Academic journal article Military Review

The "Armed Reconciler": The Military Role in Amnesty, Reconciliation, and Reintegration Process

Academic journal article Military Review

The "Armed Reconciler": The Military Role in Amnesty, Reconciliation, and Reintegration Process

Article excerpt


THE PROCESS OF RECONCILING a fractured and fragmented society after any conflict--or better yet before a conflict can erupt--is tortuously complicated. It can take almost Herculean resolve to confront a past in which one or more sectors of a society have suffered at the hands of another, and then move that society forward. Sometimes, it may require military force to make that happen. And so, when the U.S. Government finds itself helping rebuild the social structure of a tailed state, a "quasi-state," or some ungoverned space, it should consider using the military as a "forcing function" to bring aggrieved populations together. (1)

It is this function--the military as "armed reconciler," too often either overlooked or misunderstood--that this article examines. Thus, the article outlines the principles underlying amnesty, reconciliation, and reintegration (hereafter "AR2"), a process inevitably nested in national policy and doctrine, and it postulates ways in which the U.S. military, as an instrument of that policy, might act as a reconciler. The discussion here contributes to the already abundant literature on the process of reconciling former enemies and reconstructing a unified society from chaos. (2) Past experience, outlined in follow-on essays to be published later in Military Review, provides the empirical base for analysis. By proposing a dimensional model that holistically fits the experience, this article points to the dynamic interrelationships among the factors of the AR2 process. It explores how the introduction of an external armed reconciler affects both the societal dimensions of the process and the correlation between amnesty, in some form, and reconciliation. As such, the article assumes the status of a "first cut," in the hope of generating discussion on the discernible principles involved and the efficacy and the utility of such undertakings by the U.S. military.

AR2 as a Dimensional Model

AR2 is not in and of itself a discrete entity. As a process it comprises three distinct phases of societal reconstruction after a state fractures. These three phases, themselves distinct processes, are not usually grouped together, and each has a substantive literature surrounding it that in many ways throws up conceptual roadblocks to using AR2 as an integrated concept.

Of AR2's constituent elements, amnesty, usually found in the discussion of "national reconciliation," is both the most visible and the most problematic to define. Generally centering on the UN and other international organizations as the prime movers in national reconciliation, the literature tends to view amnesty in an instrumental light, as one step necessary to start a societal healing process. (3) As defined in the Oxford Essential Dictionary of the U.S. Military, amnesty is "an official pardon for people who have been convicted of political offenses." It is generally held up as the absolute minimum that must be accomplished for any reconciliation to take place. Importantly, amnesty is dependent on the cultural context in which it occurs. Whether or not it is called "amnesty" may also be important. (4) Whatever amnesty is called, how it is carried out, and to what extent it is "full" or "limited," is a matter of contention that depends a great deal on local circumstances. (5) Regardless, one argument in this discussion is that some sort of societal or political dialog must take place, in most cases leading to a form of amnesty. Generally, amnesty must be in place as a foundation before reconciliation or reintegration can take place.

Reconciliation and reintegration are, depending on the circumstances of the particular case, interchangeable in order but not in achievement. Both have to be accomplished for the full AR2 process to be complete. By way of example, picture a post-civil-war society which is technically re-integrated (in terms of bringing previously "outside the system" actors back inside) but which may not be reconciled, especially if the entire society did not participate in the reintegration process. …

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