Category: Political Violence

Attention to the Details: Dissecting the Complexity of Political Violence

In today’s modern world, the concept of violence is a phenomenon which could be understood as an unpleasant, destructive, and negative force that can be orchestrated. Broadly, the term can be perceived and comprehended in any form, given that such aforementioned force is present in a given situation. However, inserting the complex ideas of politics into the matter changes the field of recognizing and absorbing the ideas of violence. It, now, goes beyond the simple perpetration of such force, as it is embedded with essential details, particularly the political goal. Basically, this form of violence is politically motivated, involved with contentious arguments, conflicts, and contestations, which result to certain courses of action. In this case, the courses of action are a variation of forms that exhibit political violence.

Literature on political violence have encompassed three categorical factors to further understand the said concept: Institutional, Ideational, and Individual. By the labels of the categories themselves, it is enough to explain what particular factor is being highlighted. In institutional, it involves the state’s institutions, may they be related to economic or social, that trigger such violence. As for ideational, it, now, stems from the individuals very own ideas, may it be related to politics, religion, or economics. And lastly, the individual, themselves, possessing own dispositions and displaying certain psychological factors. Personally, I agree with the core ideas that these categories encompass. In fact, I would consider these strong foundations as to understanding the underlying details of political violence occurrences. Clearly, it is true that such violence may be triggered by a state’s institutions, personal dispositions, as well as psychologic factors.

However, the identified thoughts found in these categorized factors could be made stronger in understanding the roots of political violence when connected to each other. In essence, there are certain cases where in the institution would actually trigger the very thoughts and dispositions of the people. In this argument, the other two categories would, somehow, fall within the first category. More so, another way of viewing such argument is considering the personal disposition of ideas by a person occupying a significant public post. For instance, in the process of legislation, it is in truth that political scientists will likely incline to ideas and decisions depending on their political positions (or ideology). With that, such decisions made by these people will, in turn, affect the very institutions operating in the country’s jurisdiction. While it is true that these decisions may not create an immediate, ‘360-degree’ impact, it must also be acknowledged that, through time, with the accumulation of policies, institutions will be affected. Hence, allowing us to recognize the reality that the ‘individual factor’ actually posed an effect, a change towards the institution; allowing one to see that the first category is now within the latter. Basically, the relaid ideas provides analysts and readers to position themselves in a different area, viewing the concepts and categories from a different angle, in order to understand how the categories may just be interconnected links, rather than singular ideas.

The ideas and arguments previously discussed can be manifested by analyzing the concepts surrounding coup d’etats. This form of political violence was discussed as an illegal course of action, intended to overthrow and eliminate the seated executive. In order to understand how the argument is present, one must take a look at the roots which may have caused such coup d’etat. Theoretically, the motive to unseat an executive can be fueled by the reality that who is seated is, simply, unfavorable. The acting executive could be someone who has continued to operate unpleasant institutions, or rather transformed such institutions based on one’s personal disposition. In other words, one can view how the categories exhibit an interplay; the executive can be driven by personal dispositions or psychological motives which created such institutions, enough to trigger the coup d’etat. In addition, to these ideas, the ‘created’ institutions by the executive can also trigger individual dispositions and motives, in this case, on the part of military or police executives. As one may recall from the literature entitled The Democratic Coup D’etat, the perpetrators (military or police executives) may take different courses of action through changing the constitution, retaining policies, and the like. As one may realize, the occurrence of coups involve a great deal of interplay between the categories introduced. It is a mixture of how institutions affect the positions of the people, and how positions of the people, their motives, can, in turn, affect institutions. It’s a clear manifestation of how the categories are co-dependent in order to actually paint every detail of political violence cases.

Understanding political violence may also be complicated by how numerous theorists have participated in order to shed light on the subject. In fact, in certain cases, these theories are, rather, products of each other, instead of opposing theories that hold independent views. Although the coined terms may disagree, the ideas between rational and post-rational war theories can actually be traced to a common denominator. As one may recall, according to Van Clausewitz, war is an instrument stemming out from state policy. In this case, his position on understanding war encompasses ideas related to undertaking actions tat involve accompanying and prioritizing state interest. From Calhoun’s Political Philosophers of War, numerous theorists are actually even cited to support this idea. In fact, Cindy Holder emphasizes that states can be unjust in their operations related with across state actors. More so, Steven Lee points out the stockpiling of weapons, especially those nuclear, in order to satisfy that predicament of possibly being attacked. In all essence, these ideas intend to reveal how states really act, and how it is a state’s interest to be able to firmly secure themselves from any possible situation. Ironically, post-rational theories on war still stem to the common denominator of self-interest that is present in rational theories. Basically, post-war theories would encompass the ideas that war is more of a “disaster and calamity”. Just from this root idea, one can already see how rational theories have come into place. Seeing the situation as a disaster and a calamity brought about by across border actors is clear cut evidence of how war is rather rooted on the rational theory. A this point, it must be made clear that the ideas commenting on the theories of war are not intended to degrade any political theorist, as well as their very formulated theories, but to rather point out the complexity in understanding political violence. Despite common denominating ideas, theorists are pushed to create different understandings and perspectives. This reality serves as proof of the subject’s intricacy, establishing multiple point of views, paving the way for constant analysis and critique.

