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Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ?» Forums » General

Subject: "Good" governance vs. Islamic Rule rss

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Evan Hitchens
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Ok, this has been bugging me ever since I read the rules and I might as well bring it up here. Overall, I think the designer has created a wonderful game and has, for the most part, steered clear of expressing any particular political viewpoint.

However, it feels strange to be playing as the jihadist and trying to convert countries with "good" governance to Islamic Rule. If I'm playing as a jihadist, I should think that countries with "good" governance and countries with Islamic Rule are one and the same, right?

I respectfully suggest, therefore, that the designer should have used a more neutral term, such as "secular" governance, to represent the opposite of Islamic Rule.

I just want to be clear that I am NOT making a political statement that Islamic Rule is good. I am saying that the design decision to make "Good" governance the opposite of "Islamic Rule" governance does not make sense from a neutral perspective (in the 2-player game).
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Charles Simon
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I believe that "Good" is more of a term of the government's stability and ability to operate and police its people more than anything else. That is why Adversaries of the US with a "Good" government still work for the US win conditions; i.e., stable governments are harder for jihadist cells to operate in, even if they are opposed to the US politically, thus still benefit the US.

A scattered, weak or hodge-podge government style (depicted as "Poor" in this game) is easier for Jihadist operations to work, but again, it isn't a moral overview of the regime, just its ability to police itself and remain stable.
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Sam Butler
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Absolutely agree. Notice that Saudi Arabia, for example, which has been very friendly to the US and supportive of our actions in the region, is "Poor" in starting game terms. Ally/Neutral/Adversary is the level of friendliness to the US, not Good/Fair/Poor/IR.
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Volko Ruhnke
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It's a fair point, and thanks for raising it.

Like many games on historical topics, LABYRINTH uses many terms of art from the period depicted. Many of the terms that I chose are terms that the West used (uses), mostly for accessibility with Western boardgamers. I have here and there an "Ijtihad" or "Hijab", but did not want to overwhelm Western players with an excessive use of Islamic or Islamist terms.

"Good governance" is one such Western term of art used in the game. It includes not only efficiency but also accountability--that is, some form of representative government. Such government is far from the idea of the caliphate espoused by al-Qaeda.

As you note, the jihadists would not be using the term "Good" for such a government, so in using the Western term "good governance" and the term "good" to mean effective and accountable (as opposed to deriving its power from God in the eyes of extremist Salafi jihadists), the game is using non-neutral terminology, I acknowledge.

For what it's worth, I also acknowledge that, personally, I am not a neutral in the stuggle between the West and violent Islamist extremism.

vfr
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Evan Hitchens
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Thanks for the response Volko. I can certainly understand the decision from a design perspective. Love the game.
 
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Volko Ruhnke
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Thanks!
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Charles F.
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Volko wrote:
As you note, the jihadists would not be using the term "Good" for such a government, so in using the Western term "good governance" and the term "good" to mean effective and accountable (as opposed to deriving its power from God in the eyes of extremist Salafi jihadists), the game is using non-neutral terminology, I acknowledge.


Wouldn't have guessed that this might rub anyone the wrong way. It's hardly a controversial term.

Guess jihadists sneer at it, but hey, who cares? I'm not interested in a design catering to their tastes.

Doubt that Ted Torgerson's trying to appease white supremacists either with his FREE AT LAST game about the civil rights struggle in the US South. Nor should he.

That being said, I do think Volko would have been well-advised to use quotation marks with such blatantly euphemistic terms as "Enhanced Measures". Much as any quality newspaper does do when using that term.

But "good governance" is not a controversial or euphemistic term. I don't in the least see a problem there.
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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charlesf wrote:
But "good governance" is not a controversial or euphemistic term. I don't in the least see a problem there.

It most certainly is. A stable government that does not represent the interests of its citizens would still be "good governance". I find the term quite loaded.

I also think the use of "regime change" instead of invasion, and other such euphemisms, to not be politically neutral.

I am very much in favor of a designer's point of view being reflected in their design -- I respect Volko's right to have his perspective on it, even if I disagree -- but I'd rather not pretend it's neutral.
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Volko Ruhnke
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In the case of each of these terms, I used them in the game not because I am trying to persuade anyone of anything via euphemism but rather because those were (or are) in vogue in the period depicted and so help (I hope) immerse one in that period. Principals in the conflict used the terms "regime change" or "enhanced measures", so I find the terms evocative of the game's topic; I intend no value judgments by using the terms in the game.

I have only used quotation marks where I the point of the reference is to quote a specific speech or saying. This is for economy of punctuation--otherwise I'd need lots of annoying quotation marks for all the period terms in the game.

"Good governance", by the way, typically is taken to include representativeness (or, more commonly, "accountability") as well as effectiveness. Stability is something else.

vfr
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Red Scare
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sdiberar wrote:
A stable government that does not represent the interests of its citizens would still be "good governance". I find the term quite loaded.


Which is exactly why I think the terms fits nice. First, you must accept that Governance and Status (Allied, Neutral, Adversary) are both from US point of view. Governance just defines how easy is for jihadists to operate in one country. An stable secular democracy AND a tyrannic dictatorship can BOTH be "Good Governance". We all know that US has backed a lot of dictatorships and they considered those countries to be pretty good governed. Heck, even Cuba could be Good Governance in this game. Of course, it would be Good Adversarial, but that's why we have two indicators and not just one. Once you see that Good Governance does not mean "democracy", everything fits much better in the game.
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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redscare wrote:
sdiberar wrote:
A stable government that does not represent the interests of its citizens would still be "good governance". I find the term quite loaded.


Which is exactly why I think the terms fits nice. First, you must accept that Governance and Status (Allied, Neutral, Adversary) are both from US point of view.


Which is what makes the terminology loaded. The viewpoint is not objective, which is fine so long as the author is clear about this.

Quote:
Governance just defines how easy is for jihadists to operate in one country.[snip]

I understand how the utility and operation of the mechanics, both irrelevant to my point.

Actually, Labyrinth is a good representation of how US elites present the war on terror, in the same way that Twilight Struggle presents the master narrative of a zero-sum conflict where the Domino Theory is correct. Both are perspectives; neither need correspond to objective reality.
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Volko Ruhnke
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Good comparison! Indeed, on a topic as broad as this, none of us is in possession of objective reality, only of our own perspective. History is, after all, a humanity not a science.
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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Volko, I'm glad you agree. Many think otherwise, and I appreciate that you understand the difference in approach.
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