Neo-Gramsci and the War in Afghanistan
IZMIR UNIVERSITY OF ECONOMICS Theories of International Relations INSTRUCTER: Yrd. Doc. Dr. Balkan Devlen SUBJECT: Neo-Gramsci and the War in Afghanistan S? la BOZ Tolga YELMEN Kamer AYDIN Ayd? n Ersin YILMAZ Introduction The 2001 invasion of Afghanistan has been seen as a ‘just war’ by the world opinion across the globe which represented a war targeting the terrorism and responsible terrorist organizations which are Taliban and Al-Qaida.
In order to eliminate the ‘Islamic Terrorism’ by a Western-style democracy, international organizations which are under the dominancy of US have mobilized in order to justify the ‘war on terrorism’ with the help of the media campaigns. In this paper, it is going to be analyzed the US Afghanistan invasion according to the perspectives of neo-gramscianism. Neo-gramscianism finds both ‘neo-realism’ and ‘liberalism’ not sufficient to analyze the international politics since as R.
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W. Cox states that the every theory serves to somewhere and to an ideology as well as to a purpose and differs problem-solving theories which assume that states are not subject to fundamental changes but limited or incremental changes and all actions take place in a limited framework and critical theories that go beyond them to identify the origins and its developmental potential and historical phenomena.
Thus, in this paper, the concept of hegemony, historic bloc and war and terror in the world order will be examined according to the Afghanistan occupation. Neo-Realist concept of hegemony includes one powerful state that dominates other with its military and economic capabilities. However, neo-gramscian approach is much wider than this definition which includes it is more than a state dominance, based on a consensual order that has dominance but dominance by a powerful state may be necessary but not sufficient condition. In the historic bloc part, the historic bloc concept of Gramsci including international organizations will be examined at the international level. In the last part, the legitimacy problem and the reasons of US’ expansion beyond its shores will be concluded. Hegemony Hegemony is the supremacy of one major power (state) over others and likely acceptance of that transcendency by others in international relations as it is well-known.
The concept of hegemony was extended by Robert W. Cox at international level although it was first defined by Gramsci at national level. According to Marxism, the hegemony is always understood as domination, especially within a capitalist society and according to neorealist theorists, it is necessary to have a hegemonic power based on its material and economic capabilities which is sole and dominating over other states. Both of them assume that the wealth and power cannot exist without each other.
However, neo-gramscian theory that transcends these definitions, stresses that the hegemony as the ability of a social group to direct society both politically and morally. The hegemonic group obtains authority through the intellectual, moral, and cultural persuasion or assent of the population, who are governed, without using violence, political or economic coercion. In spite of that coercion is always disguisedly used in support of its hegemony. If a group wants to become a hegemon, it must unite the features of coercion and consent through the notion of a “dual perspective”.
In the Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks he describes it with those words: “The dual perspective can present itself on various levels from the most elementary to the most complex: But these can all theoretically be reduced to two fundamental levels, corresponding to the dual nature of Machiavelli’s Centaur – half-animal and half-human. They are the levels of force and of consent, authority and hegemony, violence and civilization, or the individual moment and the universal moment (“Church” and “State”), of agitation and propaganda, of tactics and of strategy, etc. (1933-34: 1st version 1931-32). Obtaining domination needs enough ability to keep its position of power. Susan Strange defines separation of “relational power” from “structural power”: State 1 uses relational power to inferior State 2 in order to influence on its acts by the hegemon; if the inferior state 2 wouldn’t act as hegemon desires then there would be consequences. As stated by author, that “structural power” forms subordinate structures which designs systems of “relational power” within which other countries and their communities run.
She describes structural power with those words: “… in short, confers the power to decide how things shall be done, the power to shape frameworks within which states relate to each other, relate to people, or relate to corporate enterprises. ” According to the Emre Iseri article of that she doesn’t mean formal political institutions or even negotiated agreements but to “customs, usages and modes of operation” that are more widely adopted and appear within societies generally. In the article of Emre Iseri, he interprets Susan Strange’s thesis with identification of how structural power merges and produces relational power.
If both those powers could be controllable then the hegemonic state can obtain power on other societies as well. Stange specified global economy with 4 main points; security, knowledge, production and credit/finance. The one who provides those necessities of society can decide the system’s flows. In the Neo-Gramsci theories finance, which steps forward from that group among others, has the more priority for global economy. In the beginning finance was progressing in parallel with trade. However it gains more efficiency which exceeds the economic and political importance of trade.
In this sense globalization in finance made it independent from trade and became a separate and independent capital accumulation tool for the transformation of hegemon. Those main structures are supported by secondary structures such as transportation, trade, welfare and energy. The key role in these secondary structures is energy. In present the oil is the heroin of the capitalism. It is mostly more important than money. Therefore the one who controls the oil is has influence on international economics. In Afghanistan War, when we look at the main actor United States that is involved has hegemony in Gramscian term.
