fraction of the nuclear programme and are even more insignificant if compared to the broader re-equipment of the fleet. Take a symptomatic grandeur; the Brazilian Navy’s ambition to operate three aircraft carriers and have the southern hemisphere’s largest submarine force by 2050.

From a between-branch perspective, maintaining a big Navy means increased resources channelled from the defence budget. This means more ships, more support structures and, consequently, the need for more personnel, more command posts and more responsibility that, in turn, requires higher salaries. If the force can assert its usefulness and efficiency to the Ministry of Defence, there is a belief that it is more likely to receive greater resources than its counterparts.

President Rousseff proudly declared that Brazil is now part of a limited group of states that have access to nuclear submarines, making comparisons to those who have a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, an old aspiration in Brasilia. Rousseff also boasted that natively building submarines was a ‘symbol of a new Brazil being created’, highlighting the importance of ideational factors in the decision to obtain this technology. Even if we are not sure how these vectors of power will be useful, it is likely that – one way or the other – they will, even if only to assert that Brazil is a country that deserves to be considered in the great power club. Great powers have great navies; it always has been so. Making this particular pitch allows the Navy to get buy-in from the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Would the rise of a powerful Brazilian Navy raise complex diplomatic questions? I wouldn’t worry too much about the possibility of nuclear proliferation. Brazil has agreed not to develop nuclear weapons but wishes to retain nuclear technology for other purposes, something that can prove to be complicated within the non-proliferation regime, constantly requiring delicate diplomatic management. Exporting nuclear technology (especially to ‘rogue’ actors) would certainly backfire and cause more trouble than good. I would agree with the argument that Brazil seeks to affirm itself and be part of the club, rather than destabilise the delicate nuclear regime.

Which brings me to my second point about diplomacy: Brazil wants to be part of the club of great powers and wants to be recognised –acta, non verba – as a peer. Brazil, therefore, doesn’t want to be part of an agreement with NATO that makes them a ‘follower’ rather than a genuine ‘partner’. If NATO wants to approach Brazil for initiatives for expanding cooperation regarding the South Atlantic, it has to do so by courting Brazil’s legitimacy as a regional power and fully-fledged partner in the area. Whether this is a political possibility across both Southern and Northern latitudes over the Atlantic, remains to be seen.

By any rate, it is unlikely that Brazil’s nuclear submarine will be seen as projecting power from its coasts anytime soon. The dual purpose of the Brazilian defence procurement makes it hard to sum up a detailed answer to the question of where Admirals are going. Are they more concerned with the defence industry or with operationality? Are they seeking means to swagger internationally or are they hedging (im)possible futures? Are they in line with, or rather trying to shape, Brazil’s defence and foreign policy grand strategies? If I can allow myself, here’s a cautionary note: it seems more probable that Brazil’s future naval challenges will look something like the 1961-63 Lobster War than like the Battle of the Pacific. Unchallenged control of the South Atlantic is a delusional desire. The ‘quiet expansion’ of the Brazilian Navy is far from quiet, even if it does not get the same amount of attention than the naval endeavours of China and India.

* This was re-published from Security Dilemmas, a blog by the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security (ICCS), at the University of Birmingham.

Advertisements

Germanwings crash: the ins and outs of the two-person rule

When it comes to nuclear war, it makes sense not to leave it within the ability of a single person. By Scott Wagers/US DoD.

As evidence mounts that Germanwings flight 4U9525 was crashed deliberately by its co-pilot who locked the flight’s captain out of the cockpit, there have been renewed calls to enforce a “two-person rule”, where two members of the flight crew are on the flight deck at all times. Within hours of the crash, steps were taken to enact this: the Canadian government made it a mandatory requirement, and the UK Civil Aviation Authority urged UK airlines to review their rules, although some airlines including budget airlines Ryanair and Flybe already enforced the rule. The idea dates back to the days of the Cold War, where two operators were required, typically with two separate keys, for drastic action such as launching nuclear weapons. The procedure is still in force today, to offer protection against the actions of rogue individuals. But the concept of the “buddy system”, that tells us not to be alone during critical or risky moments, is widely in place – from divers heading underwater, firefighters entering burning buildings or bankers making large withdrawals, and to school-aged children wandering out of sight of adults. In essence, the safety and integrity of actions and environments is improved by requiring the co-operation of two at a time. This way no single individual will be caught without help should they need it, and no one will be in a situation where the actions of a single person in a key role go unmonitored.

