Accepted Paper:

Remote intervention and public authority in Pakistan's periphery  


Sam Vincent (London School of Economics and Political Science)

Paper Short Abstract:

By reducing both intermediary relations and external understanding of local authority dynamics remote forms of intervention inhibit evaluation by intervenors or scholars of how external action interacts with emergent local order.

Paper long abstract:

In the post 9/11 years large parts of the global south have been overwhelmingly (and problematically) construed as 'failed', 'ungoverned' sources of danger to the global north. The ensuing interventions across the world, and the crisis of faith in the transformative ambition of the so-called 'liberal peace' has exhibited two contradictory impulses. On the one hand, there emerged a growing fascination with social science in parts of the military community in order to 'decode' target societies and achieve various intervention objectives. On the other, a growing disillusionment with grand intervention projects has also stimulated a view that threats had instead to be violently contained through 'light footprint' and increasingly 'remote control' modes of operation entailing practices such as targeted killing and persistent surveillance. The consequences of more pervasive and intimate forms of external intervention upon local political orders have recently attracted innovative scholarly attention regarding ongoing contestation processes over the landscape of political authority. A major finding is the importance of intermediary relations between intervenors and the intervened in shaping the character of public authority in the context of external intervention. This paper makes two arguments. First, while remote forms of intervention considerably reduce opportunities for 'local' intermediaries to manipulate intervenors it also distances intervening actors from the local political order, making contestation over public authority less legible. Second, this creates epistemological problems both for the policy community and for public authority scholars seeking to understand the effects of such forms of intervention.

Panel P016
The return of remoteness: insecurity, isolation and connectivity in the new world disorder