The complexity of understanding political violence certainly does not end with the variation of theories. Other than such, definitions on various forms of political violence requires equal, or even more attention for analysis. Particularly, there has been grave difficulty in achieving a consensus on certain concepts, making it difficult for policies intended to mitigate or eliminate such across nations. The discussion on certain definitions of political violence forms has involved politics, or even more, than the very actions being actually defined. This is most evident in the “powwows” on, none other than, terrorism. Alex Schmid has pointed out that terrorism is something extravagantly spent on all over the globe, in order to it to be placed under control. People die everyday from such acts, but, ironically, there is confusion on the actual understanding of what is being fought for. In other words, what really is terrorism? The literature on The Definitional Problem of Terrorism spearheaded by Schmid emphasizes that its very lack of a concrete, clear, and accepted definition is the very cause why people continue to die everyday, and why people will continue to.

Primarily, the aforementioned form of political violence has encountered great difficulty in being defined due to the challenge of reaching consensus to its definition since there are numerous factors to be considered. Such factors vary across states. Hence, making it a great obstacle to pin down one definition that would encompass all, for everybody to agree upon. The said literature by Schmid features three scholars in Weinberg, Pedahzur, and Hirsch-Hoefler. The three pushed to narrow down 73 collected definitions. While they were successful in citing one definition, the problem was bigger than what had been achieved: the new definition was too general and shallow. By “too general” and “shallow”, the disadvantage was that the definition, now, does not make any mention of perpetrators, targets, tactics, and the like. The failure to identify such details fails to establish a clear cut definition that would aid the process of policy making. More so, given the growing complexity of terrorism as it also takes multiple forms (cyber, narco, etc), there is added challenge to the existing issue. Clearly, if policies would not be clear, these would be feeble enough for perpetrators to get away with.

In shedding more light of this difficult for consensus, history is a factor that can be considered of significant effect. As discussed by Schmid, during the 1972 U.N. Ad Hoc Committee on International Terrorism, no resolution on the definition could be adopted which resulted to the phasing out of the committee. This was because of certain cases in which countries would not agree with what was being stipulated. For example, as mentioned in the literature, Greece had an issue related to actual motives. To them, if the motive is regarded as freedom fighting, they must not be considered terrorists, regardless of acts. More so, France intends to include acts or Barbarism committed in foreign territory. Basically, the idea here is that the history of certain nations places them in a particular position that allows them to see an idea that may not be easily comprehended by others. In light of the position of Greece, freedom fighting is not something they would dumb down into a form of terrorism. Hence, their disagreement and express of reservations in the stipulations of the Ad Hoc discussion. In addition to this, a similar case was present in the November 2001 Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. Schmid discusses that the Islamic Conference rejected Australian compromise definition because it would not exempt national liberation movements fighting for foreign occupation (i.e. Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Land). These case examples clearly depict the reality that a country’s rich history of experiences places them in a position of disagreement with others who may not understand or fail to acknowledge what their country is recognizing. Practically speaking, given the number of nations existing in the world, each possessing rich history of experiences, it is no longer a question that there is actual difficulty in the process of stipulating for agreement. The process will, indeed, continue to be rigorous.

Another issue discussed by Schmid that would clearly involve politics in the formulation of a definition is the statement on who the perpetrators are. Schmid mentions that in the November 2001 Convention on International Terrorism, a great number of state leaders have already stipulated that perpetrators will be limited to individuals or groups. However, certain lobbying groups pushed for recognition that some of them were victims of operations that were state-sponsored. In this case, there is clear exercise of power by the actors present since policy-making is put on the line. The very details that will be placed in the agreement are being influenced by certain actors, may it be legislators, state leaders, or lobbyists, since such details will heavily reflect on who will be targeted by the law. While the goal of politically violent actions, in the form of terrorism in this case, is already political, the process of defining it is made political, as well.

As a whole, the ideas expressed exhibited the complexity, and, to an extent, the difficulty in analyzing political violence. Its forms are diverse, allowing them to be viewed through numerous lenses inspired by categories and theories. More so, given the reality of a multiplicity of lenses, and further challenged by different histories experienced by nations, consensus on clear cut identification of forms can be made difficult. From these ideas and arguments, it is made explicit that political violence is beyond knowing what it is, and knowing (the definitions of) its different forms. It is, rather, a phase or operation of processing various intelligent ideas of its forms that require the encompassment and interconnectedness of categories, theories, definitions, and other contributing factors that affect the rigorous process of detailing political violence. Hence, revealing the difficulty and required meticulousness of fully investigating the facets of political violence.