A LEGITIMATE QUESTION: 4GW AND POLITICAL LEGITIMACY
The enigmatic M-1
of the lively IO/PSYOPS blog Swedish Meatballs Confidential
graced the comment section of the previous post
and posed an excellent question:"Q: Can there per definition exist legitimate* 4GW entities? If so, could you please, at your convenience,name any number of them."
I can attest, from some years of studying diplomatic history, that "Legitimacy
" in international relations is a lot like obscenity - hard to define but everybody knows it when they see it. The problem is that scholars, diplomats, jurists and intellectuals tend to see legitimacy most clearly when it happens to accord with their own interests.
For example, Neo-Realist IR theorists, Islamists, Marxist-Leninists, Burkean Conservatives, Lockean classical liberals and Liberal Internationalists will all construct arguments that appeal to the legitimacy, or argue the lack thereof, in certain regimes or institutions. Their premises differ as to the origin of legitimacy but the concept itself is regarded as sound across a wide political spectrum - excepting perhaps the fringe of Gramiscian -postmodernist-deconstructionistic radicals, whose tireless efforts to de-legitimize and dismiss nearly everything in the Western intellectual tradition only emphasizes the importance they really attach to legitimacy (At this point, I'd like to invite Dr. Daniel Nexon
of The Duck of Minerva
to add anything on academic perceptions of legitimacy, disagree with me or generally put in his well-informed two cents).
That being said, as average people are not afflicted with the abstruse theories of intellectuals, I think the Lockean concept of "consent of the governed
" is most useful here in addressing M-1's question. Most people stuck in a conflict zone are going to be pragmatists, interested in the restoration of peace on the best terms possible for themselves. It is for their affinity that the 4GW game is played.
Consent does not require democratic elections. Elections make popular consent visible, quantified and, where society operates under the rule of law, elections are a regular, contractual, but temporary grant of authority from the people to their government. Authority can also be granted implicitly by consensual, popular, deference as with homage given to Shiite maarjas, the King of Thailand, the Pope, the Emperor of Japan and the Supreme Court of the United States, whose powerful judicial role is formidibly augmented by the widespread acceptance of it's moral authority as the legitimate arbiter of the meaning of the Constitution.
4GW entities, like states, can acquire ( and lose) moral authority and thus, political legitimacy, through their actions. We may not find this to be logical or objectively factual when Hezbollah or al Qaida are measured against a theoretical ideal. That however, is irrelevant to most the audience in the conflict zone. What matters is what you are measuring the 4GW entity against in the real world. A corrupt, incompetent, oligarchy? A vibrant, prosperous, liberal democracy? A constitutional monarchy backed by long tradition? A Communist regime? A hated dictator ? A foreign army? What ?
Much like time, legitimacy is entirely relative. The people might yearn for steak but if one side is providing nothing but crumbs and the other promises chicken - and can come across with a drumstick now and again - the side with the chicken wins.ADDENDUM:Soob weighs in
as well with an appropriately timed taxonomy.
Labels: 4GW, COIN, international law, legitimacy, Soob, Swedish Meatballs Confidential, theory