Chris Blattman

Wronging Rights fires a shot across the bow of the good ship Enough

The more interesting debate here is the division between the advocacy community, led by Enough, and the expert community. As far as I can tell, Enough has not yet managed to get a single serious researcher of the eastern DRC to sign on to their analysis of the conflict. (Would anyone like to dispute this? I am willing to lower the bar to anybody who has spent more than six weeks straight in the Kivus.)

Kapow! (“Cap’n, methinks we got her attention.”) The full post is here. Amanda promises a full salvo in an upcoming post. It’s just like a Patrick O’Brian novel, only with worse costumes. And the Kivus are kind of landlocked.

To Amanda’s Kate’s point: I’m actually curious whether any of the Congo big-wig analysts have signed on to the Enough plan. Have Prunier or Chretien weighed in? Autesserre? Crawford Young? Herbst, we know, has more radical suggestions. Who are the others?

I will be happy to entertain guest posts from Enough or any experts. It sounds like the CSM is trying to host the debate, and has the advantage of an actual audience. I will entertain its castaways. And make you talk in a pirate accent.

Update: The Amanda part of Katmanda writes here. Who knew legal analysis could make you cry-laugh?

9 Responses

  1. Jason Stearns: I do have a feeling that some people love to hate Enough and Eve Ensler because of their flashy celebrity style of advocacy more than for its content. Let’s keep our feet on the ground and our heads screwed on.

  2. You choose conflict over civil discourse; you choose a closed heart and bias. You have misrepresented Enough; you do personally attack John Prendergast, whom you do not know! And, YES, that is meanspirited! Your statements “of fact” are not substantiated. I know, like, respect and admire Mr. Prendergast. If all of those you deem to be “expert” on the needs of Congo truly are experts, why haven’t they solved the problems of Congo. What are you doing to solve the problems? You need to examine your own heart, Laura.

  3. Laura,
    Thanks for the reply. I’m aware ENOUGH was heavily involved. But again, try working with Congress and see if you can get the bill exactly as you want it. I did read Amanda’s post. I suspect that at least some of that confusion will be addressed in implementation. It is not uncommon to pass legislation with an understanding from the relevant agencies how implementaiton will play out.

    I’m assuming that they couldn’t put in SSR and corruption fighting and building a judiciary and a law enforcement system because this was a rider on the financial reform bill, so that constrains what counts as a material.

    The other point, which of course you and others would make, is that many of these things will have to happen domestically and would be hard to legislate. If there is inadequate funding for these efforts, then that would be something to advocate in the budget process, not here. Correct me if I am wrong. I think the point I am really trying to push is that just like everyone else, advocacy NGOs operate under constraints. One kind of argument against their approach is “Their narrative doesn’t tell the whole story in perfect detail and their legislation doesn’t address every possible problem.”
    But obviously we have to consider what is feasible. Another kind of argument is “their narrative could be somewhat better and still accomplish certain goals, or their policy could address issues that it does not, or it is clearly going to draw resources away from more important priorities.” I think you want to make the second kind of argument. I guess the relevant questions would then be i) what could have been done in this particular legislation that was not ii) what could be included in the narrative that was not while still successfully mobilizing support and iii) what are the harmful impacts of the narrative and our legislation that require attention.
    I don’t really disagree with what you are saying. In fact, I really support the claim that working with civil society in the DRC and gaining domestic for support for external inititiaves is quite important. And thank you for contextualizing the mineral trade. But just take care to distinguish between exactly what you think is wrong with what is happening, and exactly what you think could FEASIBILY be done differently, which can’t be that they didn’t tell the full detailed story of the DRC and this legislation didn’t do absolutely everything needed to bring peace.
    Thanks for your valuable contributions.

    1. Scott,

      You said two things which I think highlight how vast the gulf is between people who think this a good idea and people who don’t:

      1. “I suspect that at least some of that confusion will be addressed in implementation.” I find it completely ridiculous to just assume that this will happen. Maybe you have more faith than I do….

      2. “…this was a rider on the financial reform bill…” I would have thought something as important as messing with the domestic policies of another country would have been taken more seriously. But I will admit to being naive as to how Congress works, maybe this is the best we can expect from our government.

      I’m not sure what to think. It seems to me we are so far apart on this it’s hardly worth talking about. Maybe because you come from a position of assuming with enough effort the US government can be a force for good, and I come from a position of, at best, the US government is capable of doing no harm, but never any good.

      1. Hi Ian,
        Thanks for the comments. I’m not actually arguing one way or the other on whether this will be a good idea. I’m just trying to articulate what would count as good reasons in the argument on one side or the other. On 1, you are right that one can’t assume implementation will work on faith. But groups may have done work to ensure that implementation will address various problems. We also can’t just assume it will not work. On 2, this is how Congress works all the time. The rider will have been widely discussed in a variety of Congressional settings, but this might have sped passage significantly. If advocacy groups never took these opportunities, they would put themselves at a big disadvantage. On your last point, critical as I am of the US government, it seems implausible of me to think that it is NEVER capable of doing good. It is not clear what doing no harm counts as in this case. Advocates would argue that we are already doing harm by driving the mineral trade, which I agree with. So a position of neutrality is not possible. But I definitely think the gulf is not too wide that we can’t make some progress through reasoned discussion. Thanks for the comment and lets keep the conversation going!

  4. Nell, pointing out facts (that Enough decided what the story was ahead of time, then only paid attention to facts that supported its narrative is a fact) is neither mean-spirited nor a falsehood. And I do know some of the people involved in the project. I don’t apologize for wanting a solution for the Congo conflict that will actually help the Congolese achieve peace and prosperity. I also don’t apologize for not falling for John Prendergast’s celebrity and charm. He does not know what he’s talking about when it comes to the eastern DRC. Period.

    Scott, Enough’s team basically wrote the legislation. Have you checked out Amanda’s post on the language of the legislation? There are some inherent problems with the way terms are defined and what it does. The legislation is far from comprehensive – it does not lay out a detailed, coherent plan for security sector reform (which almost every scholar agrees is a necessary precondition for other forms of development, including getting the mining sector under control), fighting corruption in the Congolese state (which is why the minerals will continue to flow despite the legislation), or building a functioning judiciary and law enforcement system.

  5. What are you doing to help make that happen? Do you think your mean-spirited remarks help:? Your personal attacks? Your misrepresentation of Enough? Your falsehoods? Your self-serving posts? Your criticisms of people you do not know….?

  6. The others: Pierre Englebert, Koen Vlassenroot, Tim Raeymakers, Filip Reyntjens, Morten Boas, Kevin Dunn. And, no, nobody supports the Enough narrative. They’ve consulted many of these scholars, then ignored whatever facts didn’t fit the pre-determined narrative. It’s really unfortunate, because we all want to see the eastern DRC at peace, and we should be working together to make that happen.

Comments are closed.

Why We Fight - Book Cover
Subscribe to Blog