Tuesday, May 27, 2008

FARC Offers to "Give Up"

Call me unconvinced.

A lot of talk about the FARC and what is likely to happen now that Marulanda is dead. What I offer is pure speculation. I have no sources and I have intentionally resisted reading other attempts at armchair quarterbacking as I didn't want to bias my opinion.

That being said, I think there are two likely scenarios.

Scenario 1: The slow death march on

I find this scenario the most likely. The new leader of the FARC is a former academic who has long been said to be the intellectual or philosophical leader of the group. While I have zero evidence in either direction, I generally believe that academics who fight in the jungles for failed ideas are pretty committed to those failed ideas. In other words, I can't imagine that an academic who has long served as the ideological leader of a failed ideology is suddenly more likely to give up those long held beliefs because the leader of the group died.

In fact, I think the opposite is more likely. This situation is not like the Israeli-Palestinian talks of 2000-2001. In that situation, you had a revolutionary leader at the negotiating table with a palatable deal on the table that his underlings wanted to accept yet that he could not. And so, the conflict continues. To the contrary, Marulanda was never at the table. He was never at the point of making a peace deal. Instead, the FARC were continuing to pressure for absurd concessions from the government just to *have* talks. So, all commentary about the FARC being more willing to "negotiate" should be seen through the lens of previous "negotiations": Ridiculous requests as prerequisites to any and all talks.

Scenario 2: Fragmentation

It could be said that this is already underway. The FARC have been getting beat back on various fronts (although not all - they are still strong in certain areas). But it does appear that the war has been creating fractures in the organization - especially in terms of communication. Uribe and his policies should be duely credited for that.

Now that Marulanda is deceased, it seems to me that there is a distinct possibility that the organization will continue to fracture. There are undoubtedly those who want to quit the war and are dissolutioned with its offer. Distraction and a weakened chain of command at the top likely will create more space for the dissolutioned to leave the organization without fear of reprisal (the rule is: leave and get shot).

Ultimately, I think that both scenarios are likely to happen at once. I find total capitulation entirely unlikely. Instead, I think we'll see a number of stories about the FARC's willingness to negotiate, the government's willingness to offer amnesty to ex-FARC soldiers outside of Colombia (Uribe offered France recently as a place for ex-combatants), and generally, more hope that the war will end. But guerrilla wars don't end like inter-state wars. Instead, they're like grapes that rot on the vine and eventually color and stain the earth with their memory. In all likelihood, my children will inherit a land still healing from the FARC's legacy.



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