United States has wanted to a new government in Afghanistan since around 1998 and an official report from a meeting of United States government’s foreign policy committee validates that a pro-western government was planned to be replaced instead of Taliban regime that are against unfriendly with western powers. The oil pipeline was finally could proceed in May 2002 after the invention of Afghanistan. That was not possible if United States and allies had not taken military action to overthrow the regime of Taliban in the first place.
We could say that the energy investment groups and other investment focal have prepared the process of invasion of Afghanistan and later on Iraq before the attack of Al-Qaeda. There had been an attempt to construct the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline to run from the Caspian area, through Afghanistan and probably Pakistan, to the Indian Ocean. This would be alternate to the market of energy without relying on Russian routes. The United States’ ambassador of Turkmenistan showed the intention of US with his word: “We are seriously looking at the project, and it is quite possible that American companies will join it”.
Nevertheless because of unstable situation in the southern part of the Afghan section which has been under control of Taliban, the project has essentially stalled. However the dealing with Taliban took so much time and they seemed untrustworthy. After the 9/11 attack to United States, President Bush and his government started to imprint the idea of intervention to Afghanistan where Al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden who was responsible for those terrorist actions. The democratic intentions were attached to this invasion for legitimacy.
Human rights violation and correction of Afghan authority were the reasons for military strike. More importantly, the citizens were damaged from the attack and government introduced Al-Qaeda as a threat to American way of life. But there was no questioning about why US waited up until now, if there were captivity of people and human rights violation. Through the media and non-governmental organizations, the assent of people for intervention was acquired by Bush administration.
On October 7, 2001, military strikes against Afghanistan were launched by the United States and an international coalition that included Great Britain, Canada, Australia, Germany and France which are the powerful states after United States. US and NATO members joined forces with opposition groups against Taliban and after the operation which is called Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan (OEF-A), an interim government was assigned for administration in Afghanistan in December 2001. Pro-US Hamid Karzai was selected as its leader in Bonn Agreement.
Later on in 2004, he won a democratic mandate in the 2004 election. Even he loses most of the support of his citizens, he won the 2009 election. However 2 days before the elections, BBC discovered through an investigation and reported evidence of widespread electoral fraud and corruption in the Afghan presidential election. Historic Bloc The story mainly starts with ”manifest destiny”, or the belief that it was the destiny of the United States to spread across the continent. Also it embodied the belief that Americans had a higher purpose to serve in the world those others.
Theirs was not only a special privilege, but also a particular charge: to protect liberty and to promote freedom. This concept makes possible to identify a pattern of the American idealism and also expansionism. Actually this morality’s source strongly began in the beginning of the 20th century in W. Wilson period and it has continued with containment and engagement politics of United States of America until at that moment. As a consequence, it transformed the Pax-Americana concept in world politics. And those ideas and norms spread via American material capabilities across to Europe and rest of the world.
Historical bloc basically refers to the social formation of an intellectual-mass dialectic as an “intellectual and moral bloc. ” The moral-political bloc helps to create a new “historic bloc” that coalitions of social forces bound by coercion and consent. (Moolakkattu 2009: 441) The construction of a historic bloc a precondition for the exercise of hegemony in the Gramscian sense, and entails a “reconstruction of state/society relations through in nature related processes of political, economic, and cultural change. Also according to him, historic bloc cannot exist without a hegemonic social class. Where the hegemonic class is the dominant class in a state or social formation, the state (Gramsci’s integral state) maintains cohesion and identity within the bloc through the propagation of a common culture. A new bloc is formed when a subordinate class (e. g. , workers) set up its hegemony upon other low-level groups (e. g. small farmers, marginals). Furthermore, Gramsci refuses the nation that a historic bloc is just a basic coalition of classes or class parts.
It embraces political, cultural, and economic aspects of a specific social formation. For instance, a bourgeoisie class makes a historic bloc through education and media. Its self-seeking is recognized by subordinate classes as being its own interest. Through a critical self-consciousness, the hegemonic cluster sees beyond its own narrow, economic-corporate interests, and binds itself to other social groups that have been involved in society’s vital political struggles and by this way the hegemon to make alliances and expand its hegemony over population.
Gramsci defines this process as the establishment of a ‘historical economic-political bloc’, which creates the basis of consent to a certain hegemonic order and produces and multiplies the hegemony of the supreme social group through a nexus of institutions, social relations, and ideas. Using the means of coercion or the means of consent by persuading society to recognize and assimilate the norms and values of its own customary world-view. However, coercion does not always mean domination, but might equally mean consent or the acceptance of the hegemon’s leadership.
