Finished Swords and Ploughshares: Bringing Peace to the 21st Century by Paddy Ashdown. It's almost a how-to guide to successful conflict resolution and statebuilding, heavily based on his experience as High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also with plenty of references to other conflicts, successful and failed.
For non-UKians, Ashdown is a former UK politician, former head of the Liberal Democrat Party, before which he was a Marine officer.
His summary of how initial stabilization should go is:
The early hours after the conflict are the crucial hours. The interveners are now for all practical purposes the government. Their first task is to respond to the human needs of the population and here Maslow and his Hierarchy of Human Needs is likely to prove a better guide to their first actions than the prejudices or plans of the interveners. The first thing the population will want after war is security, and if the interveners won't or can't provide it they will look to someone else who can. So, it is essential to dominate the security space and introduce the rule of law from day one, moment one-- even if, at the start, the soldiers have to do it through martial law. The police, too, need to be operational as early as possible. But establishing the rule of law means more than improving the police. It means reforming the whole range of legal structures, from judges through to the penal services. This holistic approach is crucial elsewhere, too. Rebuilding states can't be done in a linear fashion by just concentrating on some sectors and ignoring others. But sequencing the challenges is also important. Economic reform should be an early priority, especially currency stabilisation, liberalisation, privatisation and cleaning up the public utilities. Security sector and education reform should also come early. But elections should be left as late as decently possible. Apart from humanitarian aid, all other aid should be conditional. Think twice before going too deep in de-Nazification, it nearly always rebounds.Excellent book. He abstracts several key principles to a successful intervention, but accepts that particular circumstances will always vary. He also puts forward specific proposals for how to improve the international community's efforts. Hard to see how many of them will be adopted: the basic problems seem to be very difficult to politically resolve.
It's a pretty short book, without any waste: only about 200 pages are spent on the main sections. However it also contains another 100 pages on his specific experiences on his first year in Bosnia: fascinating stuff, but poorly structured, reads more like hastily fleshed-out notes than a book. Hopefully a proper book is on the way.
Even so, it's fascinating to see how the details actually work. Basically the job seems to be half diplomatic whack-a-mole, constantly flitting around trying to cajole or threaten domestic or international players into cooperating. This has to be somehow combined with keeping a steady strategic process of achieving a set plan. He has to be notably devious to get things to work: delaying corruption reports that will affect one faction until he's dealing with another; calling in favours.
Overall, whether you agree or disagree about interventions in general, this is essential reading for anyone who's interested in current events.
So with Brussels ticked off, the next general destination on the Slow Art Tour of Europe should probably be somewhere in Spain. Maybe could do another pre-Xmas jaunt since that worked last year. Not sure where though: Spain seems very inconveniently arranged with the main sites spread far apart. Mostly interested in Barcelona, Bilboa and Madrid but wouldn't mind seeing Cordoba and Granada too.
Any suggestions or advice on where to go, climate, ease of travelling? Or anywhere else to go? I've already done Amsterdam, Dublin, Edinburgh, Paris, Florence, Rome, Brussels and Bruges; might try Scandinavia, Vienna or Germany sometime but will probably leave that till next summer.
Alternatively, you can always not reply to this diary and then say "I can't believe you didn't go to..." when I come back.
Old news, but the Dresden Files TV show has been officially dropped.
OMG Hedgehog: Are you my Mummy?
Metafilter voting systems roundup
It is ironic that, during this same period, economists who study the design of jobs and the structure of incentives within private firms began to take more seriously the task of explaining why firms rarely attach performance pay to objective measures of output. Most incentive pay takes the form of raises, promotions, or bonuses related to subjective evaluations of a broad range of qualitative and quantitative information, and Holmstrom and Milgrom (1991) argue that, in many instances, firms find it optimal to pay workers a fixed base wage and monitor their allocation of effort among tasks even if the firm has access to "good" performance measures i n a statistical sense. Their key insight is that jobs may involve multiple tasks, and as a result, incentive pay based on any given performance measure can easily lead to undesirable distortions in the amount of effort allocated to various tasks, even if the performance measure is highly correlated with total output. They discuss "teaching to the test"in response to test-based accountability systems as an example of such a distortion, and in recent years, a significant literature has explored the extent to which test-based accountability systems actually create increases in subject mastery or only increases in measured performance on a specific type of exam.
In recent work,1 we explore a different effect of test-based accountability systems on the allocation of teacher effort, and we find evidence consistent with the hypothesis that test-based accountability systems not only shape decisions of teachers concerning what to teach but also whom to teach. We show that even though advocates of NCLB offered it as a remedy for disadvantaged children who receive poor service from their public schools, the design of NCLB almost guarantees that the most academically disadvantaged children will not benefit from its implementation and may actually be harmed.
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