Security and Defence

Reports and papers

Imagi-nation building in Illusionstan

27 Jun 2013 - 11:58
Source: severesid /

A variety of international actors, such as the UN and NATO, intervene in complex environments, such as Afghanistan. In order to overcome complexity and for ‘us’ to deal with ‘them’, constructs such as ‘the insurgents’ and ‘the government’ are used to help ‘our’ understanding and to simplify the picture. Subsequently, these constructs become subject to nation building and counterinsurgency theories applied by the ‘international community’. Many of these are suboptimal because their subjects were constructs in the first place.

The result is a shadow boxing match, in which international policies dissolve in local realities. On the basis of social psychology theories, this paper develops the hypothesis that in complex peacebuilding environments decision-makers structure and simplify disorder, which leads to suboptimal interventions, to which local actors respond in a process of friction. This hypothesis is tested on the case of Afghanistan.

Jaïr van der Lijn, "Imagi-Nation Building in Illusionstan: Afghanistan, Where Dilemmas Become Dogmas, and Models are Perceived to be Reality", International Peacekeeping, Vol. 20, No. 2, 2013, pp. 173-188