More, the broader the consensus within a society in favor of the hegemon, the fewer it is required to utilize coercion -direct force-. The American quasi-monopolistic determinant on the security mechanism in the international system remains constant, the concept of collective security and the way in which it is induced will reflect the value, orientations and regulations set by the United States as a hegemon in our Uni-polar world. Parallel to that, the coercion is not strange concept that applied many times by United States as a main policy tool even the periods and issues has changed.
Surely, with changed conjecture- especially after end of cold war, establishment of NATO and UN- some of new normative ideas have emerged- like collective security and Kantian philosophy- and agenda of world politics changed in systematic level. Although it affected intervention mechanisms of one state to another, self-interest oriented politics has remained constant. In the invasion of Afghanistan case, with congressional approval, U. S responded forcefully to Al-Qaeda attack,11/9, and deployed its military forces to Afghanistan.
But the terrorists came from a number of different places and relied on different countries for support. Further Al-Qaeda, a non-state organization, was the ”bad guy” rather than any single rogue state. Despite that, without any strong opposition from rest of the world, support of the world dominant class, other NATO members and powerful states, Afghanistan, as terrorists’ homeland, was main target of U. S military intervention. With Hegemonic image of United states, thus Afghan as well as Middle East society became a part of a terrorists group’s members in the lens of world society in particular by Euro-centric masses.
It could be understood and observed security and visa control of those people. Well, how U. S created this type of Afghan profile (seems like terrorists) in the eyes of world? Gramscian wave of thought explain it as a structural violence, or indirect violence that includes economic, cultural and environmental violence. In the case of structural violence, people harm other people indirectly by way of their social system. Gramscian idea of state consists of not only the government but also “civil society”–press, church, mass culture– that stabilizes present power dealings.
Those variables provide more comfortable ground for dominant class to distress towards undeveloped Afghan society. Those agents- Euro-centric- has created social pressure over the Afghan population. This unfair generalization of Afghan and Middle Eastern society has continued in the Guantanamo Bay Detention camp, in Cuba. Detention of those people is ongoing debate in Human rights issue. Because they are suffering with unclear charging and longtime illegal imprisonment without any trial.
After two World Wars and Cold War Era that dominated global international agenda in last century, U. S’ moral and material power has become legitimate in the lens of European powers and rest of the world. Anti-communist movement/ alliances, liberal trading order and economic aids and sanctions (e. g. Marshall Plan, The Truman Doctrine) and American propaganda towards to Europe, helped to recognized and acceptance of super mature power. In that sense, According to Gramsci, its provide dominant mode of production, culture and system of social institutions” penetrates all countries. For instance, during the postwar era, a neo-liberal form of authorities took shape in the European countries based on a negotiated consensus among the leading industrial interests, organized labor, and government. The neo-liberal historic bloc is represented by the G-8 countries and the leadership was driven by U. S. Besides NATO, United Nations, World Trade Organization and International Monetary Fund, so-called superordinate economic and military agents, was mainly under the control of United States that created a suitable ground and harmony for United States. War, Terror, Power and World Order:
Robert W. Cox, in the post-Cold War period, defines the three configurations of power as a starting point which are: (1) ‘The American Empire’ that is influencing the countries through economically, politically but different from the imperialism which meant a direct political and administrative control of relatively less powerful countries by the western powers. However, we cannot talk about a direct control over Afghanistan’s political administration but on the other hand; there is obviously an indirect control over the economic and political life of Afghanistan which will be discussed later on. 2) There is still a continuation of the Westphalian state perception that emphasizes the concept of sovereignty and non-intervention principle which should have been protecting the countries against the absorption into ‘Empire’. On the other hand, although the consensus over these principles seem to be provided, the consensus over the legitimacy of the ‘Empire’ becomes much more powerful, in considering the rapid legitimization of the US invasion of Afghanistan. (3) The third configuration of power is the civil society which can be exist both internally and internationally.
In Afghanistan case, the social movements or civil society with the help of the technology sometimes were in the position of opposition against the Empire. In Socratic terms, these collective ideas were and still are representing themselves as gadflies within the states. Especially, the activism among certain circles such as the leftist environments. The place of ‘terror’ here can be defined as a covert world that struggle against the hegemony behind and below these three configurations and its presence, persistence and expansion can be seen as a threat to the establishing order which was protected by the hegemony or ‘empire’.
This shows that how US, as the empire, declared ‘war on terror’ on Afghanistan territories at the first sight. Although, it seems a legitimate war, according to neo-gramscian analyses, it cannot be classified as a legitimate war since every part of the covert world claims legitimacy and undermines the legitimacy of the hegemony. It has resulted in suspicion of US legitimacy although its power, and legitimacy were always welcomed abroad but not anymore. The terms ‘democracy’ and ‘liberation’ have become transformed to mean open markets and military occupation.