Flight rules

While co-pilot Andreas Lubitz may have considered his actions, it’s likely that he moved on the spur of the moment – on quite a short flight there was no way of knowing whether the captain, Patrick Sonderheimer, would have needed to visit the toilet, leaving him alone in the cockpit. But it’s clear that being alone in the cockpit was all that was required for Lubitz to take himself and 149 others to their deaths on the slopes of the French Alps. Had the captain or any other member of the crew been there, they could have reversed any efforts to override the autopilot, or summoned other crew or passengers to help subdue Lubitz if necessary. As it’s impossible to require that neither of the pilots leave the cockpit during flights, adopting the two-person rule seems to be a good move in order to increase the safety of flights from the potential for actions such as this, or in the event that the remaining pilot is incapacitated, perhaps by a heart attack. Current measures protect from actions outwith the cockpit, but provide little defence from those coming from within.

A human deterrent

Had Sonderheimer been replaced by a member of the cabin crew that morning, would Lubitz have believed that he had an opportunity to do what he did? The two-person rule, more than only enforcing, also dissuades and serves as a deterrent. Undeterred, a pilot set on crashing their aircraft could still override the autopilot, but – except in situations where they were able to overpower their fellow in the cockpit quickly – it would only be a matter of time before it was detected, reversed, or the absent pilot was able to return to the flight deck. So it’s perhaps surprising that the two-person rule is not mandatory in the aviation industry worldwide but is left up to individual authorities. In the US, the Federal Aviation Administration made two in the cockpit a requirement a year after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 – along with the flight deck door reinforcement that contributed to the crash of flight 4U9525. The experience of those airlines that have adopted the rule is that it requires minimal effort or organisational change. All that is required is that a cabin crew member takes the absent pilot’s place in the cockpit, and may leave only after they return. It is an easy fix with the potential to prevent cases such as this – a similar Egyptian Airlines incident in 1999 left 229 dead, and there have been at least eight other “pilot suicides” in the last 40 years – as well as other situations that could arise. It’s clear that this has been rapidly taken up by airlines outside the US in the last 24 hours: EasyJet, Virgin, Air Transat, Emirates, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Air Canada, Air New Zealand and Lufthansa, the parent of Germanwings, have all announced they would implement the two-person rule. But ideally this would be adopted as a mandatory procedure worldwide – and sooner rather than later – as it can be done almost without cost, and with the potential to prevent the repeat of such tragedies. The Conversation This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

British Police to Invade Ecuadorian Embassy: an act of war in London?

Embajada de Ecuador

The recent developments regarding the possibility of UK storming the Ecuador embassy in London bring up some important questions regarding international law and politics.

This is my take as someone who is not an expert on International Law:

My guess is that the UK WON’T storm the embassy. They will abide by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and preserve the integrity of diplomatic missions, because the political costs and breaches opened by storming an embassy in London are enormous. Why?

It’s much easier and less tricky not to issue a safe conduct allowing Assange to leave the premises of the embassy and be transferred to the airport and be flown to Ecuador. The situation created will assure (strong surveillance assumed) that if he steps out (meaning being in British soil) he will be arrested at once. His only option will be to face British authorities or “live forever locked in the tower” of the Ecuadorian embassy.

Carl Gardner, at Head of Legal Blog implies that it is more legally viable to have the UK FCO taking necessary measures to cut diplomatic relations with Ecuador and expelling the ambassador from the country, and further withdrawing the diplomatic immunity that the embassy premises currently have. Therefore, they would close the embassy AND THEN, when it ceases to be so, they’d storm it and arrest Assange, if he’s still inside, of course. This is an valid ad absurdum claim, since there’s no point for Assange to stay in the building if it doesn’t grant him any protection. This way, UK wouldn’t have to arm wrestle its Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987 with its obligations to the Vienna Convention, and it would be easier to take action without creating a dangerous precedent, so far unseen in Western countries.  As expected, should the UK opt for this course, all Ecuadorian diplomatic staff would have a safe conduct to leave the country, but not Assange, who would be arrested while leaving the embassy or (again ad absurdum) inside the building when it loses its diplomatic status.

