The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Stability Ops Among Muggles

August 12, 2011

Foreign Policy‘s latest foray into the nexus between science fiction and political reality is a lively sketch on post-conflict reconstruction, Harry Potter style. Written by experts on the topic from the Marine Corps War College, Human Rights Watch and the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, the key point is this: though the “story” ends when the bad guys are vanquished (be they Deatheaters or Saddam Hussein’s forces) is is then that the real battle begins.

Former U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre and retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan have described four pillars of post-conflict reconstruction: security, governance and participation, urgent social and economic needs, and justice and reconciliation. Of these pillars, the magical world can currently afford to feel complacent about only one — social and economic needs. After all, with the proper application of scouring, mending, and engorgement charms, much of the physical damage wrought by the war can be repaired, and food can be multiplied to meet the needs of the population. But with respect to the other imperatives, critical challenges remain.

Surviving Death Eaters will have to be brought to justice or reintegrated into magical society. Long-standing rifts among magical communities that the war widened must be healed. Most of all, we must ensure that the values that triumphed in the final battle — tolerance, pluralism, and respect for the dignity of all magical and non-magical creatures alike — are reflected in the institutions and arrangements that emerge from the conflict. What ultimately matters is not just whether something evil was defeated, but whether something good is built in its place.

Brilliant article; I must say, however, that I’m not sure the same dilemmas of post-conflict reconstruction apply to the end of all conflicts in the same way. Invoking “the recent experience of American Muggles in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the piece would seem a rejoinder to Bush-era declarations of “Mission: Accomplished.” But the defeat of Voldemort is more like the expulsion of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait than it is like the US’ invasion and occupation of the Middle East and Central Asia post-9/11.

Voldemort, after all, is the invader; he is simply repulsed. It’s not as if Hogwarts invades the Muggle world, wins, and then has to deal with all the thorny dilemmas of reconstituting Muggle society. Hogwarts basically just defended its own borders and identity. As such its reconstruction projects will be more like Kuwait’s in the absence of Saddam’s invading army (rebuilding walls and lives) than like those of the US in Iraq in the absence of the old order (rebuilding society itself from scratch).

Even in such instances, as Cynthia Enloe reminded us in her post-Gulf War book The Morning After, victory is never as straight-forward as it would seem. But how non-straight-forward may be a matter of significant degree.

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Charli Carpenter is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is the author of 'Innocent Women and Children': Gender, Norms and the Protection of Civilians (Ashgate, 2006), Forgetting Children Born of War: Setting the Human Rights
Agenda in Bosnia and Beyond (Columbia, 2010), and ‘Lost’ Causes: Agenda-Setting in Global Issue Networks and the Shaping of Human Security (Cornell, 2014). Her main research interests include national security ethics, the protection of civilians, the laws of war, global agenda-setting, gender and political violence, humanitarian affairs, the role of information technology in human security, and the gap between intentions and outcomes among advocates of human security.