Especially, in Afghanistan war, although there is no visible administration of US in Afghanistan, it becomes very doubtful when some temporary administrations were established in Afghanistan such as ‘Afghan Interim Authority’ and ‘Afghan Transitional Authority’ after the intervention. It is known that US government supports the current government of Afghanistan against ‘Taliban’ and became a guardian of the new regime. The economic power has a different dimension in Afghanistan War as well.
Cox states that ‘like Rome, US sucks all resources of the empire beyond its shore and if the term ‘terrorism’ gained particular currency …, it has since 9/11 gained broader application in the macrocosm of the ‘war on terror’ and it has been adopted as a form of justi? cation by the dominant force in other con? ict situations’ Hence, apart from showing the war as ‘just war’, the economic dimension has never been mentioned. However, it was a profit driven agenda: a war of economic conquest and plunder, ‘a resource war’.
It is know that Afghanistan’s location is very crucial as a strategic position which is close to Iran, Russia, India, as well at the heart of the pipelines, major oil and gas reserves. However, its natural gas that is not used yet and plus minerals was not known until 2010 by American public. According to NY Times, it was ‘previously unknown’ mines that include very big veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium (key raw material for batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys) and also contain so many minerals that are very important to the industry of the world.
So, Afghanistan would become one of the most important mining centers of the world. Besides, it was not unknown that the geological analysis that the Soviet Union conducted before and after the Afghanistan War between 1979-1988 says that its existence was known and it was confirmed by Russia in the very beginning of the US invasion of Afghanistan. Even before that, many countries like UK and Germany conducted surveys in 1960s about mines in Afghanistani territory according to the US Ministry of Mines.
Thus, the existences of the mines were not discovered for the first time by the US. In addition, it is also known that the Soviet Union explored more than 1. 400 mineral outcroppings and along with 70 with commercially viable deposits in those mines. Another important economic dimension in Afghanistan is natural gas routes. Since Afghanistan is in a very strategic position where the trans-Afghan transport corridor links Caspian to the Arabian sea, the foreign policy of US has been criticizing about its willingness to secure the control of these routes.
In addition, it has been on the agenda of US to control over Turkmenistan transport routes after the collapse of the Soviet Union since there has been projects that are called TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) and aimed to transport natural gas over those countries. Some major American companies are already interested in TAPI pipeline project which the four countries will sign an agreement in following July 2012. As we see here, the response to the threat of ‘terrorism’ which is actually a threat to the hegemonic position of the US, has become ‘the expansion of the empire’ by the occupation of Afghanistan.
That is how it is not a legitimate act of the world hegemonic power in neo-gramscian terms. Robert Cox searches a way to restore legitimacy in the world order, but however the challenge is to induce an American hegemony o abandon the mirage of ‘exceptionalism’ and bring the USA back into membership along with other states in a community of nations. Conclusion The authors tried to examine Afghanistan Invasion of United States in terms of Neo-Gramscian approach. To get main framework, authors asked some subordinate questions related to Afghanistan invasion.
In that sense, firstly we analyzed Robert Cox’s extensive hegemony definition, basically the ability of a social group to direct society both politically and morally. Also, the question that ”what are the requirements of hegemony”, were asked and answers found. According to Neo-Gramscian model hegemony should unite the features of coercion and consent through the notion of a “dual perspective” Parallel to that, Susan Strange’s definition of separation of “relational power” from “structural power”.
She defines those like that, structural powers” forms subordinate structures which designs systems of “relational power” within which other countries and their communities run. About the real reasons of invasion, the authors reached the conclusion that to protect U. S homeland American citizens from possible re-attack of Al-Qaeda. According to neo-gramscian analyses, ”Afghanistan case” cannot be classified as a legitimate war since every part of the covert world claims legitimacy and undermines the legitimacy of the hegemony.
Briefly, it is know that Afghanistan’s is very vital as a strategic position which is close to Iran, Russia, India, also to construct the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline to run from the Caspian area, through Afghanistan and probably Pakistan, to the Indian Ocean which s would be alternate to the market of energy without relying on Russian routes. We also examined historic bloc and U. S attempts to provide it. Coercion and consent and other capabilities are main tools of U. S to remain in the dominant class in political world arena.
And it effects (suffering period) on Afghanistan society were analyzed. Lastly, again the mainstream traditions of United States ‘democracy’ and ‘liberation’ (American Dream) have become tools for open markets and military occupation. REFERENCES Articles & Books: A Concise History of U. S Foreign Policy, Joyce P. Kaufman, 2006, Rowman&Littlefield Publishers, Inc Ahmed, Nafeez, M, 2009, Our Terrorists, New Internationalist Magazine, Issue 426: http://www. newint. org/features/2009/10/01/blowback-extended-version/
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