I do agree with him, even though I don’t think that this is the expected outcome, and would add a few considerations.

Being stuck at the embassy over the long term is not a good nor a acceptable outcome neither for Assange or for Ecuador. At some point someone will have to back off, and all of the involved know it. I believe that the British rationale is that they have time and geography on their side: they just have to deny safe passage and wait until he gives up and turns himself in. On the other hand, Assange’s rationale is that he wants to buy time for three things, in case he can’t manage to get a safe passage to his asylum (which is a feasible horizon for him):

1) improving his defence in case he has to undergo trial;

2) trying to increase the “costs” for the UK and US to take serious action against him;

3) which I think is the most important, he wants to make his case even more mediatic, getting stronger support from the public opinion to leverage the support of movements such as Occupy Wall Street and Indignados (generally anti-Establishment movements) in his favour, once again increasing the costs for the UK and the US (and Sweden) to take strong action against him.

Along with this: wouldn’t it be easier for the Ecuadorian diplomatic staff to have a diplomatic vehicle (also inviolable as per the Vienna Convention) to drive Assange outside of the country through the ferry to Ireland, France, Belgium or the Netherlands? From there, they could either arrange for a safe passage in one of these countries to have Assange flown to Quito, or if necessary, continue driving outside the European Union border and eventually reach a country that would allow it? Or would the British find a way to stop the car from going on the ferry, either by severing the ferry connection, or sustaining any reason not to allow that specific car to board the ferry?

Anyone have a different interpretation?

* I’d like to thank Wagner Artur O. Cabral, Ricardo Moraleida, Luiz Fernando Plastino Andrade and Thomaz Napoleão for their direct and indirect contribution to the ideas present on this post, which were triggered by a facebook discussion first put up early today by Wagner Artur.

The 2012 Coup in Guinea-Bissau: CPLP, Portugal, Angola, Brasil and…wait…Guinea!

“This is the last chance for Guinea-Bissau. If stability in the country is not restored, there may be no more hope (…)” – Shola Omoregie, head of the U.N. mission in the West African country said at a meeting in the Senegalese capital Dakar. – quoted in UNPAN in 2007.

Here in Portugal, the Acordo Ortográfico (something like a “Spelling Agreement”, the AO) is famous for all the wrong reasons. Instead of bolstering the lusophone identity by creating a single spelling system for all Portuguese speaking countries, it actually backfired and is hated by most Portuguese, who see it as a instrument to subvert what they believe to be their language. I tend to argue that the many points raised against the AO are underlined by a essentially nationalistic thrust. Anyway, that’s a topic for another post. The political goal of the AO was to finally carve a way to the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP – Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa), this fifteen year old organization that brings together eight countries (Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé e Príncipe and East Timor) and three observers (Equatorial Guinea, Mauritius and Senegal) has a brand new headquarters in Lisbon and some missions and events, but still fails to find it’s own space as an active international organization.

It seems the AO hasn’t cut it, but the CPLP has apparently found its golden goose: Guinea-Bissau. What the CPLP and its member states can offer Guinea-Bissau in the wake of the coup and what this crisis offers to CPLP, is the topic of a next post, but is a question to keep in mind while reading this one.

Map of Guinea-Bissau (from Nations Online Project)

Guinea-Bissau recently suffered an attempted-turned-real coup d’etat that pit its military against the acting government that was ruling the country between the death of former president Malam Bacai Sanhá, from the PAIGC party, and new elections. As the NY Times put it:

“In April 2012, former prime minister Carlos Gomes Jr. appeared poised to win the presidency in a runoff election. But shortly before the vote, explosions blasted through the capital, Bissau, and the military sealed off the city’s downtown area and lobbed grenades at Mr. Gomes’s home, according to a diplomat and witnesses. The diplomat said the shooting started after the state radio station signal inexplicably went dead. He said that the whereabouts of the interim president, Raimundo Pereira, were unknown. It was unclear whether Mr. Gomes was inside the house.”

I will skip the details of the chronology of events in the country, but if you haven’t followed the situation, I recommend taking a brief look at the news, here (also in Portuguese and in French) and especially here. As I write this post, the negotiations, discussions and bureaucratic sprockets of the bilateral and multilateral diplomacy are accelerating to bring an UN-sanctioned mission to the ground in Guinea-Bissau, and you can find more about that in the links above.

