Theoretical Perspectives on the War Research Paper

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Anarchy is but one aspect of the Realist paradigm. Anarchy is the impetus for all other components of the Realist theory to come into play. Elements such as power, security dilemma's, balance of power, polarity and alliances and ultimately war are all outcrops of the existence of any real centralized power and an absence of true legitimacy in the form of a well established, respected, influential central government. Each of these elements is now discussed in relation to the war in Afghanistan.

Prior to September 11th, 2001 the main source of power in Afghanistan rested in the hands of the Taliban. As Seth Jones' asserts, the Taliban's rise to power grew out of utter discontent with the government in Kabul within the tribal regions of the country. The Taliban's leader Mullah Omar successfully led a coup against the existing government in 1996 and quickly established a hard-line religious fundamentalist state wherein the rights of women, especially, were curtailed to the point of non-existence (Jones, 2009). Prior to the 1996 coup in Kabul, Omar and his group of Taliban fighters began to systematically take control of the major population centers throughout southern and eastern Afghanistan.

Mullah Omar was successful from the outset, capturing 9 out of 30 provinces in less than a year (Jones, 2009). His success continued throughout the coming years and between the spring of 1995 and the fall of 1996, Mullah Omar and his religious followers had captured Kabul and within two years hence by 1998, Mullah Omar had captured two main northern cities as well (Jones, 2009). This "march of the Taliban" is an example of what can happen when there is extreme decentralization and enhanced minimization of governmental legitimacy. This power structure is critical in examining the Realist theory in the context of the Afghan conflict. Traditionally, Power is defined within the Realist paradigm as the material capabilities of a country such as size, territory and resources coalescing to give the nation a degree of authority (Nau, 2009). Interestingly enough, Afghanistan was not thought of has having any of these categories. However, the nature of the Afghanistan landscape provided the Taliban with the advantage they needed. This, and support from their neighbors in Pakistan lent significant amounts of credibility-at least in Afghanistan-to the new regime (Jones, 2009).

This rise to power of a religious fundamentalist and the concomitant support for Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaida was the root cause of the September 11th, 2001 attacks. Bin Laden needed a safe have to coordinate the attack and Mullah Omar seemed willing and eager to provide it for him. This theory is another aspect of the Realist paradigm that continues to justify the continued need for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Without the presence of the U.S. military there will be the inevitable contest between the Karzi regime and those that favor a more stringent, sharia-law based theocracy that seeks to reconstitute the previous Taliban regime. This lesson in Taliban history sets the stage for the discussion regarding the element of power within Afghanistan and how it fits within the Realist theory and how this concept of power can ultimately shape the decisions regarding U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

The Taliban's attempt at procuring a strong centralized government was predicated on fear. If an individual did not comply with the Taliban's strict edicts there would be significantly negative consequences including death (Hirshkind, 2002). As a result, the Taliban created an atmosphere that led to the government being more feared than loved, an offshoot of Machiavelli's the Prince wherein the essential question is asked "Is it better to be feared than loved?" (Skinner & Price, 1998). Despite, the Taliban's great attempts to solidify the power of Afghanistan into a centralized government, there remained a strong opposition, the Northern Alliance that was a coalition of various ethnic, tribal warlords made up largely of Tajik's, Uzbek's and other tribes that had fought against the Taliban (Tenet, 2007). As a result of the Northern Alliance this created a strong power shift in certain regions of Afghanistan. Entire provinces became aligned in opposition to the Taliban and were at constant odds with the regime (Rubin, 2007).

This lead to a unique, non-traditional power structure within Afghanistan; there was the centralized or quasi-centralized Taliban in Kabul and the population centers-countered by the loosely affiliated resistance of the Northern Alliance. To understand the concept of Power within the Realist model, one must understand the need for balance within the system. Given the nature of Afghan society as described thus far by Tenet and Jones, the more rural tribal areas are more than willing to assist whatever cause will benefit them in terms of monetary assistance or other material benefits. Therefore, this causes the balance of power to constantly shift. This shifting power balance is yet another facet in the argument supported by the Realists pertaining to the need for the United States to maintain their presence within Afghanistan. The United States military acts as the great leveler, the entity that seeks to balance the power structure within Afghanistan. This unique power structure lead the Taliban to foster an environment that included creating a balance of power with surrounding nations in order to lend stability to their centralized regime. The nation the Taliban relied upon to provide this stability was their neighbor to the south, Pakistan.

According to the Realist theory, the balance of power focuses on the formation of alliances and requires that states align against the greatest power regardless of whose power it is (Nau, 2009). For the Taliban, this greatest power was demonstrated within the existence of the Northern Alliance. Although the Taliban controlled the overwhelming majority of Afghanistan, Mullah Omar was aware that without strategic alliances if there was ever an attitude change within the populace, the Northern Alliance was his greatest foe (Jones, 2009). Therefore, the Taliban formed an alliance with Pakistan which had wholeheartedly accepted the Taliban philosophy of "governance" and further, the Taliban entered into a fateful alliance with Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaida, allowing the leader to create bases and training camps that were utilized to expand the terrorist network.

This power structure agreement, between the Taliban and Pakistan is another facet to the Realist argument pertaining to the delicate relationship between power, anarchy and the alliances that go into formulating a working nation-state. The natural and most logical conclusion, according to the Realist, is the onset of war-in order to maintain the balance of power and ensure that a nation does not make a preemptive strike against another-nations inevitably engage in armed conflict. This conflict, in the purview of the Realist model, is the direct result of power vacuums, unequal sharing agreements and a lack of a strong centralized government that can bestow law and order upon the more remote areas of a country. This is the situation that many Realists view to be the present reality with Afghanistan. Afghanistan, if one is to believe the Realists, is but one corruption scandal away from devolving into a state of pure chaos and anarchy; where the Karzi Regime is completely delegitimized and therefore its sphere of influence does not extend beyond the city limits of Kabul-similar to the prior regimes the pre-dated the Taliban and gave rise to the Taliban insurgency. It is this matrix that causes Realists to assert the very real need for continued U.S. presence within the region. The nature of the conflict has its roots in Afghan society, the volatile and brutal rise of the Taliban and the nature of Afghanistan to enter into allegiances with nations and groups that border on the slightly neurotic. These ingredients combined with the ability of tribal warlords to seek their own alliances in order to preserve their power base either in the group or province has the ability to undermine the central government and cause greater uneasiness within the state's political system and ultimately create an environment that causes the centralized government to go down a path they would normally not embark upon but must to maintain their power base. Realists view this as a distinct possibility given the preceding analysis regarding the nature of Afghan society; therefore, Realists are among those most prone to ague for continued U.S. involvement. The second supposition that lends itself to the formulation of the paradigmatic analysis of the war in Afghanistan is the Liberal Perspective.

At the core of the Liberal Perspective is the issue of communication and cooperation (Walt, 1998). The Liberal Perspective focuses on the causes of cooperation and finds them in the way in which states interact with and relate to one another through repetitive processes and practices. The Liberal Perspective assumes that individuals and groups behave more on the basis of how other groups behave toward them than on the basis of how much relative power they possess or what their initial cultural…[continue]

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