Prof. Paul Staniland will speak at UConn in Monteith 119 on Friday, February 24, 2012 at noon on “Beyond the Monopoly of Violence: Militancy and the State in Pakistan.” Free lunch will be served. We spoke to him for a heads up on his talk.
How did you first get interested in Pakistan?
I first became interested in Pakistan when I was studying military politics early in grad school. India and Pakistan present some fascinating differences on that score: despite a shared colonial heritage, the two armies have taken fundamentally different directions since 1947. That led me into a deeper study of conflict in South Asia more broadly. My interests in Kashmir, Indian foreign policy, and insurgency all centrally involve Pakistan. My fieldwork has focused on India and Sri Lanka but Pakistan presents a set of central puzzles for political scientists. For a country its size and importance, it is remarkable how few people study it in political science.
What is your central argument?
My central (if nascent) argument is that the creation and deployment of state coercive capacities – military, police, paramilitaries – is driven by the political interests of state elites. These interests are often in tension with what we often think states should naturally seek to do – monopolize the legitimate use of violence. Instead, we often see political and military leaders legitimizing, supporting, and protecting non-state violent actors on their own soil as part of sophisticated political strategies of regime survival, coalition-building, and foreign policy. Rather than thinking of the state as a bundle of raw coercive capacities, we should conceptualize it as a supple and strategic deployer (and withholder) of violence and protection. I’d like to better understand how states make their decisions – especially in a context of both international and domestic threats – about the best ways to control social violence. This emerging project looks at these dynamics of violence management throughout post-colonial Asia (this is an early paper in this project).
Will the US and Pakistan remain allies?
As I argued early last year, I think Pakistan and the US are in for a long period of chilly relations, recurrent crises, and barely-contained hostility. I don’t foresee a clean break; neither side will gain much from open repudiation. The US will draw down in Afghanistan while maintaining support to its local allies as the Pakistan-backed Taliban rise. A crucial question will be the extent to which the Afghan Taliban can outmaneuver Pakistani manipulation and control. I think the US should lower expectations about its ability to control dynamics within Pakistan, and so it should adopt a limited-commitment/limited-liability strategy that seeks to avoid a few worst-case outcomes but otherwise becomes more restrained in the region. Americans get understandably frustrated with Pakistani policies, especially that of the Army, but those policies reflect a set of clear cost-benefit calculations that are difficult to shift.
Staniland’s upcoming talk is co-sponsored by the Alan R. Bennett Professor and India Studies.