I basically want to briefly address two questions here: 1) The problem of statehood in Guinea-Bissau; and 2) What are the prospects for an international intervention in Guinea-Bissau.

So let’s tackle the first point, starting with an anecdote: last year I attended a Conference on African Security here in Lisbon, at a military institution. At one of the sessions, a brilliant portuguese scholar, Prof. Dr. Teresa Cravo, presented her work on Guinea-Bissau. At the end, debate time was granted by the chair and the confusion started: first some patronizing questions on Guinea-Bissau being a narco-state, then some nationals of Guinea replied minimizing this issue. No one talked about nor seemed to have understood the presentation, but started to digladiate over the issue. Finally, two of the people engaging the debate decided to use the ID trump card: one was a former military in Guinea-Bissau and the other a former Minister of Justice. The first one started his own statement by telling us how he was personally responsible for two of the several past coups d’Etats in the country, and the Minister told the audience that all that had been said was a lie, and there was no narcotics problem nor “abnormal” political problems in the country. We had already exhausted the time for that session by a long margin, and one of the organizers forcefully declared the session finished, but most of the audience was in shock.

Most scholarly accounts pin Guinea-Bissau as a failed-state, being more and more dominated by the dynamics of drug trafficking, and therefore, a narco-state. I would accept those two definitions, and would add a pinch of “completely private conflict”, not in the most widely used sense (that it is the one that it is waged by PMCs – Private Military Corporations), but in the sense that the driving forces for conflict in Guinea-Bissau are not popular in nature (anti-colonial struggle), or even identity-based (ethnic/religious/national conflict or secessionism). What drives the conflict there are mostly the interests of single individuals or rather small groups of people with power, that mobilize violence resources for their own benefit. In Guinea-Bissau, there’s no one looking to seize power in the name of a shared identity; instead, they are privatizing state power/structures, for themselves and their cronies.

Apparently, the 2012 coup fits this assessment: the military (mainly the Army), led by General Antonio Indjai, seized the country on a Thursday night, deposing the government-in-exercise (and seemingly favourite candidate in the elections’ second round) and disarming the police. Gen. Indjai and his entourage mobilized the whole military apparatus against the government. It seems that Gen. Indjai is a close friend to strongman retired Rear Admiral Bubo Na Tchuto, a former Chief of the Navy who has been involved in previous coup d’Etat attempts. Na Tchuto is also known to be the drug boss in Guinea-Bissau nowadays. There’s a clear pattern of interest articulation, with the national military being used to ensure the interest of the drug industry, through a tangled (but not that complex) web of contacts and associations. The interest of crime organizations is shaping the country’s politics, security sector and people’s lives.

For most people life continues unchanged in Guinea-Bissau, but that’s exactly the point: the state is so unimportant to the Bissau-Guineans that, except for private interests (and to international eyes), the absence of rule of Law and constitutional order doesn’t make the news. This coup is mostly regarded as another sad event in the history of the country so far, but nothing really tragic. If we compare the level of violence in Guinea-Bissau to other conflicts in Africa, it’s actually quite moderate. The absence of the state translates much more into poverty and degraded living conditions than to open traditional violence directed at the population.

Moving to the second issue. It is now known that Portuguese and Brazilian notes verbales are already circling around key embassies and that both Foreign Ministers are directly engaged in advocacy and pressure for international engagement in Guinea-Bissau. Both of them personally contacted US Secretary of State Clinton and Portuguese Minister Paulo Portas is in NYC for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting on the situation in Guinea-Bissau. The Portuguese newspaper Expresso published that the Brazilian Ambassador to the United Nations, Amb. Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti declared that it could take less than a week to deploy a UN mission to the African country (a record!), to protect civilians and sustain the restoration of the democratically elected government, and should come coupled with sanctions on the military leaders and a strong international community condemnation on the attempt to take power through military force. She also adds that the UNSC will consider a recommendation for a mandated joint CPLP-CEDEAO mission.

But what will a UN-mandated mission do in Guinea-Bissau? Who will they be fighting? Or monitoring? Or interposing? These are the actual questions that should be asked. The military led by Indjai already assumes the situation as the new status quo, and by closing naval, aerial and terrestrial boundaries (following Portugal’s announcement that it was sending a task-force composed by a frigate, a corvette, a re-supply ship and a maritime reconnaissance aircraft to the theatre, to support any need to evacuate portuguese citizens from Guinea-Bissau) they’re signalling that they are not at all open to a international armed mission. In fact, the ruling military junta already stated that any mission will be seen as an invading force, “because Guinea-Bissau is not at war”. Even considering that their discourse is deeply flawed, it’s hard to contradict the guy holding the gun – unless the UN gives a mandate (and SOFA, and MoA, etc.) and money to concretize an actual occupation force in the country, to expel another military force illegally occupying the territory (even though it is their own military), something like Kuwait in the 90s (and they should be bringing the US too). But will CPLP wage war against one of their own? CPLP is not exactly the UN.

Neither the UN, nor the CPLP or CEDEAO, nor Brazil or Portugal seem to know what a mission in Guinea-Bissau would need to accomplish. But they know that the country needs a mission, something! But they’ll need to do better than that. What are the actual challenges of Guinea-Bissau and how can a mission engage them? This is the question that the UN should be asking, and answering, all together with the parties involved in taking action. I would risk a brief shot saying that Guinea-Bissau needs minimal peacekeeping/peace enforcement and a major peacebuilding effort. More than that, that country needs countries actually willing to engage the issue on the long term, but also needs more interest by the Bissau-Guineans themselves and their diaspora. The know-how coming from East Timor (which mainly involved many similar actors and interests) should play an important part in paving the way for any attempt to “stabilize” Guinea-Bissau. Crucially, the attitude that characterizes the quote I chose to open this piece SHOULDN’T be the guiding principle of ANY proposed mission in the country, as it has in the past.

Funny thing: in Libya, the UN mandated a NATO mission to overthrow a government, now, in Guinea-Bissau, the UN is going to mandate a CPLP-CEDEAO mission to restore a government. Either for leaving or for coming back, the UN is willing to lend a hand!

* I thank the contribution of Cláudia Teles to the ideas present in this piece.

The Bargaining Problem in Libya: Peace versus Justice?

I have recently read the post ICC Sheriff Too Quick on the Draw by guest contributors Leslie Vinjamuri and Jack Snyder for The Duck of Minerva blog and I couldn’t agree more. Actually, I had many discussions on the topic of Libya and asserted the same preoccupations put forward by the two scholars, but never took the time to bring them to this blog, what I intend to fix right away. I shall reinforce the argument presented in their post and add my own conclusions and further a bit more into consequences of the bargain problem to the achievement of conflict resolution in the Libyan case. Let’s hit it.

Since the beginning of the uprising in Libya and the western commitment to help the insurgents get rid of Gaddafi, clear signals were sent regarding a possible prosecution of the de jure leader by international law, namely by the International Criminal Court. On May 4th, Luís Moreno-Ocampo, ICCs chief prosecutor, went to the United Nations Security Council to report on the investigations by the body on Libya, and what he has found is that “crimes against humanity have been and continue to be committed in Libya” – this should be no surprise to anyone but to Gaddafi and his entourage. What isn’t being noticed is that, this and the following statement of intentions to prosecute issue pre-trial arrest warrants to three key people on the Gaddafi government is a big kick in the nuts for everyone really worried about the outcome of the conflict and the end of violence between warring parties.

One supposedly doesn’t have to be a great mind to understand what stalemate and deadlock are. But it seems that countries and bureaucrats involved in decision-making within the UN aren’t aware of those concepts. First and foremost, stalemate means that you are in a “can’t-help-it-situation” and, by default, breaking the stalemate is much more difficult than avoiding it. Stalemates also have the property of being very dangerous when survival is the issue at the end of the day. Here rational choice theory applied to political violence comes in to explain what are the incentives, motivations and limits to the fulfilling of options by the players. To better put it, the idea of taking this to politics and conflict resolution (supposing you are into resolving the conflict), is to avoid pushing the players to positions unacceptable for them, in which no cooperation (in a game theory sense, not in a institutionalist one) is possible, and therefore “play” with incentives and punishment to compel parties to stop violence.

What is happening in Libya is exactly the contrary. While Western efforts do not seem to assure the end of the conflict by force, the incentives given to Gaddafi to step down are also very scarce. Actually, they point to the contrary: peacefully exiting power is the worst thing he could do – for him and for his friends. Even after No-fly zone and No-fly zone +, no palpable result for the conflict seems to be in the horizon, specially if the rules of the game (such as “we’re not going to directly bomb Gaddafi”) are maintained.  The situation becomes a stalemate, in this case, because at the same time the Western supports the Libyan rebels and embraces their principle of not reaching an agreement with Gaddafi and demanding to see him completely extricated from any decency, but they don’t grant the necessary measures to achieve those aims.

Just for the sake of it, I’ll list some thinkable (even if partially flawed) possibilities: 1) significantly arm the rebels, allowing them to break the stalemate themselves by forcing military defeat through a protracted war; 2) bomb the hell out of Gaddafi’s Libya, producing unequivocal military defeat of the Colonel’s forces; 3) quietly, precisely and quickly kill all the core members of Gaddafi’s government; 4) bring full Western engagement to Libya, landing a massive army with the objective of disabling Gaddafi’s military and political power by occupation, and, by the gates of one of his palaces, arrest him out of throne. Let’s quickly run them one by one.

1) Arming the rebels: this is already happening, but not enough to fulfill their needs; conflict is far from being defined and it seems more and more to be leading to a military equation very hard to solve.

2) Bombing the hell out of Gaddafi’s Libya: does anyone feel comfortable with doing it?

3) Quietly killing Gaddafi and his guys in a decapitation strike: we still have the “we won’t kill Gaddafi” rule in order.

4) Bringing full Western engagement and occupying Libya: anyone remember Afghanistan? What about the big economic crisis?

Phew. Quickly enough. Well, have we run out of options then? No. We still have the possibility of finding a viable negotiated exit, by pressing (but not too much) Gaddafi out of power. How? By balancing incentives and punishment to make him feel that stepping down without creating more resistance is the less-than-worst situation, and – here comes the important bit -, less-than-worst but still acceptable. It is possible and much cheaper (politically, economically and militarily), as well as in terms of the lives lost and the collateral damage produced.

So, what’s all the fuss about having Gaddafi prosecuted as a war criminal? No fuss, at least for me and you, in the short term, unless you are: a) a taxpayer or in the military service in Europe or in the the US; or 2) if you are Libyan! Ok, maybe you are.

The main problem with the ICC prosecution of Gaddafi is the signal it sends. Basically, what it says is: “Hey, Gaddafi, step down and your future is spending the rest of your life in a small cell in the Netherlands”. How this contributes to making him peacefully step down is what I don’t see. If he knows this is what awaits him outside Libya, it’s hard to tell whether he’ll prefer this or death, and if he prefers death how much damage he will produce to the country and how much cost he’ll impose for the West while pursuing it. For what we know about these guys and especially the Colonel (Lockerbie anyone?), I’d bet he’ll drag everyone and everything he can with him while holding on to the intent to survive, especially because he knows he’s going down either way. Because people act like this. People suck.

By allowing the ICC to proceed with the prosecution, UNSC limits steeply its possibilities. It reduces the probability of a negotiated exit and the space for maneuver, raising the stakes for Gaddafi and his friends but pushing it too far. While raising the stakes is what we need, it needs to be done considering how we allow the gambler to fold and withdraw without breaking chairs and tables. While combining “the promise of relief and the threat of punishment”, it is possible to bring players to a rational choice of stopping it. Just remember that this exact same type of strategy worked very well just a few years ago to bring Gaddafi back in from the cold of international pariah status, reversing his nuclear policies and establishing a working relationship with the West.

And to answer the title’s question: in Libya, we shall have peace or the absence of it. No justice is likely to be made, as it happens mostly with any war crimes. This might sound a bit like reverse advertising, but hopefully the relevant authorities will decide on solutions other than the Worst Case Scenario for Libya.

Which by the way, bringing back an old friend of the blog – our Worst Case Scenario is: Gaddafi is prosecuted by the ICC, and immediately escalates conflict in the Libyan civil war. With help by the West staying equal or not changing steeply, protracted, violent and harsh conflict settles in, scaling massive scourges of war to the country, with consequences to the region. NATO and EU are pulled into deploying full resources to avoid total madness in Northern Africa, just by the gates of Europe, while still more than sufficiently engaged in Afghanistan and barely surviving the financial crisis.